Growth requires change. To build a workforce that can weather the unexpected, many organizations are now turning away from traditional job-based hiring and career development. They’re taking a different approach, using talent intelligence to hire for skills and capabilities instead.
Skill-based hiring requires a fresh perspective on candidates and hiring practices. Hiring for skills also offers a number of benefits, including increased resilience and adaptability in an uncertain future.
Old to New: The Shift to Skills-based Hiring
Even before the pandemic, employers were looking for better ways to understand what new hires bring to the team and the organization. The pandemic and resulting economic upheaval piqued further interest in skills-based hiring.
Many employers became interested in hiring for skills after realizing that traditional methods of hiring for credentials were insufficient.
“For decades, degree requirements have been added to more and more jobs,” writes Tom Vander Ark, CEO at learning design firm Getting Smart. “The degree ratchet increasingly screened out skilled applicants, expanded the opportunity gap and made upward mobility more elusive.” Employers found that even though they got the candidates with the credentials they asked for, those credentials did not translate to applicable skills in a way that supported either the employee’s growth or the company’s goals.
Early signs of a culture shift toward skills-based hiring were visible in the way jobs are described on LinkedIn and other job posting websites, writes Ryan Roslansky, CEO of LinkedIn. Yet these descriptions are only the first step. The use of skills evaluations is also increasing as human resources teams look for better ways to understand what candidates can actually do.
Continuing to rethink skill assessment in hiring will be essential for companies, human resources teams, and job candidates alike. Reworked hiring requirements can better capture candidates’ actual abilities. It can also provide greater insights when candidate skills are compared to the results of predictive analytics applied to hiring skills data.
Talent Intelligence for Skills and Capabilities
Skills have always been a priority in hiring. Limited by time and the constraints of human attention and thought, however, hiring practices have long used shorthand for skills. A college degree, for example, has been thought to serve as effective shorthand for the skills commonly associated with the particular degree: A worker who has the degree must have the skills.
Technology has given us new insight into the effectiveness of this shorthand approach. Today, analytics demonstrate that shorthand, like credentials and job titles, aren’t ideal for targeting key skills or the capacity to learn new skills. Yet developing technologies, including artificial intelligence, also provide ways to focus on skills directly.
With a focus on analytics comes a new need for data. “Employee data will be the key to finding and retaining top talent; fostering productivity, performance and well-being; and driving agile, flexible attitudes toward human-to-human and human-to-machine collaboration that unlocks innovation,” writes Caroline Syr at digital solutions provider Cognizant. Putting this data to work with the right technologies is a must.
Currently, data regarding employees’ and candidates’ existing skills is widely distributed. “The problem for buyers is that one ‘integrated skills platform’ does not yet exist,” writes industry analyst Josh Bersin, former Deloitte HR strategist. Platforms that pull information from a wide range of data sources do exist, however, and their value to human resources teams will continue to grow as methods for tapping into diverse data sources improve.
The right technological tools can also help reduce bias and improve companies’ efforts toward achieving diversity, equity and inclusion goals. Using skills-based assessments, for example, “removes the bias associated with degrees or years of experience,” says Julie Lammers, SVP of government relations and advocacy at American Student Assistance. Instead of relying on credentials or past job titles as stand-ins for skills, employers can assess skills directly, pinpointing the candidates most likely to succeed at fulfilling the day-to-day demands of the role.
Shaping a Skills and Capabilities Mindset
New technologies make hiring for skills and capabilities a real possibility. These tools allow hiring managers and teams to look past potential sources of bias to each candidate’s personal set of professional abilities. Yet the technology also has its limits: While it can inform human resources professionals, it cannot replace them.
“Modern talent intelligence provides talent professionals with a wealth of data to make better-informed recruitment and HR decisions,” writes Rosie Greaves at volume hiring solution provider Harver. In other words, neither HR teams nor talent intelligence technology implement skills-based hiring on their own. Rather, tech and people work in tandem to develop deeper insights and act upon them in hiring.
Technology can help human resources professionals identify skills overlaps that might otherwise go unnoticed. Some of these overlaps can even come as a surprise.
“For example, a food server in the U.S. has a 71 percent skills similarity to customer service specialist,” writes Tomer Cohen, chief product officer at LinkedIn. Customer service specialists have been in high demand in recent years. By learning two new skills, as many as 26 million people working in food service could transition to a customer service role, he explains.
While technology can identify areas where skills overlap, it’s up to human resources professionals and workers to implement this knowledge in a way that helps employees develop and apply new skills. The time to do so is now, when both workers and leaders are interested in learning and skill development.
A study by LinkedIn found that “91 percent of employees say it’s very or extremely important for their manager to encourage learning and experimentation. What’s more, 84 percent of managers feel this can help close skills gaps on their teams,” writes Samantha McLaren, lead copywriter for the global impact marketing team at LinkedIn. The study also found that employees are up to 2.9 times more engaged when they have access to skills development and learning opportunities.
According to one study by people-success platform Glint, 97 percent of employees want to use the time they already have to learn, or want more time to learn new skills. Learning was one of the top three things workers said they wanted at the start of the pandemic. Their actions proved their words: Employee time spent learning increased 130 percent between January and April 2020.
Given the time and freedom to learn new skills, workers are taking it. Guidance from human resources leadership, based on insights gleaned from vast data sources, can help guide this learning in the best direction for workers and the organization as a whole. Skills-based hiring provides a way to make better hires and start a career-long learning journey.
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