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The Internal Talent Marketplace: Why your best talent is already working for you

July 19, 2022
By Mark Coulter

Photo: Getty Images

While the Great Resignation may fade from the headlines, its impact on the workplace will not, as most talent professionals know all too well.

The balance of power has permanently shifted over a couple of extraordinarily turbulent years, giving employees more options and more leverage than ever before. As a result, they have been quitting in record numbers. With replacement costs rising as high as twice the salary of the departing employee, that can quickly spiral into hundreds of thousands of dollars for even the smallest organization – and many millions for larger enterprises.

But organizations are far from powerless in the face of this disruptive trend. Here, we’ll look why your best source of talent for open positions may already be working for you, and what you can do to leverage this hidden and sometimes neglected workforce.

Barrier: Employers are missing the mark

While the research is clear, few employers are heeding it. An IBM study found that only 48 per cent of employees considered the opportunities for career development and advancement to be “very good” or “excellent” at their organization, while data from Monster revealed even more dissatisfaction, with 80 per cent of workers reporting that they do not think their current employer offers growth opportunities.


Solution: The key part of talent is learning and growth. As per the Gallup Q12 engagement index, having the “opportunity to learn and grow” is an important factor in enhancing employee engagement. Employees join a company for a specific role, and they stay with that company if it offers compelling career opportunities. This is where strong talent programs come into play.

All talent programs begin and end with a conversation. Employees need to feel comfortable sharing their career interests and aspirations with their manager; and managers need to be open to hearing about them. Managers also need to play the role of career sherpa to guide employees along their chosen career paths.

Barrier: Managers only consider the employees they know

One concern that keeps managers up at night is thinking about the impact of having one of their best employees leave. This is a legitimate concern as sometimes, the best employee is also the most difficult to replace. But is this always true? Maybe, but maybe not.

When an employee leaves, a manager may contact HR and say, ‘Mya, just left. Find me another Mya.’ The HR person asks the manager if there is someone else in that department who may be a good fit, and the manager responds, ‘I know my team and no one else is ready for this role.’ The HR person is left with only one option, and that is posting the role externally hoping to find someone who remotely resembles Mya.

This knee-jerk reaction is flawed for two reasons:
1. What does “good fit” actually mean? Is there a common understanding of the key competencies (including levels of proficiency) that define a “good fit”?
2. Is the company 100 per cent confident that there isn’t another internal employee who is ready, willing, and able to perform this role?

Solution: Talent should be a shared organizational resource, and leaders should be encouraged to grow their talent. The premise is simple: Most leaders should agree with the fact that it is far better to keep the talent you have (even if they move to another role inside the company) than it is to watch them leave to go to the competition.

Instead of looking within each function for candidates to fill the next vacancy or going outside the company to hire an external candidate, managers can use competencies to identify a broader, potentially deeper pool of interested, motivated, and skilled internal candidates to select from.

Barrier: Lack of internal positions for employees to consider

This barrier stems from the fact that some organizations do not have a solid internal job posting processes. Although the organization may have a policy, they may not have a good mechanism to communicate open roles to their employees. Finally, an organization may include too many criteria (i.e., experience, education and/or qualifications) that actually deter potential internal candidates from applying.

In other words, current employees may not apply because they feel they will get rejected because the organization wants really wants to find a ‘perfect’ candidate from outside the company.

Solution: Organizations should capture their employee career interests, employee, including their skills and competencies. Too many times today, employees are attracted to external roles because they have signed up to a job board, and they receive a nudge to apply to a job when it becomes available. Why can’t your organization be the first one to nudges employees when a role fits their interests?

By keeping track of skills and competencies, you can inform your employees when there is an open role that meets their competencies, skills, and/ or interests. By doing this, you will clearly demonstrate that you want each employee to reach their career destination at your company.

The needs of employees are not unrealistic, nor are they impossible to address. The first step is to ensure that you have the right programs and processes, and a supportive leadership culture to ensure you are actively helping employees achieve their career dreams in your organization.

Remember that employees can adapt, grow, and learn new skills, and most are more than willing to take the initiative to bridge any knowledge or competency gaps. If your company is committed to retention and growth, and you are not limited by preconceived notions of the ‘perfect’ candidate, you will be surprised at how many pathways you can create for existing talent that were not previously available.

You can turn the table from being a stop on your employee’s career pathway to a destination for career growth and development.

Mark Coulter is the Director of Talent Management Solutions at HRSG. He partners with global clients to design and implement competency-based solutions to achieve business and workplace outcomes.

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