Frequently Asked Questions

Skills-first talent management prioritizes workers’ skills rather than four-year college degrees when sourcing, hiring, retaining, and advancing talent.

At the recruiting and sourcing level, that looks like removing degree requirements from public job descriptions, adjusting language on the recruiting landing page, and advertising skills-based job descriptions. It also means expanding sourcing channels, identifying community-based organizations, community colleges, and training organizations in your target geographies that have preexisting programs that support your talent needs.

At the hiring level, taking a skills-first approach involves looking at your open roles and mapping out the skills needed the first day on the job. It also means building diverse interviewing teams, creating skills-based interview rubrics, and coaching interviewers on how to use them.

At the advancement and retention level, skills-first best practices include developing skills-based performance rubrics, identifying upskilling needs, developing or buying formal upskilling programs, and creating skills-based pathways for internal mobility.

These are just some of the ways to take a skills-first approach across the talent journey, and Grads of Life is poised to support companies in implementing the full spectrum of best practices. 

A growing number of employers are embracing skills-first practices, including Accenture, The Adecco Group, ADP, Airbnb, Allstate, American Express, Amgen, Aon, AT&T, Bain & Company, Bain Capital, Bank of America, Berkshire Hathaway, Bright Horizons, Blackstone,, Cargill, Caterpillar, Chub, Cisco, Clario, Cleveland Clinic, ConSol USA, Deloitte, Delta, Dow, Eli Lilly & Company, Elanco, Emerald, ERT, Genpact, Gilead, GM, Goldman Sachs, Hika, HP, Humana, IBM, Intermountain Healthcare, ITW, JetBlue, Johnson & Johnson, JPMorgan Chase, Lowe’s, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Merck, NBA, Nike, Nordstrom, Northrop Grumman, PepsiCo, Randstad, Roper Technologies, Stryker, Synchrony, Target, Trane Technologies, United Airlines, Verizon, Walmart, Weill Cornell Medicine, Wells Fargo, Whirlpool, Yum! Brands and many more.

Grads of Life has a full suite of services and tools to help you get started on your journey, whether you are looking to advance skills-first practices or deepen your DEI maturity overall. You can also connect with a member of our advisory services team for a personalized consultation based on your goals.

Research has shown that skills-first practices result in 10x broader talent pools, on average. Taking a skills-first approach can also increase the proportion of women candidates in underrepresented fields by 8x. Additionally, skills-first employers are 107% more likely to place talent effectively, 98% more likely to retain high performers, and average an 18% reduction in turnover by recredentialing roles to focus on skills and open up internal career pathways.

Skills-first practices and DEI are interconnected. Skills-first talent practices prioritize the evaluation of candidates based on their skills, rather than exclusionary requirements like four-year degrees or other credentials. This opens up jobs for more diverse pools of talent, including candidates from marginalized communities that may have been historically excluded from these opportunities. When paired with the appropriate learning and training, skills-first practices can help companies mitigate unconscious bias in their hiring and promotion processes. Additionally, by clearly articulating the skills required of their roles, companies lay the groundwork to develop skills-based career pathways and increase access to economic opportunity and mobility. In this way, skills-first practices can work to advance existing DEI efforts and close the Opportunity Divide.

Grads of Life is always happy to connect with organizations that share our goals of increasing access to economic opportunity and mobility and advancing DEI. We encourage you to reach out, whether you are an employer looking for strategic consulting services, an organization looking for a strategic partner, or a foundation looking to learn more about our movement-building work.

Unlike traditional consultancies, Grads of Life also developed as a social enterprise. We evolved out of a national PSA to actively shape the labor market, not just react to it. We continue to take that approach as a strategic adviser to some of the nation’s top employers, working with companies to be more agile, inclusive and forward-thinking. 

As a national initiative of Year Up, we also bear close ties to the Black and Brown communities who have been boxed out of opportunity the longest. We aren’t consulting based on abstract theories. We pull from lived experience. We draw on these firsthand insights, and our collective experiences in the public and private sectors, to offer solutions that bridge the gap between systems-level strategy and practical implementation.

Grads of Life is a national initiative of Year Up. Year Up’s mission is to close the Opportunity Divide by ensuring that young adults gain the skills, experiences, and support that will empower them to reach their potential through careers and higher education. 

In addition to driving impact through direct service and strategic partnerships with employers, talent providers, and policymakers, Year Up is committed to addressing the root causes of the Opportunity Divide in this country and creating pathways to opportunity at broad scale. Helping to power the opportunity movement and make this work possible are essential partnerships with Grads of Life and YUPRO Placement.

YUPRO Placement is the industry-leading skills-first placement firm bringing together a purposeful workforce ecosystem that champions sourcing, recruiting, retaining, and advancing traditionally overlooked talent.

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