Solving the talent puzzle: Getting the right skills, in the right place, at the right time

By Madan Srinivasan

Smart organisations are changing their approach to solving the perennial talent puzzle. Through a renewed focus on internal talent management and development, leaders can ensure they have access to the key skills and capabilities needed for growth.

Research shows that actively moving employees into different roles is one of the most underutilised, yet most effective, techniques that an organisation can deploy. And, as employee engagement takes a hit, it’s more important than ever that leaders look for new ways to retain their star performers and offer them new opportunities to grow within the organisation.

Rethink internal talent mobility and management

Internal mobility, also known as internal recruiting, prioritises current employees when a new position opens up. While not all roles can be filled internally, a talent mobility pipeline can reduce recruitment and attrition costs. In fact, employees in companies with high internal mobility stay almost two times longer. Promoting internal mobility involves reviewing current and upcoming vacancies, assessing the skills required, and identifying suitable current employees.

In an integrated talent management approach, jobs are posted on internal career portals. These portals link to a continuously updated skills bank that provides an enterprise-wide view of current capabilities to enable faster and more effective hiring decisions. For example, workers in Siemens can log on to a talent portal called MyGrowth and be connected to job openings and courses within seconds. Expedia, Uber, and Standard Chartered Bank have similar internal job boards.

Being truly successful at internal mobility requires a culture that recognises internal talent, encourages employees to look for internal opportunities, and rewards managers who actively support internal mobility. For example, we recently helped an organisation in the defence and security sector to use internal mobility practices to create a sustainable talent pool. Working with the client, we enabled a unified view of career opportunities across various divisions by defining clear, transparent career profiles and personalised career pathways, while also bringing leaders along on the journey.

Implement specific, targeted upskilling programmes

Specialised programmes that build and grow talent from within create an environment where employees are actively engaged, leading to better talent retention. These programmes can take the form of specialised skill building initiatives, rotational development, or personalised and connected learning.

Proctor & Gamble (P&G) has long been investing in growing their talent, enabled by a 70/20/10 approach to learning and development. This involves 70 percent experience gained through everyday work; 20 percent coaching via colleagues, mentors, and peers; and 10 percent structured courses, training, and materials. It’s little wonder that 99 percent of P&G’s senior leaders are produced within the company.

Given the scarcity of engineering talent, several global companies such as Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Fujitsu, and Goldman Sachs have launched Distinguished Engineer Programmes. These programmes create personalised technical career paths, provide learning and development opportunities, recognise outstanding technical achievements, and retain the best and brightest engineers. We recently partnered with a university to create a project leadership programme designed to address the critical need for exceptional project leadership skills in the higher education sector. This will lead to a generation of talent with rich, transferrable skillsets.

Leverage alternative talent pipelines

Recruiters increasingly use alternative talent pipelines, including internal marketplaces, to meet hiring demand. This relatively new model offers an innovative, flexible approach to talent acquisition, mobility, and management. Usually hosted on a technology-enabled platform such as Gloat,, or Fuel50, they connect employees with opportunities both inside and outside of the organisation. As the internal marketplace concept evolves, employees will be able to access not only full-time roles but also gig work, mentorship, rotational programmes, volunteering assignments, and strategy-aligned skill-building experiences. For example, Unilever used its internal talent marketplace, FLEX Experiences, to redeploy more than 8,000 employees and 300,000 hours of employee work during the COVID-19 pandemic, helping them to protect jobs.

Multiple successful strategies are already being utilised effectively to boost retention rates and solve the talent puzzle. The golden thread running throughout all of these approaches is the importance of enhancing the skills and performance potential of the people who already work within an organisation. This isn’t to say that casting a wider net isn’t beneficial, but with a pond full of happy fish, why wade out into the ocean?

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