How Sportsbet is championing internal career change
Online gaming giant Sportsbet is dedicated to supporting internal career change among its staff. We investigate the impact this approach has had on career development and the retention of key talent.

Some 30% of the Sportsbet's roles were filled internally last year, well above most other companies.

Elizabeth Waldock, Head of Talent at Sportsbet, defines internal career change as “something that broadens your area of capability”.

This could entail a move within the same functional area but with a different role or a move to a completely different functional area. Staff at the company have moved between marketing, risk and trading, and customer contact, for instance.

Developing future leaders

The company helps potential leaders broaden their experience of the business and develop their leadership skills by moving them to new jobs.

“We’ve had role changes in the business where we’ve taken and gambled on some people that we think are potential leaders,” Waldock says. “They’re managing small teams and we’ve put them into big operational leadership teams completely out of their area of discipline – to focus them on leading people as opposed to managing people in their area of expertise.”

For instance, the company moved a person who was heading a team of 12 in its analytics area to general manager of contact centres, in charge of customer service and payments, with a staff of 150.

Facilitating internal career change allows Sportsbet, which has a staff of about 700 plus casuals, to broaden the capability set of its staff and improve their knowledge of the overall business, despite its size. “They’re making better decisions and contributing in more meaningful ways,” Waldock says.

Winning the war of attrition

Internal career change also helps with staff retention.

“For individuals, it gives them meaning to continue working at Sportsbet because they’re continuing to fill their kit bag with a whole lot of skills and experience while staying in the business,” Waldock says. “If we didn’t offer that I think we’d get a much higher attrition rate at some of our really key talent.”

The impetus for internal moves can come from individuals, who are free to apply for any job at the firm, or from the firm, which does twice-yearly talent identification as part of its succession planning.

Usually staff are open to the idea when they are approached about an internal move and it makes team members feel valued, even if they decide not to pursue that particular opportunity.

Supporting internal career change

While Sportsbet facilitates internal career change, many workers in other companies don’t feel their employer would do the same.

According to SEEK Research, some 48% of New Zealand employees didn’t think that their current employer would support them making a career change and wouldn’t help them find another job in the business if one was available. In most cases, employees felt that their employers were not interested or invested in helping them make a career change.

Along with talent retention and career development, encouraging internal career change can also help create a more robust organisation that isn’t exposed to critical talent shortages, says Peter Wilson, chairman of the Australian Human Resources Institute.

“You get diversity and strength of resources if you move people into different roles because then, if anything happens, you have temporary and longer-term replacements and the resource base to enable it,” he says.

Wilson says internal career change needs to be driven from the top. One technique is to give the chief executive officer and the chief HR officer “ownership” of the talent. That way, divisional chiefs can be “leased” talent with the understanding that they could be moved to other parts of the business.

This stops managers hoarding the best talent to the detriment of the organisation and the individual.