Our recent study found that work experience accounts for at least half of the average person’s accumulated human capital—the potential within each person, as well as the collective knowledge, attributes, skills, work experience, and health of the workforce. Such work experience is accumulated through the work itself, learning and development programs, and bold job changes.
In fact, our research found that the key to career advancement is mobility, including changing roles more often—either lateral role changes that demand a high level of new skills or switching to a different industry—and taking challenging career steps. Average new skills to be acquired in these moves, called skill distance, is 25-45 percent, depending on country.
Candidates who successfully close their “skill gap” have huge potential. Bold changes are not only essential for leaps into new skills and competencies but can result in a 30 percent higher salary, on average. Those who take new roles involving bigger changes or challenges tend to overcome a higher skill distance and receive larger rewards.
Generally, these employees are moving to new organizations, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Employers that seek to attract and retain the best talent should focus on:
- Evaluating current employees and candidates not only for their knowledge and skills but also for their potential and capacity to learn.
- Embracing mobility by considering candidates with different backgrounds and career histories, and by creating both upward and lateral career paths within the organization so that employees can gain more varied experience.
- Strengthening coaching and on-the-job training to establish the organization as a great place to learn and, in turn, become a magnet for talent.
For example, one global energy company built an internal talent marketplace after learning that nearly half of employees who left said they couldn’t find their next career opportunity at the company. By uploading their profile to the platform, employees can get AI-suggested development and career opportunities based on their skills, competencies, and ambitions, encouraging internal mobility and talent retention.
Organizations that see the best results are often courageous in their recruitment approach. They are willing to take risks and invest in employee integration and development.
For instance, the war in Ukraine has affected millions of refugees and internally displaced individuals to date. Having lost their source of income, most have needed to relaunch a career in a new host country, new culture, new company, or completely new role.
However, it traditionally has been difficult to integrate refugees, displaced individuals, and asylum seekers into the global labor market, due to constraints in qualification requirements, skill gaps, and mismatches between their professional experience and employers’ immediate demands.
One Berlin-based digital talent marketplace, UA Talents, is working to resolve this issue. The platform helps to match candidates with relevant IT, creative, marketing, and operations vacancies posted by employers specifically for displaced Ukrainians. To overcome skill distances through reskilling and upskilling, the not profit-oriented organization is connecting jobseekers with learning providers. Since launch, more than 29,000 candidates have applied to one or more of its 17,000 listed vacancies.
Another nonprofit organization, Jobs for Humanity, supports underrepresented jobseekers—including neurodivergent, blind, single parent, and refugee workers—through upskilling and direct connections with employers that commit to interviewing and hiring them.
Initiatives like these can provide individuals an opportunity to upgrade their skills, boost their career, and raise their income. They also support more courageous decision making on talent. Through bold recruitment approaches and the willingness to take risks, invest in overcoming skill gaps, and consider new talent pools, employers can benefit from the new talents, skills, and diverse experiences that human capital can bring to their organizations.
The authors would like to thank Yuliia Tutan for her meaningful contributions to this post.