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What Is Upward Mobility in the Workplace?

What Is Upward Mobility in the Workplace?


What Is Upward Mobility?

Upward mobility is defined as the movement of someone from a lower socioeconomic status to a higher socioeconomic status. For example, an entry-level data clerk advancing into a higher compensated role for data management accomplishes upward mobility, as they have successfully moved up from a lower compensated position. 

While upward mobility in the workplace is also associated with increased compensation, there are other considerations HR should note when creating opportunities for upward mobility. Getting it right at your company can improve the retention rates of your best people.  


What Does Upward Mobility Look Like in the Workplace?  

Upward mobility in the workplace is when you promote or otherwise take action to propel your well-deserving highest performers into positions where their skills can flourish.  

In your organization, you may prioritize employees who excel in their roles and go the extra mile to upskill themselves or become an asset in other ways. These employees know their worth, and upward mobility is a way to effectively reward them while improving your company by moving great people into higher-impact positions.

As HR, you should work together with managers to identify these employees. Employees appreciate chances to grow, and you have the opportunity to present avenues for them to achieve that.  

There are several major ways employees can secure upward mobility opportunities: 

  • Develop relationships with key internal and external stakeholders 
  • Build their knowledge base with more hard skills 
  • Cultivate soft skills 


Rose asked, "What's the best way to introduce your new hire to the team?"  Answer with your thoughts here!


Key Benefits of Encouraging Upward Mobility

Upward mobility has two key benefits for your organization: 

  • Improve retention. Show your workforce that hard work is not only recognized but rewarded. Employee recognition programs are a solid way to celebrate employees, but many may be looking for more opportunities. Upward mobility offers hard workers avenues to achieve future success. Also, employees will have goals to strive for as they witness your willingness to move internal applicants up the ladder.  
  • Developing leaders internally. By creating avenues for upward mobility, you can have a hand in hiring and training the people who will fill future roles in your organization. Consider an occasion when you hire someone with great interpersonal skills and an aptitude for learning. That hire may be a great fit for a future managerial role since they will have spent time in their entry-level position building relationships with their team members and expanding the scope of their abilities.  


How to Create Avenues for Upward Mobility  

You can use a levels document to show employees the best ways they can advance their skillset to make themselves more attractive prospects for upward movement. A levels document lists the skills and requirements that it takes to become ‘advanced’ in each aspect of a role or as a team member. Here at BerniePortal, we use a levels document to set a trajectory for success by learning the next step toward achieving mastery over a subject. 

You can see our guide to developing a levels document, or watch the video below for a quick snapshot of why they may serve a critical function in developing your employees.  



If you’re unsure how to track an employee’s progress, review their one-to-one meeting notes, which will include a continuous overview of the employee’s progress within their role. A one-to-one meeting is a critical component of continuous performance management plans, which track development more consistently than an annual performance review. 

You can use an HRIS like BerniePortal to document one-to-one meetings so managers and their direct reports can log their agendas and follow-ups from each meeting. You should have HR administrator access to review the notes of anyone in your company, so you can keep an eye on the progress of employees that are optimal choices for upward mobility. 

With retention on everyone’s minds, providing your workforce with the ability and encouragement for upward mobility in your organization will help you keep your talent.  


Additional Resources

You can stay informed, educated, and up to date with important HR topics using BerniePortal’s comprehensive resources:

  • BernieU—free online HR courses, approved for SHRM and HRCI recertification credit
  • BerniePortal Blog—a one-stop shop for HR industry news
  • HR Glossary—featuring the most common HR terms, acronyms, and compliance
  • Resource Library—essential guides covering a comprehensive list of HR topics
  • HR Party of One—our popular YouTube series and podcast, covering emerging HR trends and enduring HR topics 

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