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Welcome to The JoyPowered® Workspace Podcast, where we talk about embracing joy in the workplace. I’m JoDee Curtis, owner of Purple Ink, an HR consulting firm, and with me is my friend and co-host, Susan White, owner of Susan Tinder White Consulting, an HR consulting practice as well.
Our topic today is finding quality talent today using skills-based practices. You know, recruiting seems to be difficult for everyone right now in every industry and at every level of the organization. And there are lots of reasons, or maybe presumed reasons, for this. So Susan, let’s talk about a few of those.
Yes, well, number one, with baby boomers retiring, there are simply less people available to work.
Right. And we’ll talk a little bit more about this one at the end of the podcast, but many more women elected to stay home during the Covid pandemic and have decided not to return to work, at least for now. And it makes sense, given all the uncertainties on the horizon about the virus and childcare and school staying open or not.
Right. Number three, others are electing to continue on increased government benefits, either for unemployment or the child tax credit. You know, if you do the math, does it really make sense if you can make more money not going to work? I get it, they’ve got to make sure that they make ends meet.
Right. And others have just not returned to work due to the increased risk of Covid, which seems to not be going away.
Yes, you’re right. And finally, there is increased competition amongst employers for scarce resources of people.
Right. So because of these different combinations of reasons, organizations need to be more creative than ever in both retaining and recruiting employees. One way to think differently about recruiting may be to focus on skills needed for the position versus degrees and certifications. In the past few years, as an example, this has been more common in the technology sectors. Some tech firms hire based on programming skills in a particular program versus those with certifications or degrees. In a 2017 study conducted by consulting firm Accenture – they called this study “Dismissed by Degrees” – they found that business leaders tend to view a college degree as a, quote, “proxy” for hard and soft skills, which effectively was shrinking the pool of viable candidates. Shifting from degree- and pedigree-based hiring to a competency-based approach can open up new pipelines for organizations struggling to find talent.
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To help us learn more about this approach and how you might use it in your own organization, we have invited Natalie Wenzler as our guest today. Natalie is a Manager of Employer Initiatives for Skillful Indiana, specializing in skills-based talent management, employer engagement, and career development. As a dynamic facilitator, Natalie brings together the workforce ecosystem to be more equitable and effective in attracting and retaining talent. She is passionate in supporting and scaling partnerships, engaging diverse stakeholders, and connecting critical resources to achieve successful strategic efforts in local, state, and national ecosystem. Natalie also supports employer engagement through the Markle Foundation’s Rework America Alliance to open opportunities for individuals to move into good jobs. So Natalie, thank you so much for joining us today. Can you tell us a bit more about what skills-based practices really are?
Yes. Thanks, JoDee. Really glad to be here, and thanks for having me today. So skills-based practices. We’re really thinking about, from a talent management perspective, how can we be more clear about what we need in the roles that we have available in our organizations. So traditionally, we have a job posting that has a laundry list of items, example activities, maybe a few certifications if they’ve become needed or just put on a resume or on a job posting over time, but not really looked at or reviewed in a while. So when we want to transition to skills-based practices, we work with employers to understand what are those true competencies needed for someone to be successful in that role, so that you can be clear at the very beginning to attract the talent that has the skills you need and to use that job posting throughout your hiring process.
Alright, so Natalie, can you provide some specific examples of how skills-based practices apply in the workplace?
Yeah, totally. So a few examples of how skills-based practices can be used immediately is, first, we always work with employers to remove credential requirements whenever possible, meaning we want to take away any barriers that may be on the job posting that may not truly be needed. And we want to be very clear that education is valuable. Credentials are needed and required by law for many occupations, such as for safety reasons, for licensure, statute. The majority of jobs do not need certifications or a certain educational attainment level. So that’s where we really want to, again, get clear what is truly needed for someone to be successful in that role. Then we really focus on what competencies are needed for that specific role. Oftentimes, you get a laundry list, again, of what maybe has been done in the past, who was in the role before, or it’s just not relevant anymore. And this is very true to how we’ve had a very disrupted labor market in our current economic conditions. So that’s where this is an opportunity for employers to get really clear on what competencies are needed for those roles.
You know, Natalie, just since I met you, I actually made a change to a position that… we were searching for an executive assistant, and when I looked back at the last time we had posted the role, we had said they needed a bachelor’s degree and we preferred someone to be Microsoft Office certified, and…[laughs]
And so I took your message to heart by saying, “Is this really required for this position? Do we really need that?” And I think it opened up our pool of candidates a lot more by… by doing that.
That’s awesome to hear.
I really love the emphasis on this, because I really feel like it was an easy way to screen people out for a number of years. You know, you put in these credentials or put in an elevated degree needed, when in reality, it was just a way, I think, to get the numbers of the people you’re looking at to manageable. And that was so wrong. So I am just really thrilled with the work that you’re doing, Natalie.
Thank you two both. And I appreciate you both sharing, as well, because it becomes a common practice and then we… you just make it a second habit. And then we take a pause moment and we realize, wow, we’re eliminating talent before we even consider them based on things that we may not truly need. And we’ve before, too, even the example that you were providing, JoDee, is that we have this experience of degree inflation, where we say we need a degree for someone to be successful in this role and then we realize, well, people in those roles currently don’t even have that education. Let’s say that they don’t have a bachelor’s degree. So it really helps us to, like, oh, maybe we’re asking for the wrong things.
So another example of how skills-based practices can be applied into your work is taking an example of… say you see on a job posting that you need 10 years of experience in a certain technology. However, that technology is not even five years old. We often see this mismatch of what we need and what we’re asking for. And we also work with employers to think about… so, you say you need someone with 10 years of experience, and that starts to put a certain age restriction on a role, because you may be trying to get toward a sense of maturity, a sense of experience, when that is not necessarily what you’re truly looking for.
Good point. Now, you’ve been training people on this approach for a while now. What kind of feedback have you received from people who’ve gone through your training or taken a different approach to this? Have you heard some good success stories?
Yes, there are a lot of great success stories and I’ll even take a couple steps back to give a little bit of context as well. So when we’re – from Markle and Skillful – talking about how we’re working with employers to take a skills-based approach, the core of how employers can learn to adopt skills-based practices is through our Skillful Talent series. The Skillful Talent series is a four-part workshop series that spans the entire talent management process, from attracting the right talent, candidate evaluation, selection and onboarding, and employee retention. It needs to be a continuous cycle for true impact to be made. The Skillful Talent series is SHRM certified, so you can receive SHRM credits for attending Skillful Talent series workshop. We initially created the workshop series to be an in-person experience, and as everything shifted through the pandemic, updated our content and curriculum to have a virtual experience through a live workshop with a trained trainer. Part of our delivery model is that we always work in partnership with others, meaning we want to train trainers and consultants to be experts in skills-based practices, so that we can have the true ecosystem impact where everyone and everyone’s skills are valued. So just even few success stories as we’ve been working in multiple states, starting in Colorado, then Indiana, we’ve expanded other state work to a few others throughout the country. Under our Rework America Alliance, we’ve also been working with five metro areas to bring together the resources and tools that we’ve developed as response to the pandemic to ensure that we have an equitable recovery. To really understand, how do working serving organizations be the backbone and subject matter experts have skills-based practices so that employers can make these practice changes?
That’s wonderful. So with all of us really focused on trying to get better at diversity, equity, and inclusion, Natalie, why do you believe that shifting to a skill-based approach for sourcing, screening, and hiring will create a more equitable labor market?
Skills-based practices inherently reduces biases from the approach itself. When we are focused on the skills someone needs, then we are reducing other factors that may impact our decision making process. For example, on a job posting, there might be language that favors one gender over another. There may be requirements that will discourage certain groups over another. So when we are truly focused on the skills needed, we can be able to screen those individuals based on the competencies presented either on the resume, we can create interview questions that are focused specifically on skills, and we have a better sense of what skill level the individual is coming in our organization with so that we can train effectively and get that person on board as quickly as possible.
Super smart, and I love it that that all works together, right? That we can be better at hiring, that we can be more open, more inclusive, more equitable. Like, there’s so many ways this can spin off to other good practices and approaches in how we add people to our team.
Yeah, and to speak to the inclusive piece, when we are thinking of how we develop talent internally and how we promote, oftentimes, opportunities are only given to certain people. Or if there’s not transparency of what opportunities are coming available over the next month or so, that’s where we get to… you may only look to a certain group or offer an opportunity to only a few, where that is not an inclusive development strategy. So how can we be clear of what our roles are in our organizations, how people can develop their own skills, both supported by our organizations in our companies, and then empower them to have those conversations so that we can build the talent within our four walls, because oftentimes, we see that individuals will leave an organization to find advancement rather than stay.
What is one thing in particular HR professionals can do to implement more equitable practices?
There are many resources and tools that we’ve developed at Markle and Skillful to implement equitable practices. First is our simple job posting generator. You can find this tool at generator.skillful.com. What this web-based template is an opportunity for you, as a human resources professional, to enter in a title that you might be hiring for. When you enter that title in, it will give you a list of occupations that may be similar to what you’re hiring for. The two data sets on the backside is O*NET and ESCO, so the national description of occupations for the United States, as well as the European equivalent. And you can select the occupational title that’s closest to what you’re hiring for, and it’ll generate a skills-based job posting and brings in the knowledge, skills, and abilities from those two data sets for you to have meaningful conversations with your hiring managers to determine, Well, what are the competencies that are most important for you? How can we build this job posting together and define the competencies through the lens of our needs at our company?
I love it. And Natalie, just to be clear, how much does this tool cost?
All of the resources and tools that we provide are more likely than not free.
It’s truly in partnership with the organizations that we work with.
So just to make that clear again to all of our listeners, all of these tools she’s talking about are free to all of us, so we should check these out. We’ll put the link to those in the show notes so people can find it. But keep going. I just wanted to interrupt you on that point, but go ahead with your other ones.
Yes, thank you. Under our Rework America Alliance, we have been bringing together a nationwide collaboration of employers, nonprofits, educators, government entities, and public and private organizations who are dedicated to helping unemployed and low wage workers emerge from this crisis stronger. With that, we have developed multiple resources that are free for employers to understand how to adopt skills-based practices immediately. From the employer toolkit that we’ve developed, we have a sourcing toolkit where it shows what do we mean by a skills-based job posting, provides an example of what a job posting looks like that is skills-based. There’s also multiple business case studies showing the benefit and value of adopting a skills-based approach. We’re in the process of creating job specific toolkits, as we’ve identified gateway occupations that has growth over the next few years, as well as it has meaningful wage gains. With that, the first two toolkits that we’ve developed is the computer user support specialist position and the cyber security analyst position.
Wow, what wonderful resources.
Where do you get your funding to be able to make this available for free?
We’re really fortunate that we’re supported by fantastic partners, including Microsoft, Walmart, Cognizant, and the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation.
Wow! Just to name a few, right? [Laughs]
Just a couple. [Laughs]
That’s a pretty good list.
Yeah, we’re very fortunate. And that’s where we’re really focused, to help the full system, so we’re all working in partnership and alongside one another.
So Natalie, how can our listeners reach out to you and/or Skillful for more information on this topic?
You can access the resources that I’ve referenced at markle.org. There, you can find the Alliance, learn more about the five metro service areas that we’re bringing collaborative and resources together in a meaningful way, as well as the work that we’ve been doing in Colorado and Indiana.
And to clarify, Markle is M-A-R-K-L-E dot org.
And although you’re working specifically from Colorado and Indiana, people across the country, or wherever they may be, can still access these as well, too, right?
Yes, you can also go to skillful.com/employers to see when upcoming trainings are available to learn a skills-based approach.
And how much does that training cost?
Free. [Laughs] It’s free.
[Laughs] JoDee and my favorite price – free.
So thank you for saying it a lot. Yeah. What a wonderful, wonderful set of resources. I’m really gonna look into them.
Thank you. We have a really great team that truly wants to help job seekers get connected to meaningful careers, and the employer role is so important. And then even more so, it’s the human resource individual that has such an important and critical responsibility to describe the opportunities to get individuals into the open opportunities that we have and then really keep and build the talent in a meaningful way.
Well, thank you so much for joining us and for sharing these resources with our listeners. This is great information.
Thank you, Natalie.
Thank you, JoDee. Thank you, Susan.
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JoDee, we have a listener question today from Tom, who reached out a few weeks ago and asked, “Are there legit part time or supplemental income opportunities available? And if so, how do I find them?”
I’ve had that question a few times, actually, in the past couple of years, because there’s a lot of ads out there that, you know, say they’re work from home opportunities, but then you have to pay them [laughs] to get them.
Don’t do it! Yeah.
Yeah, or they, you know, get… send information and are not really valid work from home opportunities. So I think that’s why he used the word “legit.” Of course, there are more and more opportunities for people to work from home. But if you’re trying to do something off hours, or you know, as a second job, which, actually, Tom told me later that that’s what he was looking for, was something he could do in the evenings or weekends. So I don’t know, I didn’t know any specific work from home sites, but you know, a lot of people do very well with some of those product sales, if that’s of interest to anyone or finding those opportunities. I think some of them are very female-dominated, but things like Mary Kay or Pampered Chef or Tupperware, you know, a lot of people do very well with those if that’s an interest. But Susan, any other advice on your end?
I would just mention upwork.com. Upwork is really wildly successful, and I know a number of people who have used it to try to find somebody who could do a consulting project for them or do a graphic design for them or do just some quick – not necessarily quick, cause I’ve heard some people have, like, seven, eight month, you know, part-time assignments working on on initiatives, but also… so, it’s great for people who are looking for individuals who can do, you know, specialized type of work, but it’s great for people who have full-time jobs, and they’re just looking for maybe a project on the side to get that extra income and do it from wherever they are. You know, it doesn’t have to be at the same city. They usually meet, you know, virtually, and they get an opportunity to understand each other’s requirements, and then… It’s been, I think, a great place to look. So I would go to Upwork – U-P-W-O-R-K dot com.
Nice, great info. In our in the news section today, TopResume, the world’s largest resume writing service, announced in June of 2021 that they asked over 1,500 women in the US who identified as primary caregivers to their children, “Are you planning to return to the workforce?” 69% of those working said they plan to remain at home as a full-time caregiver for the time being. So that goes back to the the statistics we used at the top of the podcast about… it’s just limiting the pool of people in the workforce. 31% said they did plan to return within the next 12 months, and 55% of those still working said they would voluntarily leave their jobs if given the option. I know that doesn’t add up to 100, but…[laughs]
[Laughs] They have multiple feelings.
Yeah, that’s right. So some of them who are working, you know, but plan to remain at home, are still saying they would leave their job if they had that option, as well.
Sure. Makes sense.
When those who left the workforce were asked the main reason why they are no longer working, the women respondents fell into one of two categories. 30% simply had lost their jobs due to the pandemic, and 70% stopped working specifically to accommodate their children. And again, I foresee that could be an issue for a long time, even though a lot of schools across the country are, you know, planning or hoping to continue to be live – it’s a bit of flux – that women may not feel like they can go back just in case something happens. But you know, it is difficult to keep and retain employees already, so I think this is a message that, at least as it relates to women in the workforce, it’s not going to get any easier for a while. Well, thanks for listening today and make it a JoyPowered® day.
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