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Reskilling: increasing skills to support internal mobility

Evan Friburg |

18 to 20%: this is the estimated additional cost of external recruitment compared to internal mobility according to a Wharton study. And successful internal mobility goes hand in hand with successful reskilling.


We can also speak of “retraining”. Reskilling consists of training people to perform a job for which they do not have the skills, as opposed to upskilling, which consists of increasing peoples’ expertise in their core competencies. This term is increasingly used in a context of business transformation: according to the results of a study conducted by Dell and the Institute of the Future in 2018, 85% of the jobs of 2030 do not exist today1.

And this transformation translates into an acceleration of skill obsolescence. In 1987, the average lifespan of a skill was estimated at 30 years. Today, that lifespan has dropped from 12 to 18 months. This is even more noticeable in the IT sector, where some technical skills need to be updated every 6 to 12 months. In practice, to meet these skill needs, HR functions have various options, including:

  • Upgrading the skills of the employees involved
  • Recruiting profiles that already possess the skills in question, which represents a heavy investment with the risk that these skills will also quickly become obsolete.
  • Recruiting profiles based on their adaptability, motivation and behavioral skills (soft skills) and offering them a reskilling program: this is called professional retraining.
  • Investing in training for current employees by offering them a reskilling program to enable them to do another job in the company that requires skills they do not have, this is called internal mobility. This is what we will discuss in detail below.

Step 1 – Skills mapping

A mobility plan cannot be improvised and cannot be based solely on an employee’s motivation to take up a new position within the company. A deep thought on the skills to be held is essential: the first step is the mapping of jobs and skills at the level of the organization or department(s) involved.
For each job, it is necessary to list the knowledge, know-how and social skills required to perform well, as well as the level of proficiency expected: some jobs require an expert level in a given skill, while other jobs only require an intermediate level in the same skill. This mapping can also help identify cross-functional skills, i.e. skills required for several or all of the company’s businesses. In this way, “bridges” between businesses can be detected.

Skills mapping is generally a static model, which represents the company’s job requirements at a given moment. To go further, a more proactive approach is preferred with the implementation of a job and competency planning. The planning will make it possible to anticipate future needs in terms of skills and therefore the resulting recruitment and/or training needs – and even to predict the appearance of new jobs that would require new skills.

Step 2 – Matching with existing competencies

Once the skills have been mapped, the next step is to compare them with the skills already available in the company. The skills assessment strategy is therefore essential: here we seek to position the level of proficiency of each employee in terms of their core competencies as well as cross-functional skills. Depending on the context of the company and the type of skills to be evaluated, many methods and tools exist: assessment quiz, or self-assessment or psychometric quiz, assessment by the manager, by peers or 360°, simulation tool…

Thanks to this audit of the skills available in the company, it is possible to:

1. Detect the employees who have the soft skills that allow an easier and faster mobility
2. Identify possible matches, i.e. employees who already possess part of the skills required for another job
3. Measure the gap to be filled, i.e. the difference between the acquired skills by an employee and those expected for a potential future job

Step 3 – The definition of the skills development plan

Thus, perfect candidates for mobility is those who have the motivation, the necessary soft skills and core competencies close to those expected for their future job. Of course, it is possible to consider an internal job change for a candidate who does not tick all the boxes. When candidates for mobility have been identified, reskilling will enable them to acquire the skills they lack.

In the previous part, we highlighted the importance of measuring the employee’s skills gap. Successful reskilling is a plan for increasing skills that takes this skills gap into account. This means that the training course must be adapted to the profile and needs of each employee: the smaller the skills gap, the shorter the reskilling should be. To do this, it is essential to have previously mapped the training courses (face-to-face or distance learning) available in the company’s catalog according to the skills they enable to develop2. In this way, we can “pick” from the catalog only the pedagogical resources that are adapted to the employee’s profile in order to build an optimized skills development plan.

The key to a successful reskilling 

As previously mentioned, successful mobility is largely linked to the employees’ own components: their appetite, motivations, cross-functional and soft skills. Among these soft skills, the ability to learn, relational intelligence, agility and curiosity are particularly sought after. But the company also has a role to play, by applying the three main steps mentioned above, in a dynamic way. Thus, it is important to “continuously” update the competency map – which can even benefit from a predictive approach – and the link with the competencies available in the company.

Finally, once the mapping of expected skills and available training has been generalized, tools can now be used to automate steps 2 and 3 to offer an optimal reskilling system:

1. An assessment tool that automates the creation of positioning test to diagnose the employees’ mastery of the skills required for their future job
2. Based on the skills gap, a recommendation engine builds a skills enhancement plan composed of multimodal pedagogical resources that are as short as possible and adapted to individual needs

Beyond reskilling, discover a case study of a solution using Smart Data to automate the assessment of skills needs and the individualization of skills development plans: Enedis chooses Domoscio and Beedeez to increase the training of its Managers.


1Skills obsolescence definition: “situations where the skills previously required in the labour market are no longer required or their importance has been reduced” by Skills Panorama Glossary, Cedefop, European Union. 

2 the mapping of training courses will sometimes make it possible to identify that there are training courses missing from the catalog to develop specific skills (particularly those related to new jobs) in order to better target the design or acquisition of new training courses.