Putting Skills First

May 4, 2023

There’s a shift happening in today’s workforce – one that could deliver better results and more productivity. It’s the move from hiring experience to hiring skills.

A skills-based hiring and employee work model is basically this: hiring a person based on their skills rather than on their degrees or education. While many organizations may think they do that already based on the job requirements, a true skills-based hiring and work model employs a deeper dive into an employee’s strengths.

For example, a quality control specialist may have plenty of crossover expertise or talent in understanding and applying risk management strategies. Or a claims representative could have the skills needed to help on the underwriting team. In fact, your current workforce possesses plenty of skills that may not be being utilized.

Fortunately, it’s easy to uncover such hidden talent. Employers can easily create specific skills testing to determine cognitive skills (math or reading comprehension) or soft skills such as customer service or relationship management.

Whether looking internally or looking to hire, your organization can transition easily into evaluating based on skills or hidden talent. We recommend the following:

Conduct a skills gap analysis. Review your current team. Ideally, you should be testing them as you would a new hire to see where their proficiencies lie. What skills are coming out in brainstorming, crisis, or problem-solving situations? What have managers observed, such as who works best in teams, who tends to lead, who handles customer complaints best? Ask employees what they love doing, as well. You’d be surprised what kind of talent lies in plain view.

More focused job descriptions. You want to identify competencies, not education. In fact, educational credits should be taking a backseat to skills and abilities. When writing job descriptions, list the skills you’re hoping to bring on board – typically filling the gaps in your current team’s skill set. Are you looking for an employee who is a good communicator? An excellent team worker? Someone who is quick to pick up math or accounting?

Assess those skills. Tests ranging from situational judgment to psychometric measurements can give you a more in-depth picture of the candidate and their strengths and weaknesses than an educational background will show. For example, a candidate with a four-year college degree and one year of experience on the job may not test as well as a candidate with ten years of experience and no degree. Those skills that job seekers have acquired over the years – and are exactly what you’re looking for – may not show up in a traditional interview setting.

Reskill your current teams. Encourage employees to follow their interests when looking for continuing education or retraining. That agility helps your organization pivot quickly with the market demands and keeps employees feeling connected and engaged.

Transition over time. Skills-based workforces get more done. That matters. A recent Deloitte study shows that effectively matching workers to work can benefit organizations through increased financial performance, better retention, and an enhanced ability to anticipate and respond to future disruptions[1]. Yet organizations are still lagging behind. The same Deloitte study shows that 30% of respondents feel their organizations are ineffective at matching the right talent to work.

Rethink your talent pool. Add hybrid work models to your employee engagement model. Removing geographic limitations means you can now locate the best candidate whose skills fit with your needs.

Making the Switch

By switching from the traditional hiring process to one that emphasizes skills over education, your organization could gain key talent who can become instant assets to your current teams. Likewise, your teams could be redeployed in new ways to bring out their best skills and productivity. While it may take a little time to transition your organization to a skills-based approach, the rewards of doing so are more engaged employees, higher productivity, and a more agile organization.

[1] https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/focus/human-capital-trends/2023/skills-based-model-end-of-jobs.html

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