Transferable Skills: Realizing Talent Mobility and Adaptability

Career pathways are much less linear than in the past. In today’s world, an expert may experience several job changes in their professional trajectories.
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Career paths are much less linear than in the past: it is estimated that each professional will experience, on average, 4 career changes. This need for agility in bridging professions calls for the identification of skills so-called "transversal" skills? They provide the assurance of a profile adaptable to several professions and sectors. In part, they guarantee employability, and are the source of increased talent mobility.

For the company, identifying and valorizing these qualities is a response to employment tensions and the allocation of resources to strategic projects.

What are transferable skills?

The skills cross-disciplinary skills are defined as assets that can be applied to several jobs in different sectors. They differ from "skills transferable", which can also be used for several jobs, but within the same professional branch.


A Marketing Director, a Teacher and a Data Analyst each practice a different profession. And yet, all three have the ability to present synthesized information to an audience. These are similar skills, duplicable from one work environment to another.

Unlike technical or hard skills, which are shared by professionals in the same profession, cross-disciplinary skills are most often associated with soft skills. They relate to personal qualities, but also to aptitudes acquired over the course of a career.

Tansferable skills' categories

Transversal talents combine soft skills, industry knowledge, and core values to develop new capacities and reinforce existing competencies. The main categories of cross-functional proficiencies include:

Interpersonal skills 


  • encompass everyday competencies, including active listening
  • conflict resolution, and negotiation

Intrapersonal aptitudes


  • revolve around individual values like confidence
  • empathy, and time management

Cognitive talents


  • involve mentally stimulating tasks such as data analysis,
  • learning, and reasoning

Digital competencies


  • require technological knowledge in content creation
  • e-commerce, and graphic design

Determining a valuable cross-functional talent mix

In order to encourage cross-fertilization, we recommend establishing 2 to 3 cross-functional skills per job description.

Below, we illustrate our answer with a customer project in the Services sector.

Initial project context :

  • Company in strong external growth
  • Integration of several departments within the Group
  • Creation of a common base of qualifications for each profession
  • Avoiding the inflation of qualifications in the repository

Implementation of the strategy focused on skills : 

Neobrain has reduced skills from 160 to 40 for 113 jobs. On the one hand, this workshop-based construction has encouraged the emergence of new evolutions never encountered before. On the other hand, it made it possible to explain the evaluation scheme and make it transparent, so as to make professional mobility more objective.

skills context and results
Illustration of a customer project promoting cross-functional skills

The advantages and limitations of transferable skills for internal mobility

What are their advantages?

The assets of skills are first and foremost to respond to the transformation of business lines, but their presence also conditions career development and, more globally, represents a means of improving talent management.

Responding to business transformations:

The quest for versatility is one way of responding to the rapid evolution of our professions. The HR function encourages a dedicated training plan and a culture of continuous learning. As part of the Strategic Workforce PlanningThis approach will be supported by upskilling or, more often, reskilling efforts.

Encouraging career development

Cross-functional skills play an essential role in career development, by facilitating career bridges. The service economy in which we evolve requires autonomy and a sense of interaction with both internal and external customers. This environment therefore encourages the development of horizontal faculties based above all on behavioral skills.

Improving talent management

The term "skill" is defined as "knowing how to act" in a specific context. The advantage of a cross-functional aptitude is that it can be expressed in several work situations. Companies are building their reference frameworks around this notion, and are also considering these skills as criteria for defining their "high potentials". Unlike hard skills, whose lifespan is limited to around 2 years, this type of ability offers a lower risk of obsolescence.

What are the limits of this typology of proficiencies?

Encouraging career development

Collaborative working is often seen as a skill that can be used in a variety of situations. Whether it's a product manager designing a new feature with the R&D department, or a lawyer finding solutions with purchasing to sign a contract, they are both using the same skill. Yet the situational constraints of these two examples are very different. Consequently, an assessment of the individual prior to his or her integration into a new environment is essential to determine whether they are truly cross-functional. 

Responding to evolving needs

Finally, in an environment where talent is the source of competitive advantage, the structure's primary investment must be in developing distinctive know-how that can be passed on and transferred over time.

Improving talent management

The professional training habits of HRDs are to focus their development policy on the key assets of company performance. Here it is required to combine 2 action plans:

  • A tailor-made program that takes into account skills and level differences for specific talents.
  • A generalist approach for a broader population, to offer cross-functional know-how to the organization.


It is essential to describe professional postures such as curiosity and flexibility, in order to complement the distinctive skills of each profession. Internal mobility can improve the fluidity of knowledge transfer, but must be complemented by a documentation and knowledge management system.

Transferable skills may also allow companies to redefine, acquire, manage, and retain high-value talent

  • Ultimately, a good balance of talent complements personal pursuits like creativity and flexibility with distinctive and general qualities of various technical aptitudes.
  • They can help experts stay versatile and allow enterprises to achieve successful internal mobility.