Hiring In A Skills-Based Economy
Mike DePrisco is Interim President & CEO and COO of Project Management Institute (PMI), a global association for project professionals.
For more than a year, the number of job openings in the U.S. has been increasing, while the number of unemployed workers available to fill those positions has been falling. How will we bridge this supply/demand gap and fill these jobs? And how can we be sure we’re filling these positions with the right people?
The answer may be to focus more on skills-based hiring—an approach that emphasizes the specific skills needed for a position rather than educational credentials or prior experience. Skills-based hiring can help ensure that you fill open positions with the right talent—whether that person comes from outside the organization or from within your own workforce. It can expand your talent pool and help level the playing field by eliminating some of the unconscious biases that can creep into the hiring process.
Skills-based hiring is on the rise: LinkedIn has seen a 21% increase in U.S. job postings that focus on skills and responsibilities rather than qualifications. The company has also launched a new venture—Skills Path—that matches employers and job seekers based on the skills required in the position.
The change couldn’t come at a better time. Our research estimates that by 2030, the global economy will need 25 million new project management professionals to keep up with demand. This, coupled with aging populations, a shrinking workforce due to declining birth rates and a shortage of the required skills, creates a significant talent gap.
Skills-based hiring offers an alternate way of addressing these challenges by removing unnecessary barriers that limit the talent pool. While university degrees can be useful in assessing a candidate’s qualifications and experience, hiring managers must look beyond degrees and consider the myriad qualities and skills the candidate brings to the table.
Skill requirements are also changing faster than ever. Having the “right” degree or experience in a particular field doesn’t guarantee that a person has the skills required to do today’s job. As Joseph Fuller, a management professor at Harvard Business School, says, “The shelf life of people’s skills for a lot of decent-paying jobs has been shortening.”
What’s needed to put a skills-based hiring system in place?
Revisit your workforce planning and HR systems.
The first step is to assess the skills needed to achieve your business objectives and map those skills against your current workforce. This will help you determine which resources you need to add to the organization and what can be accomplished through upskilling or reskilling the existing workforce.
You’ll also need to rethink job descriptions. Instead of listing academic credentials or prior work experience, focus on the skills needed to deliver the outcomes you want to achieve. But that does mean your HR teams need to have the systems and resources needed to assess the skills you’re seeking. A number of assessment technologies are now available to help in this regard.
Expand your skills assessment criteria to include other forms of credentials.
People today acquire skills in all sorts of ways—not just at university or through prior work experience. In recognition of this fact, a former McKinsey partner, Byron Auguste, created Opportunity@Work, an organization that connects employers with “STARs”—people who are Skilled Through Alternate Routes. These are highly capable individuals who, while lacking a university degree, have acquired valuable skills through other means, such as military service, bootcamps or on-the-job learning.
Professional credentials are also an important record of skills development. Many industry associations offer training and credentials that help professionals develop and maintain relevant skills.
Focus on skills beyond the technical.
All too often, we think about skills development in terms of narrow technical skills. Increasingly, however, organizations are seeking individuals who possess what we at PMI call “power skills,” such as empathy, collaborative leadership, an innovative mindset and communication. Our research indicates that the top 10% of project management offices place a great emphasis on such skills and continue to cultivate those skills through learning and development programs.
Commit to upskilling and reskilling your employees.
To succeed in today’s business environment, employees need to commit to life-long learning—something they seem more than willing to do. A 2020 Glint survey reveals that 97% of employees want to expand or continue the amount of time they spend on learning.
But employers need to provide the necessary resources and empower their employees to deliver on this commitment. This includes blocking out time during the workweek for employees to pursue training and demonstrating executive support by modeling desired behavior. This not only benefits employees but also enhances performance. Employees who think their organizations provide opportunities for learning and growth are nearly three times more likely to be engaged than workers without such opportunities.
In response to the Great Reshuffling, many companies have launched new programs to upskill employees and ensure they have the talent to continue driving their businesses forward. Behind all their efforts is a focus on bridging the supply-demand talent gap by focusing on what matters most—skills and abilities, not university degrees or pumped-up resumes.
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