What If Your Best Candidates Are Already Inside the Organization?

Faced with a skills shortage? Your existing employees could be the key to success.
By: | December 18, 2018 • 4 min read

Despite a steady string of impressive jobs reports, job cuts by U.S.-based employers rose 18 percent earlier this summer. To offset the negative effects cuts often yield for businesses and employees alike, some industries—such as retail—are finding other, internal positions for their current workforce during or ahead of anticipated cuts or layoffs.

Implementing practices like lateral transfers into growth and development strategies could prove to be an effective way for businesses, especially those in industries undergoing digital transformation, to enhance the employee experience as technology—like chatbots, natural language processing, virtual reality and more—become an increasingly critical (and expected) element of the customer experience.


Here are some ways HR leaders and hiring managers can recruit from within to simultaneously solve skills gaps and develop and retain top talent.

“Recruiting” Transfers

Whether a business is facing job cuts or simply looking to add talent to a new project or location, one easy method to identify talent and determine eligibility for a transfer includes offering competency and skills tests—such as those typically reserved for hiring and onboarding—to interested employees. HR leaders and hiring managers can then leverage artificial intelligence to evaluate the tests and measure scores against a variety of factors, including background, experience and education.

When it comes to recruiting in general (internally and externally), AI is an effective and unbiased way to ascertain candidate aptitude for a new position. This method can not only pair them with the role best suiting their qualifications and interests, but removes prejudicial factors such as age, gender, race and location. For example, a skills assessment might show that a call-center agent is an avid social media user and could lend her skills to the redesign of a brand’s Twitter bot.

Flexibility is Increasingly Important

Flexibility is key when it comes employee retention, and the same principle holds true even amid job cuts. In fact, a report by Capital One shows that flexible schedules are critical to attracting and retaining talent, with 73 percent of workers saying a flexible schedule is in their top two reasons for remaining with a company. Further, respondents cited “flexible hours” as the No. 1 item they expect from their next employer (58 percent).

It’s important for employees to know that their time is valued, which is why it is equally important for companies hiring internally to provide transfers with the flexibility necessary to fit training into their busy lives—especially if they’re still in their current role. Mobile, social and blended-learning technologies like Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are just a few effective and agile learning solutions to skill up and foster new career paths for employees—before they even start their new position. These tools make it easy for workers to log on from any device and complete coursework, acquire certifications or necessary licensing, at the times and locations most convenient for them.

With that, geographic discrimination should no longer be a factor in today’s digital-first world, nor should it prevent a retail associate in Gary, Ind., from taking an equivalent position in Lexington, Ky. Technology can accommodate for the creation of new and innovative positions—in this case, a virtual shopping representative—and should be able to accommodate for the career development of talented employees as well.

Stifled Growth = Lost Talent

While flexibility is key to keeping employees, stifled or nonexistent growth is one of the primary reasons companies lose talent. The Work Institute reports that the most-cited reason for employees leaving jobs is lack of career development. It’s important for companies to keep in mind that—even if they’re facing job cuts—the wave of economic growth in recent years has overcome employees’ fears of layoffs, giving way to new desires to grow and advance professionally.

Once an employee has been successfully transferred, there’s no reason for the training to stop there. The apparent and overwhelming desire to learn will only continue to motivate employees to grow beyond their “new” role, and it’s up to businesses to ensure those opportunities remain available to workers at all times, across all levels. Here again, digital and mobile training options will play a key role in employees’ continuous learning experiences, freeing them from constraints of time, place and learning materials. HR leaders should also consider implementing social learning platforms to empower employees to take learning into their own hands, become subject matter experts and potentially accelerate their advancement to more managerial roles.


Companies across industries have not only an opportunity, but an obligation, to skill up their workforce for lateral transfers or internal hires if they want to stay innovative, agile and competitive far into the future. What’s more, the increasing prevalence of remote and flexible training options make virtual transfers more feasible than ever and could potentially obliterate labor shortages. Technology will only continue to transform the way that we work, which is why training tools must evolve with the same eye towards flexibility and growth. Just as next-gen tools like AI, automation and VR will create an increasing number of remote jobs in our digital economy, they can also be leveraged to enable transfers and learners, rather than limit them.

Ben Bekhor is vice president of human resources, Americas, for Sitel Group, a leader in the delivery of business process outsourcing. He oversees all aspects of HR operations for the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Panama, Nicaragua and Colombia, including talent acquisition, talent management and learning and development.