KU Leuven: A career at KU Leuven does not have to be in the same position all the time

Develop a framework for internal mobility for employees within our university. With that in mind, the Personnel Department, the ATP representatives and a large group of KU Leuven employees set to work in the summer of 2019. More than eighteen months and many consultation moments later, their plans were approved by the Academic Council. High time for some text and explanation.

“We want to create a positive culture around internal mobility at KU Leuven,” says Ann Schillemans. She works in the HR department and is responsible for HR Talent & Development. “Internal mobility is certainly not an end in itself, it is about the career development and sustainable employability of people. This means that talented people do not necessarily leave the university at the end of a temporary contract or when they are looking for a new challenge. ” Matthias Meirlaen joins her in this and adds: “We see a lot of internal reactions to vacancies. We should monitor these people better, because there is of course only one candidate who can ultimately be selected. ” Meirlaen is an ATP representative within the Humanities and Social Sciences group.

The 2018 Satisfaction Monitor shows that there is room for improvement in a number of career areas. It is remarkable that quite a few ATP colleagues (Administrative and Technical Personnel) indicate that they cannot use their skills sufficiently within their current position. This does not have to be a problem in the short term, but too little attention to career development can lead to motivated employees to leave KU Leuven. Within the ABAP (Assistant and Special Academic Personnel) there is a group of employees who are looking for more career prospects. They often work on temporary funding and only a limited number of them can develop an academic career. A switch to an ATP career can offer them a good perspective.

“If we can create a culture in which people are encouraged to think about their careers and skills, this will benefit both employees and the university,” says Schillemans. “Changing jobs certainly does not have to be the first option. People can often evolve within their current position towards a more broadening or in-depth job content. ” If that is not possible or desirable, the university can still retain talented employees by stimulating internal mobility. This can be a different position within the same service, a similar position within another service or a challenge in a completely different position on a completely different service. “You see: there are a lot of options. It is therefore important to create a clear framework and positive culture around this. ”

Meirlaen cites another example: “Thinking about your career does not only have to be about your skills or ambitions. A policy on internal mobility can offer employees the opportunity to tailor their career to the personal stage of life. Sometimes employees want to take it easy temporarily. That is also thinking about your career. ”

Talent pools and competence matrices
How would all this work in practice? To this end, Schillemans and Meirlaen are looking at a number of initiatives already started, such as setting up a competence matrix for laboratory technicians within the Biomedical Sciences Group. “The lab technicians list the competences they use in their position. This gives you a very nice overview of who can do what and what is needed for which position, ”Meirlaen explains. The system has several advantages: researchers who are looking for a lab technician with certain skills for a temporary project can find the right employee via this matrix. The laboratory technicians themselves learn to estimate their own competences better. They may be able to continue training, or they may have skills that are currently unused. “We can learn a lot from this project.

“Another good example is the pilot project that was started within KU Leuven Learning Lab,” says Schillemans. “ATP colleagues with an educational support function often work with temporary contracts. Every time a project ends, we risk losing talent and expertise. ” The Personnel Department in co-creation with the working group within Leuven Learning Lab is currently setting up a talent pool to gain insight into all these people and their skills. This will make it much easier to match employees with a new position. The concept will now be tested within KU Leuven Learning Lab with the intention to expand afterwards.

In addition, the Personnel Department is aiming for the summer before the launch of the Job Explorer. Employees will be able to explore job opportunities within KU Leuven via this exploratory tool.

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Internal mobility in figures
In 2019, there were about 800 internal applications from more than 500 internal candidates.
Internal candidates have a higher chance (15%) of being hired than external candidates (7%).
1 in 4 ATP vacancies are filled by an internal candidate.
There is a considerable group of internal candidates who apply several times. In 2019, 68% of the candidates applied once, 25% applied 2 or 3 times.
Internal candidates are predominantly employees from the ATP (64%) or BAP (24%) management
47% of the candidates apply under a fixed-term contract for a position with a permanent contract.
There is clear interest from ABAP employees for an ATP status: in 2019 24% of the internal candidates came from the BAP, 6% applied from an AAP status.
Of the internal candidates who are recruited for a vacancy, 72% succeed with a first application.
Involve managers
Of course, managers don’t like to see good people leave. For them, the whole story about internal mobility can sometimes have a less positive connotation. “That is why we involve managers from the start in the pilot project within Learning Lab,” says Schillemans. “This way we immediately hear what their concerns, needs and expectations are.” Moreover, internal mobility can also turn out very positively for a manager. Meirlaen gives a few examples: “Someone who comes from another service brings a lot of knowledge about the university with him. Or a service that needs quick reinforcement could call on the internal candidates from previous application processes. Is a service looking for someone with specific competences, possibly for a temporary project:

“Internal mobility can be an enormous enrichment for both the employees and the department where they end up. They are familiar with the university, are more quickly integrated and they take their informal network to their new position. Moreover, the university keeps strong profiles on board. It’s a win-win-win ”, laughs Meirlaen.

It is not always easy for employees to indicate that they are considering a different position. “This message is rarely a surprise to managers who keep a finger on the pulse,” says Schillemans. “It is especially important that we create an open conversation culture that also includes people’s career development and ambitions.” Meirlaen nods: “In such a career interview, employees can indicate how they view their position in the longer term. It can sometimes be the reason to take up another position within their own service or to fill in their current position somewhat differently. But sometimes a different position is the best solution and then we naturally prefer to keep people with a strong profile on board. ”

In addition, the internal mobility plan also pays attention to formal barriers. There is often a great deal of enthusiasm and goodwill from all parties involved, but practical obstacles throw a spanner in the works. Or plans fail because certain formal obstacles, such as legislation, financing mechanisms or a difference in pay, were not clear in advance.

Schillemans and Meirlaen are already enthusiastic about the plans they were able to draw up together. “It is very nice that these plans are so positively received by the various administrative bodies. This is certainly a stimulus for internal mobility within our organization!” it sounds in unison.