Implementing a skills-based hiring approach can feel daunting at the outset. Grounding your initiative in four simple principles can offer a clear path forward.
Over the past five years, a growing number of employers have committed to hiring talent for the skills they have instead of prioritizing candidates only by the degrees they hold. Efforts have been accelerated through initiatives such as OneTen, the Business Roundtable, Blackstone Career Pathways™, and Markle’s Rework America Alliance. Appeals to skills-based hiring are also cropping up at the state and federal level, including a notable mention in this year’s State of the Union.
Any organization working to adopt a skills-based hiring approach can attest that it is a substantial investment that can be complex. From recredentialing jobs and writing skills-based job descriptions, to aligning skills-based interview questions with affiliated scoring rubrics and assessments — choosing where to start can be a daunting task.
When working alongside clients who are early in their skills-based hiring journey, Grads of Life recommends starting with a small pilot program. This ensures a sound foundation as you work to scale efforts across your organization. Focus on one to three jobs where you have executive commitment and can iterate on your approach while gathering feedback and increasing buy-in. Consider these four recommendations when selecting your initial jobs for a skills-based hiring pilot:
1. Take a data-driven approach. Understand your business needs and pain points where a skills-based hiring initiative could add the most value. Look at the data to determine which jobs have persistent, high-volume hiring demand at the national level, or in a specific geography, and are the most difficult to fill. You may also want to target positions with high turnover and/or a high cost to hire. If you are looking to racially diversify your employee base, consider jobs in areas where currently underrepresented populations reside.
2. Focus on entry-level, middle-skills jobs to start. These are jobs that require training beyond a high school diploma but less than a college degree. They are often impacted by degree inflation, resulting in shallower pools of qualified talent. But as evidenced by the burgeoning movement of employers removing nonessential degree requirements, there is an opportunity to recredential these jobs by mapping the required and preferred skills. By getting explicit about the skills desired, you add a layer of specificity and rigor to job postings. This can help realize shared benefits for you and prospective talent. Given the majority of Americans do not have a bachelor’s degree, middle-skills jobs often provide an accessible entry point to lifetime careers offering increased wages over time. The reward for that access is clear: better hires. Our research indicates that employees without degrees tend to perform equally or better than their degree-holding peers, are more engaged, and are less inclined to change employers.
3. Operate with equity and mobility in mind. Equitable employment is a key lever for achieving greater economic equity for all. Choose jobs that provide a family-sustaining wage and are connected to transparent career pathways where your incoming employees have an opportunity to grow their career and contributions to your organization over time. If you are headquartered in an area that lacks racial diversity, consider expanding access by making your jobs eligible for remote work.
4. Select functional areas with strong internal champions who support skills-based hiring. When starting something new, the path of least resistance can be a great place to gain traction, success stories, and thus advocacy for scaling what works. The ideal champion will also be dedicated to addressing blockers to the program’s success, and building the kind of inclusive environment that will fully support skills-based hires and benefit the workforce as a whole.
If you are a leader committed to adopting skills-based practices and are working to uncover your best starting point, Grads of Life is here to help! Whether it’s getting started with prioritizing skills-based approaches through our data-driven Occupation Review, implementing your strategy using a customized playbook for your company or workforce development initiative, or working in close partnership on how to marry your inclusive culture efforts to your desired hiring outcomes — consider us a resource.