Companies must break bad hiring habits to close the talent gap – Betsy Williamson
Some areas are starved of labor and face huge skills shortages, while others cannot hire fast enough.
The economic toll of the pandemic and its ripple effects will be felt for years. Many have been left without work and it is a sad but inevitable fact that some jobs may never return.
So how can we address these workforce challenges? In short, employers need to be more open to the concept of retraining and transferable work-based skills, assessing talent and individual ability to perform a role, rather than specific prior experience.
This means an open approach to recruitment. Hospitality professionals with customer service skills can move into other service positions. Taxi drivers can become couriers.
As a recruiter, I believe there are characteristics that stand out and lead to professional success more than others. Hard work and commitment can propel people faster than previous experience or academic qualifications.
Yet outdated attitudes toward training nullify the potential. Too often I’ve heard about it, either passing by the water cooler or directly in the context of management reviews; “but… I’m too busy to train someone else”, “it takes years”, “honestly I’d rather do it myself than suffer”.
While I fully understand that there can be a natural resistance to the time and effort it takes to train someone new – and let’s be honest, most jobs take at least two years to peak – these types of statements leave me beyond frustrated. It is a complaint without commitment to a clear solution. The plaster on the open wound or the finger in the rubber dam. Useless.
Malcolm Gladwell said it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become a master in a chosen field. With this in mind, a healthy commitment from individuals to retrain, coupled with employer support and a structured program to follow, can be successful. A new career can be forged, all you need is the opportunity.
Open-minded employers can see the immediate future of hiring, and workplace learning is based on the development of skill needs, woven into the corporate culture. This approach can only be transformational if it is a commitment recognized and delivered by senior management.
So how do companies do this?
Start by thinking about job descriptions. Focus on the outcome of the role and what needs to be achieved, specifically desired qualifications. Remove barriers to entry.
If companies are looking beyond education and experience, what should they focus on? What about questions based on the candidate’s confidence, adaptability, tenacity, speed of response, ability to “bend” and ability to overcome personal challenges.
Business leaders must look for talent. And if a “good” leader can be defined by his charisma, his strength of character, his talent or his ambition, is it not the ability to spot talent that really sets them apart?
Scotland has benefited from exceptional rulers throughout history, like William Wallace, Flora MacDonald, Mary Queen of Scots, Robert the Bruce. More recently, I would even add a select few from our stoic investment management community, remaining anonymous to avoid blushing.
If the right leader spots the right talent, stars are born, the workforce is replenished, and maybe something good can come from something bad.
Betsy Williamson is the Founder and Managing Director of Core-Asset Consulting