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Retain Employees By Aligning Employee Skills With Internal Roles

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Having worked in nonprofits and many small to medium sized organizations, I know first-hand that lack of growth opportunities can cause a high performer to jump ship. The loss of just one mid-level high performer can cost the organization thousands of dollars in talent acquisition, onboarding costs as well as a loss of productivity and revenue. But for a lot of organizations, there is simply no more room in a team to promote a high performer. What can you do?

What is best for the organization as a whole is to keep that high-performing individual? You cross-train the employee into a new team, a new department, or division. The key is, you don’t want to lose top talent.

Any CEO and CHRO will tell you, organizations are only as good as the people who work there. Employee retention is a critical component of a successful business strategy and operations. Companies that excel at retaining their employees not only foster a positive work environment, but also save significantly on costs associated with turnover rates. One key pillar to effective retention lies in matching employees’ skills with open roles or creating new roles that align with their talents and career aspirations before they decide to leave.


The High Cost of Employee Turnover


Losing any employee can cost a company thousands of dollars, but losing a high performing employee can cost the company hundreds of thousands, even millions. Replacing an employee can cost as much as six to nine months of that employee’s salary, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). For instance, replacing an employee with an annual salary of $60,000 could cost the company between $30,000 and $45,000 in recruiting and training expenses. These costs include hiring new staff, training them, and the lost productivity during this transition period.


Some estimates from places like put the cost of employee turnover much higher, at 100-200% of the employee’s salary, especially when the people leaving are holding senior and executive level positions. The institutional knowledge, the relationships the employee has fostered and furthered, as well as the impact on the company culture a high performer has helped create also leave organizations at a loss when that employee leaves. Many of these elements cannot easily be quantified, but the impact can be far-reaching and long-term.


The Benefits of Skill-Based Employee Retention

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The average American from the Baby Boomer generation had about 12 jobs throughout their lifetime, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  We know the Millennial and Gen Z generations switch roles even more frequently, an average of two to three years. So it is imperative to keep those high-performing younger employees at your organization because they are already eyeing their exit just naturally. If you can attract your high-performing and young employees by ensuring their skills and talents are being put to use, you have a higher chance of lowering employee turnover and creating organizational success.

A quick list of the benefits associated with aligning employee’s skills to internal roles:

1. Increased Employee Satisfaction and Engagement:

When employees feel their skills are being valued, they are more likely to be engaged and satisfied with their job. Over the years since Gallup started doing their annual engagement study, they have found employees who are engaged are more productive, have better customer ratings, and are more likely to stay with their employer.


2. Better Performance and Productivity:

Employees working in roles that match their skills and interests are more likely to perform better. A LinkedIn report revealed that employees who feel their skills are not being used effectively are 10xs more likely to seek opportunities elsewhere.


3. Increased Innovation and Growth:

By aligning employees' skills with company roles, businesses can foster an environment of innovation and growth. Employees feel empowered to contribute their unique talents, leading to more innovative solutions and business growth.


4. Reduced Training Costs:

When existing employees are transitioned into new roles that fit their skill sets, the training costs are typically lower compared to hiring new employees. Familiarity with the company culture and processes makes the transition smoother and more cost-effective.


Create a Culture of Internal Mobility


In an ideal environment, employees will turn to their managers to discuss their desires to move up or advance in their careers. Many employees do not have this kind of open and honest relationship with their supervisors or managers, however. Instead, employees have been looking toward outside organizations for what is likely an increase in salary and more responsibilities. Companies should focus first on developing their managers and establishing good interpersonal skills and then on career development programs.

By creating a culture of transparency, open communication and coaching, employees will see opportunities for growth and skill development within the organization. Once this empowering culture and open communication is established, your organization can move on toward developing effective skills matching and career pathing.

Here are a few areas to consider when your organization is ready to take that next step:


  1. Skill Assessments: Conduct regular assessments to understand the evolving skills and interests of employees, especially high performers. Pick out those key skills and innate strengths the employee most enjoys.

  2. Personalized Career Development Plans: Working with employees to create personalized career development plans that align their aspirations with the company’s needs and future growth.

  3. Skills Gap Analysis: Create a skills gap analysis for those roles the employee wants to pursue and yet does not have enough experience.

  4. Professional Development Plans: Offer professional development plans and learning stipends or educational assistance to further the employee's career options and align them with internal desired roles.

  5. Internal Job Board: Use your intranet system or other SaaS platforms to create an internal job board to highlight the skills needed for open roles.

  6. Shadow and Rotational Programs: Create rotational and shadowing programs to give employees a chance to discover other teams and departments within the organization.

  7. Mentoring and Coaching Programs: Offering mentoring and coaching programs to help employees develop new skills and prepare for different roles within the company as well as develop their leadership skills.



Matching employees' skills with roles within the company or creating new roles for them is a strategic approach to employee retention. It enhances employee engagement, helps the employee feel valued and therefore boosts performance and advances company culture. In the end, your organization can save exponential amounts of money associated with high turnover rates. By fostering a culture of internal mobility and continuous skill development, companies can retain their high performing employees and maintain a competitive edge in the market.


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