How Employers Can Manage Their Talent Pipeline Like They Manage Their Supply Chain

Today the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation (USCCF) released its third report on the systemic failings widening the skills gap. Changing the Debate: The Case for Employer Leadership and a Roadmap for Change points to the imbalance between the skills companies are looking for and those that are being taught. While the academic community remains stringent in its approach to credentialing, the global economy continues to evolve rapidly, forcing the chasm between workforce preparedness and the needs of employers to widen.

A 2015 McGraw-Hill study that found 11 percent of business leaders see college graduates as having the necessary skills to assimilate into the business community while 96 percent of academic institutions believe students are provided with those skills. Thirty-five percent of students felt ready.

Taking into account the rigidity of academia, the Chamber suggests an employer-led remedy using standard best practices. The key to closing the skills gap could be as simple as taking successful business systems and flipping the lens. Businesses can be on the receiving end of quality employees if they begin to see themselves as the end-user of quality assurance methods.

While American capitalism encourages competitiveness, successful businesses tend to work off a shared set of standards and quality assurance practices. These standards are defined and updated by the International Standards Organization (ISO), a committee that implements the resulting principles in a three-tiered system. The first tier focuses on foundational business requirements, the second on industry-specific requirements, and the third on company-specific requirements.

The current Quality Management Standards address the following: customer focus, leadership, employee engagement, a process approach, methods of improvement, evidence-based decision making and relationship management. When applied to business development the standards are fairly straightforward. But try to see it in reverse: Companies are more likely to hire better employees if they focus on themselves as the customer. The talent pool will improve if they lead the way in designing a process, look for methods to improve the skills of new employees, make decisions based on monitoring the results and continuing to build relationships with the more traditional providers of skills cultivation.

A collaborative effort between business leaders that develops workforce standards using the same protocol would create a talent pool trained to fulfill needs specific to individual corporations. The employer-led system would establish principles based on the ISO 9000, define layers that go from all-inclusive needs to company-specific needs, and develop a quality assurance certification process in cooperation with other industry leaders. Additionally, the system is designed to evolve on pace with the global economy. A collaborative effort would mean monitoring results and updating systems based on a shared review.

The USCCF recommendation requires an unprecedented amount of collaboration. However, the benefits far outweigh the challenges.

The talent pipeline is developed with specific needs and current challenges in mind. Standards developed by the employer coalition are constantly changing based on the current economic environment. It is, therefore, more impactful for the business community to define what skills its workforce needs than to wait for the world of academia to catch up. At the same time, this progressive approach may incentivize academic chiefs to develop reforms.

“While the challenges for building a new system are sizable, the benefits are also numerous, including a more responsive marketplace of providers who can help close the skills gap and improve outcomes for students and workers,” the report says. “Such an initiative would not only galvanize employer collaboration but also help reframe the public policy debate for years to come.”

The GradsofLifeVoice Forbes team provides thought leadership, research and expert commentary on innovative talent pipelines and related issues such as the skills gap, income inequality, workforce diversity, and the business case for employment pathways. We seek to change employers’ perceptions of young adults with atypical resumes from social liabilities to economic assets. This post was originally featured here.

Business Case, Management & Leadership, Workforce Development,
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