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Enhancing Internal Talent Mobility: Unlocking Retention and Bridging Skills Gaps

CXC Global7 min read
CXC GlobalOctober 18, 2023
CXC Global

Internal talent mobility has long been the secret sauce for clever companies who know how to engage, leverage and appoint existing workers into open roles.

It’s the absolute pinnacle of the worker/employer win-win scenario: skills gaps are filled by a worker who is ready to ‘move’ (win for employer), and the worker gets a fresh, new role (win for the worker) as well as potentially upgraded skills.

Internal mobility can be vertical, where the worker is promoted, or lateral, where the worker moves to a new department. Most importantly though the essence of internal mobility is strategic: at its core, the business can retain quality talent and avoid the hassle and cost of hiring externally. And the worker can expand their knowledge, expertise and diversify their contribution to the business.

But internal mobility doesn’t just happen because HR says so. Organisations need a strategic roadmap to make it work. And that’s what we’ve uncovered today; we’ve identified the top strategies for unlocking workforce retention and bridging skills gaps through talent mobility.

1 Identify Skills Gaps

The first step in developing a talent mobility strategy is to regularly assess the skills in your business and identify if and where any gaps exist.

There are several steps to assess the skills gaps accurately and objectively in your business. These are:

Define the scope of the analysis and the skills your business needs. Scope can be:

  • Individual: if responsibilities of an individual are shifting, or they’re not meeting their expected performance standards.
  • Team: for example, if a project expects the team to perform a new or alternative set of tasks compared to their regular activities.
  • Organisational: this scope is typically when the company isn’t meeting performance goals, or a shift in strategy or diversification, requires broader capabilities
  • Collect and analyse data. Assess what’s being achieved in the business now, and how this differs from output and goals set for the future. This can be achieved by:
    • Creating job profiles and the key skills needed for each.Undertaking an audit of existing skills.Identifying the level of existing skill and if these fall short.
    • Factoring in industry trends and technological advancements – both current and predicted – to accurately determine where your business sits now on an industry standard for skills.

Source: AIHR

  • Design Interventions. This is about formulating the best strategy to fill the skills gaps in your business. Most commonly, interventions come in one of three broad categories:
    • Training and development of your existing workforce.
    • Redesigning jobs to better meet your business needs, which may also require workforce training and development.
    • External hiring of critical skills.

For internal talent mobility to become a core of your operation, an ongoing review and analysis of skills in the business is advisable. This may occur annually where a comprehensive review takes place, in addition to micro reviews of your internal skills each quarter. And of course, if you’re suffering talent attrition, your skills gap analysis will provide valuable data for external hiring.

2 Skills Mapping

Skills mapping is the process of visually mapping out the skills in your business, to best compare available skills with needed skills. Skills mapping allows you to determine where training and development is most needed in the business.

Once you have undertaken the skills gap analysis, mapping these skill data points will fast-track your internal mobility drive by being able to pinpoint areas of the business with the greatest need. Skills mapping:

  • Looks at the organisation as a whole.
  • Determines which workers need training or upskilling.
  • Lets you see which workers are specialists and which are generalists.
  • Will provide data to better inform your hiring decisions.
  • Can enhance your internal mobility by allowing you to develop a list of workers who could substitute or replace other workers.
  • Shows you which workers add greatest value.
  • Allows you to effectively allocate resources across the business.
  • Allows you to get insight into employee’s career ambitions.

Skills mapping example. Source:

3 Develop a Learning Culture

A key tenet of successful internal talent mobility is creating and sustaining a culture of learning and development.

Having undertaken a skills gap analysis and skills mapping of your business, you can then determine where training resources are to be allocated now, and in the future.

To create a successful culture of learning, the business needs to:

  • Encourage workers to want to learn. If they see that continuous learning and development leads to better roles, new experiences and a happier working life, they’ll embrace it.
  • Provide resources and tools for workers to be able to regularly upskill and reskill.
  • Provide support for workers who seek certifications, training and professional development.
  • Empower subject matter experts in your business to create learning content and tools and to guide the relevant workers through these resources.
  • Create a library of learning resources.
  • Reward learning across the business.
  • Integrate learning into workers’ day-to-day lives.
  • Provide time off work for study, exams and other learning initiatives.
  • Measure the effect of the learnings in your business and celebrate this business wide.
  • Ensure leadership are also undertaking learning.

4 Share Job Openings

Keep your workforce aware of job openings. This is the easiest – and often most effective – means of filling roles and promoting talent mobility.

The most efficient means of sharing job openings is via an internal job board or platform where employees can easily view and apply for internal job openings.

Here are a few considerations for getting this process right:

  • Write an internal ad with a list of job requirements. Unlike an external ad, describe the department rather than the company. Outline team members and use any internal intel about the job and the team, to broaden the ad’s internal appeal.
  • Ensure employees are guaranteed that their application will remain confidential.
  • Post the ad on your company intranet, company job board, company newsletter and do a mass-email campaign to all employees.
  • Encourage employee referrals: encourage employees to speak up if they believe one of their co-workers would be a great fit for an internal opening.
  • Be consistent with internal job openings and show no favourites with any candidate.
  • Be completely honest with the job description. No sugar-coating of any description when posting a job internally.
  • Keep internal job postings as professional as external job ads. This ensures internal applicants aren’t laissez-faire about the process or their potential involvement in it.

5 Create a Clear and Consistent Communications Strategy for Internal Mobility

In addition to sharing job openings in your business, it’s a good idea to have an open and consistent communications plan about internal mobility in your business. This way, your workers will know there is acceptance and endorsement of moving around the organisation and may also assure them if they fear political repercussions of moving teams.

When communicating about internal mobility in your business, ensure you:

  • Regularly highlight the importance the business places on internal mobility, and the emphasis placed on worker growth and career nurturing.
  • Communicate success stories of employees who have moved internally by sharing interviews and results. Use storytelling to create compelling insight for the business.
  • Use various channels to communicate your internal mobility activity. From emails, Teams calls, weekly meetings and all-of-business conferences, pick your channels strategically based on the audience and the message. Don’t ever rely on one communication channel as your message will eventually fail to cut through.
  • Appoint a spokesperson in each team to champion the internal mobility message and encourage workers to consider internal moves.

6 Ensure Transparency and Fairness

Office politics can become an issue if your internal mobility strategy isn’t managed with care and precision. Making sure you approach internal mobility with a meritocracy mindset is crucial. As is being transparent about the process and the outcomes. Here are some tips to keep things fair:

  • Be clear about the hiring process, the selection criteria, and the field of candidates to which the business is open.
  • Direct feedback straight to the internal candidates throughout the hiring process.
  • Be clear about strengths and shortcomings of internal candidates and ensure they have quality feedback to work with next time if they fail an internal job application.

And Finally…

Although many organisations tend to default to external hiring to fill skills gaps, according to Deloitte, around 44% of employers believe it’s easier to fill open roles with internal talent. And they’re probably right. A recent survey revealed that 63% of workers would be more likely to stay with their current employer if they offered better educational opportunities.

Also, with little to no enticement to move internally, many workers feel it’s simply easier to look externally for a new job. Check out this data from Deloitte’s Human Capital Trends survey:

So, your business has an opportunity. By creating a strategic talent mobility approach, you’ll not only hire externally when you absolutely need to, but you’ll also plug skills gaps and retain workers. These strategies we’ve outlined here are just the start. But they’re a good start. They will help you to create a dynamic and adaptable workforce that is happier and therefore more productive.

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