Across this series, we’ve examined the opportunities that the Great Resignation opens up for businesses — from sustainable cultures to value-aligned employee loyalty, this Great Realignment enables a variety of corrections to the old, flawed ways in which we’ve worked.
Recruiting is no different. In this post, we’ll discuss how leaders can take a fresh approach to talent to fill their open headcount with skilled and loyal new talent.
Competition for Talent is Fierce. And broken.
The world of work has evolved dramatically in recent years, but recruiting practices have not kept up. As resignations outpace hiring, leaders continue to scratch their heads, wondering why they can’t fill their open roles. The answer is simple: they insist on fighting over a pool of talent that is too small.
Part of the problem lies in outdated hiring practices. A narrow view of recruitment leads companies to try to pull from the same very small, very traditional tech talent pool — a zero sum game that has resulted in skyrocketing salaries for top talent at deep-pocketed players, and lots of desks to fill for everyone else. The Great Resignation has exacerbated the inability to fill these roles, as talent continues to seize the opportunity to leave for greener pastures…which only get greener with competition. You see the problem.
Yet despite this crisis, businesses continue to play small by using yesterday’s recruiting methods. Today, some of the top tactics recruiters use are still the oldest in the book:
- Posting on Job Boards
- Passive Recruitment
- Employee Referrals
- Social Sourcing
- Hiring Fresh College Grads
Albert Einstein said it best when he said, “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” We invite you to get off the hamster wheel and try on a new approach to hiring for size.
In Survival of the Fittest, Build Antifragile Talent Systems
Yes, amid the Great Resignation, you need to think about retention and culture and hiring, all at the same time. Unfortunately the recruitment problem isn’t new, it’s simply exacerbated by the convergence of these forces. But as they say, never let a good crisis go to waste… You are rebuilding, so why not make this the moment you improve your talent engine for good?
Here are 4 ways leaders can improve their recruitment process during this period of immense change.
1. Have a clear vision for the evolution of your org chart (including career paths)
Evolving business needs have created skill demands that are outpacing the talent supply, leaving companies desperate to hire for the gaps. However, many companies lack clarity on what exact skills they need to hire in and how a new, high-skill employee would interact with the existing team to make the sum greater than its parts.
A clear picture starts with taking a step back to understand what you have — with fresh eyes. Forget everything you thought you knew about your teams’ skills and prospects, and take this moment to get curious — and creative — about the talent you have. Interview team members to understand their current skills and those they could acquire if given the opportunity, and make that the foundation of what you plan to build for tomorrow.
As you get clear on the gifts your team brings to the table, stay open. Sure, some of the skills on your team may seem antiquated, but many of those skills are the stepping stones needed to move into tech adjacent roles. Take Guardian for instance, who reskilled actuaries into data science roles, or Sage who upskilled software engineers in data skills.
Once you know what skills you have, and what skills you could easily acquire, it will be easier to understand what you need. Ensure you know how these skills progress careers, because this will be the key to not only filling skill gaps today, but attracting and retaining top talent over time.
2. Consider non-traditional talent
A college degree is an achievement, however, it shouldn’t be the only way we measure the potential or aptitude of a candidate. Degrees and top-name brands easily make it through the traditional recruitment process, but focusing on the best education money can buy closes the doors to undiscovered talent.
Instead, as leaders refocus on the skills their teams need, they can evaluate each candidate accordingly, asking, “Does this candidate have the foundational skills and the ability/motivation to learn?” We need diversity of thought to create well, so make sure to look for nontraditional strengths and soft skills, like teamwork, positive attitude or service experience. Often these skills can bond teams together, rounding out technical skills and creating future leaders.
Talent with non-traditional backgrounds also tends to demonstrate greater loyalty to the organization that gave them a chance. We know this better than anyone; General Assembly has reskilled thousands of non-traditional candidates and deployed them into top businesses including Amazon, Uber, Google and other tech giants, and these companies have retained the talent from these programs at 91% over two years and 81% after three years.
Consider, also, talent from non-tech hub communities. Remote work has enabled motivated learners to find careers in tech from around the country — a phenomenon we’ve seen in our partnerships with local governments and businesses, like M&T and Microsoft, where community reskilling programs have brought displaced workers back into the workforce while getting companies the tech talent they so sorely need.
3. Update JDs to reflect a new-age approach
Old habits die hard. This phenomenon particularly affects job listings, which are often rich with exaggerated requirements for qualifications that signal the outdated hiring practices we are trying to get away from. If you’re refocusing on skills and are open to non-traditional candidates, it’s time to update your job descriptions.
Start by throwing out the “kitchen sink” method. Keep your JDs short and sweet to increase your talent pool and attract the right people to apply. (Remember, you’re looking for folks who can do the job, not unicorns.) This includes leaving education requirements off, or at least making them “nice to haves”, as untraditional career paths are only growing with increased access to training. The more streamlined your JD is, the better a prospective candidate can imagine themselves in the role well enough to throw their hat in the ring.
Finally, don’t forget to give the JD some personality. Culture and purpose are important to attracting and retaining talent, so you want to give prospects a view into what it would be like to work for your business. This will help you attract talent that can, and more importantly, wants to do the job.
4. Generate high-potential talent from within
Once you’ve reset on your skill needs, taken a fresh approach to measuring talent, and expanded the pool of applicants, it’s time to look at developing a talent system that rebuilds itself. It’s easy to forget, but your internal talent is often your best path to filling your open technical roles — especially if you can offer them the opportunity to grow.
Facilitating the development of your high-potential employees not only helps them progress in their careers, but also benefits your business. As you identify roles and skills that need filling, make it mandatory to promote these open technical roles internally and give employees an opportunity to raise their hands. At first, you can game plan how to get them the skills they need for a new career path at your company, but over time, your culture of internal growth will help you drive repeatable systems for upskilling talent into more technical fields.
Many of our clients have reskilled internal team members into new tech-focused roles, especially companies with a lot of junior roles left unfilled. These larger reskilling initiatives help not only to fill talent gaps, but also to diversify teams. At Disney, we helped to reskill 20 of their female employees into software engineers — a program that has had nearly 90% employee retention after three years — and ripple effects of pride within the culture of the company.
As you grow your new sources of talent and generate systems to build up your internal high-achievers, you will have a talent engine that is not dependent on external competition or small-pie thinking — but one that can regenerate itself, even in times of stress.
Adapt Purposefully as the Workplace Evolves
The old ways aren’t working. Instead of the transaction-like system of bidding for talent, consider growing it. Your ability to find diamonds in the rough, create new sources of talent and generate self-renewing systems will make you crisis-proof — and instead of Ivy League resumes and top-tier salary drains, you’ll have the hard business results to prove it.
If you’re interested in learning more about how we’ve helped businesses fill their open junior tech positions, get in touch.