Skills-based hiring is an alternative hiring strategy that companies can use to assess candidates’ suitability for the role. On Episode 141 of Talent & Growth I was joined by Johnny Campbell, the CEO of Social Talent, to discuss his experiences and advice around skills based hiring. Read on to learn how you can apply this method to your own hiring process. 

How is skills-based hiring different from traditional hiring methods?

Skills-based hiring is a popular phrase that’s been used recently by lots of companies and people. For the last 25 years at least we’ve hired largely based on experience. If you want a recruiter you would look for CVS recruiters, people with recruitment experience, people who worked in recruitment organisations, etc. It’s not rocket science. However, that hasn’t been working for a lot of jobs recently. 

An example is from a customer of mine, his CEO came to him and said, “We need to have a solution for general AI in our product base, and we need people to do that.” So my client went out and tried to hire someone, but there’s nobody out there with experience in heading up the generative AI team in a company because it’s such a new thing. So, he had to go, “Okay, I can’t find people with generative AI on their CV, but who could do the job?” So he went and found people with strong numeracy, experience with programming languages, good communication skills, smart business acumen, etc, etc. That’s skills-based hiring. Rather than looking for the exact experience, you’re looking for someone who has the skills required, not the experience required to do that job. 

Why should companies move towards skills-based hiring rather than the traditional approach?

People are being forced to do it because they cannot fill jobs. Organisations are looking at their roles and realising that there aren’t enough graduates coming out of universities or working for their competitors to fill their demand. This is happening a lot in the tech field because the pandemic forced everyone to move online. Companies like H&M and Zara suddenly had to change their skillset from finding a good shop location to digital marketing, and there weren’t enough people with experience to fill those roles. And you can’t create people with that experience overnight, it just doesn’t work. 

What we’re seeing in loads of areas is an increasingly large range of skills but a shortage of experienced staff. This isn’t just about white collar skills – it’s everywhere. In the service industry people are often hired because they demonstrate good people skills, basic maths and the ability to think on their feet. That’s how most of us got into our first jobs. When you’re 36 years of age and you’re going for a job that’s paying 100k, you don’t expect someone to be hiring in the same way. Because of the way the market is at the moment, people are having to go back to that model for the higher-paying roles, because that allows them to access far more talent and find a good fit. 

What would your advice be for companies who are taking this approach for the first time?

Don’t start with everything. Look at your most difficult to find roles. Talk to those clients or hiring managers and present the data from what you’ve done so far. LinkedIn have done a good job on this – they’ve got a tool you can use that takes the sector, job, category and location and shows you the increase in talent pool you’ll get from skills-based hiring. That’s great because the talent pool is tiny and it’s going to be very expensive to hire for these roles and it’ll take a long time. Use that data to get their buy-in. 

Next, you need to go look at the requirements again, because it will probably need to change from experience to skills. You will have to dig into things like “When you said you want someone who’s from a similar sized company, why is that?” That creates more well-defined qualities like ‘scrappiness’ or ‘versatility’. But how would you assess that? Have those conversations with your hiring managers. 

It’s harder to source skills, because you can’t type in a bunch of keywords into LinkedIn for them. You can’t rely on experience-related job titles during your search. You have to build your own assessment and interview questions that probe your candidates. You’ll need a rubric to measure against to decide what is good and what is bad. There’s a bunch of processes that come from this hiring model that you might not have thought of before. The good news is that once you’ve gone through the cycle of recruiting for one role, you can apply that model to every role. Then you’ll be set up to fill the next role much faster. You’ll also have a story to tell the next hiring manager about how successful it was for the role that you were struggling to find candidates for two months ago.

To learn more about skills-based hiring, tune into the Talent & Growth podcast here

Diversity and Inclusion is a prominent topic in the talent acquisition industry. With that in mind, I spoke to Lynn In Ok Schaefer, the Head of People and Culture at homee & stromee, about how business can create an equitable recruitment process on Episode 139 of Talent & Growth. Lynn has a background in HR and recruitment, having previously worked at McKinsey and a number of other leading firms in a talent or advisory capacity. Read on for her advice on how to build an equitable recruitment process. 

From your research, how can companies promote D&I in their workforce?

One of the biggest projects we did was a comparative case study analysis of gender inclusion in talent management. We investigated the peculiarities of talent management and gender inclusion in two companies. This was when companies in Germany started to heavily invest in diversity and female initiatives because of new legislation. The companies we talked to were interested in finding out if those initiatives were paying off, because they invested millions in female mentoring and talent management programmes, but they thought nothing really changed. They still had problems with female quotas in higher management positions. The percentage of women in senior leadership was still very low. 

We identified five elements, which are talent definition, career orientation, talent development program content, the talent management approach and the talent selection process. These criteria determine the degree of gender bias and the discriminatory risk of talent management in that specific company. We looked at whether the overall organisational talent definition was equally associated with the typically feminine or masculine traits in these five places. 

One has to be very aware of certain biases when defining who and what is talent. Does that apply to vertical and horizontal career progression as well? What about diverse supervisors and nominators or when it comes to talent nominations and talent reviews? Companies need to be aware of that and have transparent criteria and processes. What we also found is that the companies investing in talent management programmes often had female networking and mentoring programmes for different age groups. One company found that they had a 50% quota of women at the entry level, but only 15 to 20% at the top level, so they investigated the level they were losing talent and how they could promote them more effectively. 

There are so many gender gaps in terms of pay, time, knowledge and health. It’s up to companies to even the playing field. There’s still so much room for improvement and so many things we have to look at.

How can companies ensure that their recruitment processes are unbiased and equitable for all candidates?

There’s a quote saying, “If you have a brain, you’re biassed.” That’s true for everyone, but in recruitment it’s important to be able to put that aside. When thinking about biases in general, there’s a short visualisation exercise I use. Imagine the following scenario: 

You are late to catch a flight. You rush to the airport, make it through security, run to the gates and get on the plane just as they close the door behind you. The pilot steps out of the cockpit and says Hi as you sit down. When you get to your destination, you go to the local restaurant and at the table next to you is a couple happily celebrating their anniversary. The next morning, you go to the biggest tech conference in the world, and the CEO of this year’s hottest tech startup just took the stage to speak. 

In your mental image, was the pilot black? Was the married couple two men? Was the tech CEO a woman? These are just a couple of questions that help you examine your own behaviour. They’re a powerful way to reveal how your unconscious bias works and the way you see things. 

Some pragmatic recommendations for companies start with the job posting. Try to improve them through your language by appealing to a diverse range of potential candidates. Have a balanced pipeline in your sourcing stage. Conduct blind screenings. There were a couple of experiments in Germany where they tried to screen candidates without names, pictures, demographic, age, nationality, etc. to try and remove these biases from their interview. 

Use standardised questions. Train your recruiters on unconscious biases and cognitive ability testing. Have diverse interview panels and a clear competence-based evaluation criteria. Collect, monitor and analyse data for disparities in your hiring process. 

To learn more about equitable talent strategies, tune into Episode 139 of Talent & Growth here

Company culture is one of the most important parts of a business’s retention strategy. On Episode 137 of Talent & Growth I spoke to Bruce Daisley, the host of the Eat, Sleep, Work, Repeat podcast and 2x Sunday Times Best Seller about what he’s learned from working in big companies like Twitter and how their culture impacted the team. Bruce is now a Workplace Culture Consultant, giving him some fantastic insights into getting the most from your team. He shared his advice on how to get your company culture right.

What are the biggest challenges you see around companies trying to get workplace culture right? 

Workplace culture is a strange thing, isn’t it? I did loads of bar work and fast food restaurant service before I got anything close to a desk job. You can tell from the first shift in a pub if it’s going to be a good place to work. It’s a combination of the interactions you have with customers and the people you work with. The same goes for any organisation. In good firms where there’s a really good energy, people laugh more with their colleagues. And there’s more trust. Good cultures do often have more humour in them. 

Right now a lot of organisations are saying that work doesn’t feel the same. If you’re thinking specifically about candidates and the job market, we know that asking workers to come into the office more is demanding a price premium. If you want workers to come into the office five days a week, it seems to cost about 20% more. Most workers say that if they’re given any degree of flexibility, it’s equivalent to about an 8-10% pay rise. For a lot of people, the flexibility that they’ve had in the last three years is something they’re very reluctant to concede, so a lot of organisations I’ve chatted to have said, ‘We mandated people to come back into the office, and they didn’t come. Then we offered a free breakfast, but they didn’t come. We don’t know what to do next.’ 

The interesting challenge is that employees want flexibility or more money, and most firms aren’t willing to provide either of those things. When I hear bosses, leaders, or managers saying it doesn’t feel the same, it’s because they’re not listening to their employees and their needs. People don’t want to be in the office, so of course the culture feels different. 

What has working at Google and Twitter taught you about what retains and motivates great people?

The really interesting thing is that people who work in big tech firms often have all of their immediate needs met. They’ve got a gym, food vendors and all manner of perks and benefits on site. And yet, there’s a strange phenomenon where people have affluenza, which is the idea that they’ve got every material need fulfilled but they’re still unhappy. Why is that? It’s largely because big firms don’t give you any autonomy. You don’t have any decisions to make, you’re pretty much just a cell on a spreadsheet. As a result of that you often meet people who’ve worked in big corporations, specifically tech firms, who are deeply unhappy and can’t work out why that is. 

A lack of autonomy can be really demotivating and create a strange sense of dissonance. That ties into the myth of resilience and the secret of inner strength, because the idea of control has a huge impact on our sense of well being. When we feel like we’ve got control over our lives – whether it’s financial control, emotional control or control over our childcare responsibilities – that agency is really motivating and liberating for us. Quite often when candidates are looking for jobs, they might think ‘I want to go and work at a big firm’, and the best employees typically want to work at the biggest brands, because it says something about them and it adds the halo effect to their resumes. But, that can be illusory. It can be a red herring, because you can end up doing the job, which has got immense status to it, but has got no personal fulfilment.

To learn more about Bruce’s takes on company culture, tune into Episode 137 of Talent & Growth here

AI has been changing the way we work for several months now. On Episode 135 of Talent & Growth I was joined by Matt Alder, the Author of Digital Talent and Host of The Recruiting Future Podcast, to talk about how he sees AI impacting the future of the recruitment industry. Read on to find out what he had to say about the way we can implement AI to improve talent acquisition!

What impact with AI have on recruitment in the day-to-day? 

It’s accelerating the trend towards automation within recruiting. Lots of organisations are looking at how they do recruitment. Something that we need to think about is the potential of these tools to take automation deeper into the recruitment process than we ever thought was possible. We need to think about the future of our industry and ask questions that we’ve not asked before. I’m encouraging people to try and get out of short term thinking while experimenting with these tools and consider what the long term impacts could be for their organisation, their team and their career. 

How can recruiters use AI to improve the candidate experience?

Something that’s always cited as a massive issue in the candidate experience is the quality of communication. When organisations use automation in their communication it actually improves the candidate experience. We live digital lives, and we’re often very happy talking to a machine if it’s giving us the information that we need, moving things along and keeping us informed. 

With airlines for example, a decade ago you had to go and check in manually with a bit of paper. It was very onerous because you had to queue up multiple times at the airport. Now you just check in online and you can have all kinds of conversations about your flight with an app whenever you want. That’s a much better experience than having to deal with humans. 

Recruiters need to think about how technology can improve their communication and the customer experience. Let humans do the bit that humans do really well, which is building relationships, interviewing or persuading people. Humans don’t need to keep scheduling calls or providing information – that can be automated and personalised effectively.

How can AI be used to create more diverse and inclusive hiring practices? 

Humans are inherently biassed. Could AI therefore create processes that have less bias in them? The flip side of that is the question, ‘Who is checking that these technologies are unbiased, and they’re not learning bias from us?’ There’s legislation emerging in various states in America that look at transparency in terms of how AI makes decisions about hiring. There is potential to remove bias and help make things more diverse, but I don’t think it’s that simple yet. 

What are the ethical concerns around new developments in AI?

We’ve talked about governments and other institutions not moving quickly enough to deal with the implications of AI, but there’s a huge discussion around ethics and regulation coming down the pipeline that we haven’t really touched on yet. New York State is introducing a regulation that requires any AI or other technology that’s involved in selecting people for jobs to be fully transparent. There are already court cases racking up about copyright infringement and plagiarism coming from these AI models as well. Until we get down the line and see what happens legally, it’s difficult to say what’s going to be a major concern. It always takes a while for our institutions to catch up with technology, and there’s an argument that they never really do. However, we will quickly reach the point where these huge conversations about ethics, transparency and legality start happening. 

To learn more about the impact of AI on recruitment and the wider people industry, tune into the Talent & Growth podcast here

There have been widespread lay offs in the last six to nine months, and the talent acquisition industry is no exception. As somebody who has been laid off before myself, I took time to offer some advice to people who might be going through a similar situation at the moment on Episode 133 of Talent & Growth. Here are five steps you can take to re-start your career: 

1 – Change Your Perspective

If you’ve been laid off recently, the chances are, it’s not about you. We’re living through a crazy time in the economy and the talent market, so this is an unfortunate part of the cycle. Talent acquisition is one of the first functions to be hit by periods of uncertainty, so try to remove some of the emotion from your situation and look at it more objectively. These cycles always happen, but it’s not your fault. 

2 – Upskill Yourself 

Use this time to upskill. Think about the areas which you haven’t had exposure to or training in, and think of it as a way you can add another string to your bow. Companies often need someone who can wear two or three hats at once, so how do you get to that level? What courses can you do to make you more attractive to a company moving forwards? Everyone wants to save money, so if you can demonstrate to a company that they can save money by hiring you for two or three roles rather than just one of them, they’re going to be interested. 

Businesses are going to want to know how they can save money using automation. AI is everywhere, so get yourself up to date with what functions are out there that you could implement for a new company. When a company asks you, ‘What AI should we be using to save our business money?’ You want to have an answer. If you don’t get all over it, you’re probably going to fall behind. 

3 – Ask for Help 

What I’ve always loved about TA is that everyone’s sharing and helping each other out. LinkedIn is my favourite social media by far because it’s so positive. It’s always worth posting that you’re looking for work. People who don’t even know you will tag you and tag other people to start a conversation about it, because they want to help. It’s that kind of platform. Put out what you’re looking for and what you’re good at. Don’t be afraid to do that. 

Find the best recruitment agencies out there and speak to them. Find out what’s going on in the market. If you find a good one, they’re absolutely worth their weight in gold. When the time comes for you to help other people, you will as well. Think of asking for help as an opportunity for someone to pay it forward, and you will pay it back. That’s how you build a really great community and network. 

4 – Don’t Rely on Your CV

You go on LinkedIn to connect with people. There’s no point just sending a CV to an advert, you should connect with a line manager, send them a personal message, and then follow up. Explain why you want to work for that company, and don’t be afraid to get personal. You’ve got to stand out, because there are a lot of people out there looking for a job. The difference between somebody giving you a job or never looking at your application could be a personal message that really spoke to them. It really can’t hurt to try. 

5 – Research Your Opportunities 

If you apply for a job as a Chief Talent Officer and you do some follow ups, that’s great. But, wouldn’t it be even better if you found an opportunity before it went out and 1000 people applied to it? Look into the companies who are making moves, who’ve just received investment, and who you know that could be interested in someone with your skill set. Try and spot the opportunity before it’s posted on job boards. 

To hear more in-depth discussion of the advice in this blog, tune into Episode 133 of the Talent & Growth podcast here