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The ultimate guide to talent mapping for recruiters


Talent mapping is crucial when you want to define your organization’s talent strategy, find the right talent for each role, and retain your best performers by helping them grow and improve their skills within your company. 

You can use talent mapping to get a clear picture of your talent pool and who is best suited for each role. It also helps you identify where talent and skills are scarce and adapt your recruitment strategy to fill skills gaps. Additionally, it enables you to upskill your employees with the right learning and development initiatives.

Although talent mapping is a useful talent-management tool, it can be a time-consuming process.

You have to map out each talent area, which requires writing down the critical capabilities for specific roles, analyzing your needs, and comparing them with your workforce’s skills. 

In this guide, we will explore what talent mapping is and why it is a crucial element of your organization’s hiring and upskilling process. 

We’ll also provide you with a step-by-step guide on how to structure a talent-mapping process that works for you and show how you can use skills tests to better understand and address your organization’s talent needs.

Talent mapping is a new strategy, so let’s begin with its definition.

What is talent mapping?

Talent mapping is a talent-management tool that uses a strategic approach to evaluate your employees’ skills from a long-term perspective. You can use it to: 

  • Identify and analyze vulnerabilities at an organizational level

  • Build a strategy to fill skills gaps

  • Design relevant learning and development initiatives to upskill your workforce

  • Promote the best talent within your company

Where talent acquisition focuses more on your organization’s near-term talent needs, talent mapping is used to assess talent at a whole-enterprise level and improve hiring and career growth practices.

In other words, talent mapping uses data from different sources to identify skills gaps, talent shortages, and talent surpluses. You can use talent mapping to develop programs to ensure your talent pool has the skills needed to give you a competitive advantage.

Having a clear sense of your talent needs will help you make better decisions when hiring new employees or implementing training programs for existing talent.

When talent mapping is done successfully, it can contribute to four key talent-management goals.

What are the key benefits of talent mapping? 

Talent mapping is an underused HR strategy, even though it can help organizations meet current and future market demands in numerous ways.

benefits of talent mapping

With talent mapping, you can:

1. Identify and fill skills gaps and talent shortages

According to McKinsey & Company, 87% of businesses report that they are either currently experiencing skills gaps or expect to within the next two to five years. And skills gaps and talent shortages can be costly for organizations since they lead to productivity losses, higher turnover rates, and lower morale

Talent mapping lets you see what types of skills and talent your organization needs but currently lacks or might lack in the near future. Once you’ve identified these talent gaps, you can fill them by recruiting new talent or retraining and upskilling current employees.

Additionally, talent mapping can help you prevent talent shortages from happening in the first place: With the right data at hand, you’ll be in a better position to assess future needs and develop strategies for meeting them.

2. Define comprehensive learning and development strategies

By identifying skills gaps, you can not only define whom you want to hire but also how to build relevant learning and development strategies that will help your employees grow.

Learning and development initiatives that are relevant to the talent needs of your organization will help you:

  • Close skills gaps more quickly

  • Build and strengthen your employer brand

  • Improve your service or product offerings

  • Attract and retain top talent

  • Facilitate succession planning

Talent mapping can help you identify training needs and plan how to address them.

3. Retain top talent by providing the right career growth opportunities

Top talent wants to continually improve. That’s why it’s essential to provide the right career growth opportunities to keep your best talent and improve retention. You can achieve this with a combination of talent mapping and learning and development.

With the right training programs, you can give your employees the opportunity to advance their careers within your organization. You can even set up mentoring programs that enable senior staff to provide guidance and support to new hires and junior staff.

4. Make succession planning easier

You can use talent mapping to promote talent within your company and facilitate succession planning

When you clearly understand your talent needs, you can develop a talent-management strategy that will help you identify and groom potential successors for key roles in your organization. This helps you ensure business continuity, in case one or more of your senior executives quit the organization or retire.

Choosing the right successor isn’t always easy, even for small businesses, but talent mapping helps you identify the right candidates for the role and provide extra training to close skills gaps. 

5. Improve workforce planning

Talent mapping can help you make better decisions about where to allocate your resources (e.g. hiring new employees, investing in training and development programs) to meet your organization’s talent needs.

With accurate data on the talent you have and the talent you need, you can develop a workforce plan that aligns with your business goals. This will help ensure that you have the right people in the right roles at the right time.

What are the challenges of talent mapping? 

Talent mapping is not without its challenges: Data on talent can be difficult to collect and analyze, and it can be difficult to accurately predict long-term talent needs. 

challenges of talent mapping

1. It’s resource-intensive 

Talent mapping can be time-consuming and expensive to implement because it requires you to perform two key activities: 

  • Evaluating your organization’s current and future talent needs based on market demands and performance objectives

  • Assessing your existing talent by collecting data on performance and skills with 360-degree feedback, skills tests, self-evaluation, or a combination of these

It also requires the involvement of multiple departments within your organization, and it can be challenging to get everyone on board with the initiative. 

To optimize the evaluation of your employees’ skills, you can use automated skills-assessment tools, such as skills tests, to quickly and efficiently identify skills gaps. 

You can use tests periodically to assess the effectiveness of your learning and development initiatives and your hiring strategy on the talent distribution in your organization.

2. You need a lot of data to do it well

Data is essential for talent mapping, but it can be difficult to obtain. You need accurate data on the talent you have and the talent you need to make a well-informed workforce plan.

To build a comprehensive map of your talent, you need data on: 

  • Your company’s goals and objectives: First, you need to analyze the business environment. What are your organization’s performance objectives? What are the current talent acquisition trends? What are your talent acquisition goals? 

  • The current talent market: Next, you need to ask questions about the talent market. What skills are in high demand right now? How is this likely to change in the next few years? How can you make sure you’re able to hire the best talent before your competitors do?

  • Your employees’ skills: Finally, you need to understand the skills of your current staff. Which employees have the skills required for future roles? What skills do your employees lack?

A lack of accurate data on your existing talent and talent needs can lead to:

  • Costly hiring mistakes

  • Incorrect assumptions about talent needs

  • An inability to hire top talent

Given the importance of data in talent mapping, it is crucial to have a system to collect and analyze data. This could involve setting up a data-management system or collaborating with a third-party data analysis provider. 

The best way to measure your company’s goals and objectives is by looking at your performance KPIs, assessing your workforce’s current capacities, and setting up relevant talent acquisition goals.

You can observe the talent market directly as you hire new employees or indirectly through market watches and reports. You can also mine your own recruitment stats for information and look at what competitors are offering prospective employees. 

One of the best ways to gather data on your employees’ skills is by using skills tests. These give you objective measures of your workforce’s strengths and weaknesses and enable you to analyze them continuously. 

3. You might not be able to map out a long-term plan

Given the dynamic and ever-changing nature of the job market, predicting long-term talent needs can be difficult. 

This is why it’s important to regularly reassess your talent needs and revise your talent-mapping and talent-management strategies accordingly.

Several factors can affect your future talent needs, such as:

  • The advancement of technology: With new technologies emerging every day, the skills required for certain roles may change rapidly. You need to be prepared for these changes and have a talent-mapping strategy that can adapt to them.

  • The globalization of business: As companies become increasingly global, the need for employees with cross-cultural skills will continue to increase.

  • The aging population: The number of retirees is increasing, which means there will be more demand for talent in certain sectors. According to a Pew Research Center survey from 2021, the pandemic has accelerated retirement for adults aged 55 and older. 

Market crashes or instability can also significantly affect businesses, so even if you create a long-term plan, you can’t predict every change. For this reason, it’s best to assess your talent goals and objectives every year.

4. You need to ensure leadership buy-in

Talent mapping requires co-ordination between many different departments and business units. For the best results, you need to get your leadership on board early in the process to enable and facilitate change. 

This will help HR to work with mid-level managers to implement specific talent-mapping initiatives and assess each team’s needs. 

Afterward, you need to communicate your strategy to employees and make sure they understand how talent mapping can benefit them. Always explain to your staff that you’re asking them to take tests and self-assessments to help them grow rather than penalize them for specific weaknesses. 

Despite these challenges, talent mapping is a valuable workforce planning tool for organizations of all sizes. By using accurate data and regularly reassessing your talent needs, you can make sure your organization is equipped with the right talent to achieve its goals.

A step-by-step guide to using talent mapping to support your organization’s goals

In this section, we’ll explain the practical details of talent mapping. We’ll show you how to decide which data points you need to gather data for, how to collect data, and how to identify talent gaps.

step-by-step guide to using talent mapping to support your organization’s goals

We will also give you practical advice on how to create an action plan by combining talent mapping and talent management.

Let’s dive in. 

1. Identify your company’s objectives and talent needs

Before you can start mapping your talent, you need to assess your talent needs by addressing the following questions:

  • What are your company’s business goals for the next year? What about the next three to five years? 

  • What talent do you need on board to support these goals?

  • Which skills do you need, now and in the future?

  • In which areas are you struggling most? 

  • Are the challenges you’re facing related to talent shortages or skills gaps?

  • Which departments or teams lack direction or clarity in terms of their goals? How can you support them and help them redefine their targets?

  • Is your leadership willing to invest more in your workforce’s skills development?

You should directly discuss these issues with your leadership team to gain clarity on strategic goals. From there, you can start to identify talent needs in specific areas.

2. Define hiring needs based on your goals

Now that you’ve determined your goals and objectives, you should define your hiring needs. 

Do you need to hire more employees or upskill your current staff? This largely depends on your specific goals: 

  • Aggressive growth: If you’re planning to pursue aggressive growth, you need to hire more staff to support this aim. 

  • New products, services, or markets: If you’re looking to add new products or services or to penetrate new markets, you need to bring in new talent.

  • Specialization: If you’re aiming to specialize or pivot, you might want to upskill your employees or make a few strategic hires.

  • Downsizing: If you need to downsize your workforce, you should upskill your employees. 

Keep these objectives in mind as you assess your existing talent and define your hiring strategy.

3. Define data points for your talent map

Now that you know what skills your company needs, it’s time to define the data points and talent assessment templates you’ll later use to populate your talent map. 

These will depend on your goals and talent needs, but some of the most important data points for talent mapping are:

Job descriptions

Job descriptions outline the essential functions and responsibilities of a role by providing a high-level overview of the skills, knowledge, and experience required for the job. 

Create job descriptions for new openings in your company to gain clarity on the specific skills you need to recruit for and to write effective job ads. Though you likely already have job descriptions for existing roles, you can always check if they are up to date. 

Skills inventory

According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), a skills inventory is a list of all the skills, knowledge, and qualifications of your existing workforce. 

It comprises hard skills (e.g. specific software skills, data analysis), soft skills (e.g. communication, problem-solving), and relevant certifications or degrees. 

Employee performance reviews

Employee performance reviews can help you identify your teams’ strengths and weaknesses in more detail than a skills inventory and find out whether employees are using their existing skills adequately. 

They can also help you determine which employees show the most potential for growth and are best suited for specific high-responsibility roles. 

Team managers routinely conduct performance reviews, which you can use for talent mapping. 

Employee surveys

Employee surveys give you a snapshot of your staff’s perceptions and enable you to strengthen your employer brand as you build a talent map. 

They can help you identify any talent shortages that might already be affecting your workforce. 

Pay special attention to employees’ complaints of excessive stress or pressure: Too much strain on your staff can directly affect retention rates and is often related to skills gaps not being addressed.

Competitive intelligence

Competitive intelligence is information about your competitors’ talent plans, strategies, and practices. It can help you better understand the talent landscape in your industry and create a competitive talent-acquisition plan. 

4. Evaluate employees’ skills 

After defining the specific data points you need for your talent map, you need to populate it. The best way to do this is by evaluating your current employees’ skills using:

  • Self-evaluation: Ask your employees to self-evaluate and identify skills they’d like to improve or areas in which they need your support. 

  • 360-degree feedback: Using 360-degree assessments, you can gather constructive feedback from peers and managers to improve your understanding of each staff member’s strengths and weaknesses. 

  • Skills tests: Use skills tests to assess your employees’ skills and evaluate how they progress over time.

Skills tests are among the most accurate ways to evaluate your employees’ skills. They provide you with objective measurements of each skill and enable you to compare teams and see where you need to invest more effort to improve performance. 

Although they’re most often used in the context of hiring, you can also use skills assessments for your existing workforce. Furthermore, you can combine these methods to gather more accurate data. 

When giving any type of skills assessment, always remember to provide enough context and information to your employees to instill trust and confidence. Explain you’re measuring skills to help employees and the company improve rather than to penalize weaknesses. 

Most employees have room for growth and would be thrilled to hone their skills, so you should consider ways to adapt your learning and development initiatives to your talent map. 

Once you assess your staff’s skills, you’ll be able to see whether any have the skills required to excel in roles you’re planning to open. Would it make sense to create training or development programs to help them acquire those skills? Or would it be more reasonable to hire new employees?

5. Evaluate current employee performance and motivation

Next, you need to evaluate your employees’ performance compared with their potential. It’s important to find out whether any staff members are underperforming and why. 

You most likely already have a lot of the data you need for this evaluation: Look at quarterly and yearly employee performance reviews and discuss performance with team managers. 

To go beyond the stats and gain a deeper understanding of performance, ask questions like: 

  • Which employees are performing the best in their current roles? 

  • Which skills do they have that set them apart? 

  • Are all employees achieving their full potential?

  • Are there any significant gaps between employees’ potential and their performance?

  • Are there any employees who have excelled in a short period of time?

Looking at employees’ performance and existing skills will enable you to accurately identify skills gaps and provide promotion and upskilling opportunities.

Motivation can also have a profound effect on performance, so it’s worth looking into. 

According to a study conducted by G.A. Alase and T.M. Akinbo, three of the most effective non-monetary incentives for driving performance are:

  • Job security

  • Training

  • Career advancement opportunities 

All three factors are related to your talent-management efforts, and talent mapping can help you invest in them in a meaningful way and boost performance accordingly. 

Additionally, it’s worth mentioning that motivation is closely linked to your employees’ alignment with their roles. For new openings, you can assess how well your candidate’s preferences align with the job by using a Motivation test, a tool that TestGorilla developed in 2021.

6. Define benchmarks

Define what success looks like in all roles for which you want to hire or promote employees internally. This will help you set specific benchmarks that employees need to meet to be successful and that you can use as measurements for success in talent mapping.

Not everyone needs to be an expert in all their skills; it makes sense to have a wide array of soft skills for some positions, though others require highly developed hard skills.  

Either way, you should have an in-depth understanding of the skills needed for each role, the specific measurements you’re after, and how they’d translate into performance goals so that you can use the right performance-management strategy

Skills tests enable you to compare the scores of your best employees with candidates’ scores when recruiting new staff. Candidates’ scores can also be one of your most important benchmarks for predicting their future performance. 

Benchmarks provide a way to continuously measure talent. They also help you set expectations for employees and identify which skills are essential for success in specific roles.

7. Look into your competitors’ talent strategies

If you want to stay ahead of the curve, it’s important to know what your competitors are up to.

By understanding your competitors’ talent plans, you can develop a better strategy for acquiring and retaining top talent.

You can get this information by conducting competitive intelligence research into your competitors’ talent plans, strategies, employer branding, and practices. This can help you better understand the talent landscape in your industry and identify any gaps or opportunities that may exist.

The best way to get started is by analyzing your competitors’ job postings and answering the following questions:

  • What skills do your competitors require for their open positions? 

  • Are they targeting certain types of employees? 

  • Are they using specific recruitment and skills-assessment tools?

  • Do they have any talent shortages? 

You can also look into your competitors’ talent-management practices:

  • Which employee-retention strategies are they using? 

  • How do they develop and train their employees? 

  • What kind of talent-management software do they use?

  • What do their employees say about them on employer-review platforms like Glassdoor?

  • What kind of talent-development programs do they have in place?

Competitive intelligence can help you answer all these questions and more.

By understanding your competitors’ talent plans and strategies, you can better identify the areas in which you need to improve to stay competitive and attract the best talent.

8. Create job descriptions for all new roles

Regardless of whether you’ll be hiring internally or externally, define each job you need to hire for. This includes creating job titles and writing detailed job descriptions.

Be as specific as possible when writing job descriptions. List the skills, experiences, and qualifications required for the role. This will help you better identify which employees or candidates have the skills necessary for the role and make it easier to assess candidates’ qualifications.

When creating job descriptions, it’s also important to keep your company’s culture and values in mind. Make sure the job descriptions reflect the organizational culture of your business and align with its vision, goals, and values.

9. Develop a talent-management strategy

Now that you have a better understanding of what you’re looking for in employees, where your talent is, and how you can better attract, retain, and support it, it’s time to develop an effective talent-management strategy based on your talent map.

Your talent-management strategy should include the following:

  • A talent-acquisition plan, which includes strategies for finding and attracting qualified candidates

  • A talent-development plan, which includes strategies for developing employees’ skills and abilities

  • A talent-retention plan, which includes strategies for retaining employees

The talent-management strategy should be tailored to your company’s specific talent needs, which you have already assessed. Make sure the talent-management strategy is customizable, adaptable, and effective to meet the unique needs of your business.

In fact, according to a survey by McKinsey & Company, the ability to outperform competitors is closely related to the effectiveness of companies’ talent-management strategies, particularly the following key factors: 

  • Quick talent allocation and the rapid movement of talent based on business needs

  • A positive employee experience throughout the entire employee lifecycle

  • A clear understanding of the company’s business objectives among HR staff

Since your talent management strategy is based on the skills gaps and talent needs you’ve identified in your talent map, its success is closely related to the results of your talent-mapping efforts. If successful, it will enable you to fill those gaps quickly, before they affect productivity.

10. Assess talent needs continuously

Talent needs will inevitably change, so assess them continuously. How often you should do this depends on your current goals. If you’re in a period of rapid growth, you can assess them every quarter to six months. However, if you’re in a more stable development phase, once every year should suffice. 

Continuously assessing your talent needs will help you make sure that your talent-management strategy is always up to date and aligned with your current objectives. This will help you stay competitive and attract the best talent.

How to use skills tests for talent mapping

One of the most important aspects of talent mapping is collecting and analyzing the right data. 

Skills tests, like the ones you can find in TestGorilla’s test library, are an invaluable resource for data collection and are quick and easy to use. They can help you assess your employees’ skills objectively, identify any gaps, create benchmarks, and evaluate candidates’ skills when hiring for new openings.

Once you identify the skills you want to test for, it’ll only take a few minutes to select the tests to use. Each test takes 10 minutes to complete and the scores are automatically calculated. 

Specific ways you can use skills tests for talent mapping

You can use skills tests to support talent mapping in multiple ways: 

  • When hiring new employees: Skills tests can help you identify the best candidates for a role by assessing their skills and abilities

  • For training and development: Skills tests can help you design relevant learning and development programs that target specific skills gaps

  • For assessing employees’ skills: You can use skills tests to measure how employees are performing against skills benchmarks, compared with each other, and compared with new hires

  • For succession planning: You can use skills tests to identify employees with the potential to take on more senior roles in the future

When it comes to talent mapping, skills tests are a valuable tool that can help you collect data and make better decisions about your workforce planning. By using skills tests, you can objectively assess your employees’ skills, identify any gaps, and make better hiring decisions.

Below are a few tips on how to use skills tests in talent mapping.

1. Identify the skills you want to measure

The best way to use skills tests for talent mapping is to first identify the specific skills you want to test. This will help you select the most relevant tests that target the skills you need. You can then use these tests to assess current and prospective employees’ skills. 

2. Choose the right tests

When choosing a skills test, make sure it is tailored to the specific skill you want to measure. With TestGorilla, you can choose between plenty of different skills-test categories, such as:

You can combine tests from different categories and include up to five in an assessment. 

3. Analyze the results

Once your current or prospective employees have taken the tests, you need to analyze the results. 

If you’re hiring new employees, the results will show you who your best talent is. You can also use them to identify any important skills gaps among your current staff. This will help you develop a learning and development strategy to fill skills gaps and improve your workforce planning.

4. Administer skills tests regularly

To evaluate the results of your learning and development initiatives, you can use skills tests either at regular intervals, such as every quarter or every year, or after important training initiatives.

The results will show whether you’re getting closer to filling the gaps you’ve previously identified and upskilling your employees successfully. 

Identify top talent with talent mapping

You’re well aware that your company’s talent needs change over time. What you might not have considered is how those changes in priority can affect your workforce and what this means for your future hiring needs. 

Talent mapping enables you to identify top talent using objective data. This will help you avoid recruiting someone who isn’t suitable, promoting the wrong person to a key position, or failing to seize opportunities to upskill your employees in ways that are meaningful to you and them.

Skills tests are one of the many tools you can use for talent mapping. They can help you collect objective data on employees’ and candidates’ skills, identify gaps, set benchmarks, and make the right hiring decisions. 

By using skills tests regularly, you can ensure that your talent-mapping strategy is always up to date and relevant to your company’s talent needs. Try TestGorilla for free.


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