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These Are the 3 Biggest Trends in Workforce Innovation

Keeping up with the changing world requires constant innovation — and this includes hiring. Evolving technology, the shifting generational makeup of the workforce, and a candidate-centric market[...]

February 18, 2020

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Hire for Fit, Train for Skills: 4 Advantages to Hiring Less Experienced Talent

It’s time to put older recruitment methods in mothballs

The introduction of a new generation of talent and pendulous economic swings have forever changed the shape of the job market. And with these developments have come different sets of challenges for employers and recruiters. It has become increasingly difficult to source prospective candidates who possess all the characteristics sought by companies attempting to adapt their business models to the modern dynamics of globalized commerce. Hiring managers and staffing recruiters now face a dwindling talent pool where the optimal combination of skills, attitude, experience, credentials and cultural fit no longer exist within a single worker. That’s why many experts in the staffing industry are encouraging organizations and hiring managers to abandon traditional recruitment techniques and preconceived notions of best practices to focus on “hiring for fit and training for skills.”


Attitude over aptitude

The rallying cry of staffing professionals now is undeniably “attitude over aptitude.” The longstanding emphasis on academic achievements offers just one example. In our past article “Redefining Education in a Job Market Short on Skills,” we examined how merely having a college degree, especially in a generalized or unrelated field, offers no assurance of the worker’s ability to meet an employer’s needs.

This has become especially common in IT fields, where degrees have been overshadowed by skills and experience. An August 2014 Robert Half Technology survey of about 2,400 chief information officers found that 71 percent placed “more weight on skills and experience than on whether or not a candidate attended college/university.” Another 12 percent claimed that an applicant’s alma mater, regardless of prestige, held no weight with them at all.

When recruiting top talent for the skills employers need now, and in the foreseeable future, staffing and recruiting professionals are concentrating on fit -- sourcing workers based on matches to established skills and experience. And yet Dr. John Sullivan, an internationally recognized HR leader based in the Silicon Valley, observes that relying heavily on candidate experience in the sourcing process may also be overrated.


Perfect credentials shouldn’t imply perfect talent

“Perhaps the best example of success without ‘direct experience’ is when firms select CEOs, most of whom have never held the title before,” Sullivan writes. “You need to look no further than Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates to find individuals who have been wildly successful without an ideal education or previous direct experience. Firms like Southwest Airlines, Ritz-Carlton, and Zappos have had tremendous success by using a non-credential based approach known as ‘hire for attitude and train for skill.’”

Placing workers in environments that mesh well with their values, support needs, work-life goals and ongoing development leads to success. And as we’ve explored in recent posts, the current crop of Millennials are teeming with enthusiasm for pursuing careers that provide growth opportunities. Even as these younger professionals relish independence and autonomy in their work, they actively seek out resources for continued skills education and training opportunities. This generation of talent wants access to mentoring, formal training and on-the-job learning. They seek satisfaction and personal fulfillment over money. Their flexibility and willingness to learn inspire positive attitudes that boost morale, while presenting a clean canvas on which to project the skills that hiring managers are hoping to develop in their workforces.

Sometimes, an abundance of experience comes with an inflexibility toward change or habits that might not be conducive to a new industry or business atmosphere. Tenured talent can, even unintentionally, convey an attitude of burnout or all-knowingness. It’s considerably easier to teach ideal behaviors to new talent than force experienced workers to unlearn theirs.

Too often in the industry, we see recruiters homing in on job titles and keywords, all of which can be misleading. Companies have moved away from commonly accepted titles for their positions, making it difficult for a resume to accurately represent the genuine skills of the talent. In some cases, lofty and ambiguous titles don’t tell a reliable story. In other cases, overly simplified titles can mask the worker’s true strengths. Sullivan offered the example of a tech firm that failed to hire an ideal candidate because of a job title:

“[Although] everyone from the CEO down loved her knowledge, capability, and passion, the recruiting staff vacillated. Why? Because even though she had sufficient recruiting experience and knowledge of the technology space, [the recruitment staff] froze, because she never actually had ‘the title’ of a technical recruiter.”

As a result, these recruiters never directly tested the candidate’s capabilities; they simply assumed that “not having the perfect matching title made her too high of a risk (ironic since startup leaders are supposed to be risk-takers).”


The value of hiring talent without lengthy pedigrees

Sullivan believes that in today’s job market, recruiters have failed to comprehensively address the advantages and demonstrable business boons that come from hiring talent who lack what are considered to be superior credentials.

A lack of direct experience can be an asset in disguise. A fresh outlook, without the fog of past experience, allows new workers to approach challenges and obstacles with fresh perspectives. Millennials are inherently innovative and willing to take risks at these early junctures in their career paths. They also understand that their lack of experience requires them to prove their mettle in other ways across the enterprise. They are more willing to question established practices, which could lead to the implementation of improved methodologies, strategies, approaches, ideas and innovations. They are also more likely to devote their energies to building relationships, teams and collaborative problem solving techniques.

They bring and embrace workplace diversity. It’s been proven time and again that a diverse workforce produces positive impacts on any organization. From a cultural standpoint, the demographics of the nation are shifting to encompass unprecedented levels of disparity. The varied background of Millennials, coupled with their affinity for diversity, is vital to the success of organizations today. Globalization contributes to rapid growth in industries, increased outsourcing and a need for multicultural savvy. Where the number of Boomers resulted from high birth rates, the presence of Millennials is fueled by immigration.

From a business stance, a diverse workforce -- in the sense of experiences and backgrounds -- yields greater levels of creativity, perspectives and approaches that influence product design, sales strategies, marketing campaigns, service offerings and direction. Additionally, new workers without a lot of credentials are more likely to shake things up. Stirring the pot in an environment that has been operating along the status quo for a long time prevents stagnation and fosters innovation.

It’s easier and cheaper to hire greener talent. Competition in the labor market, particularly in context of ongoing skills shortages, is fierce. Less familiar companies don’t have prominent consumer or employment brands to fall back on when recruiting highly credentialed talent. Even with an aggressive passive recruiting campaign, the time and effort to source top candidates can be extensive. And when in-demand workers are courted, they will be seeking top-dollar compensation structures, which may be out of a smaller firm’s grasp. Newer workers are looking to build their credentials. They will accept jobs for less pay at companies still developing their brands.

Even better, greener batches of talent generally remain at organizations longer than their more seasoned colleagues. Millennials especially thrive on opportunity, recognition and the chance to participate in the growth of the companies they serve. When treated well, and placed in best fit environments, their loyalty is unrivaled by older generations.

You may find your next superstar, not a fading star. A certain irony comes with higher tenured professionals. If you’re not knowingly hiring a superstar, then you’ve probably figured out that this worker, albeit well qualified, is not going to be that superstar. However, the skills and capabilities of new talent remain relatively unknown. That means unlimited possibility. As Sullivan notes, “When you hire someone with no direct experience, there is a reasonable chance that you may be actually acquiring a ‘diamond in the rough’ who may quickly become a superstar.” In the realm of professional sports, Sullivan points out, this is fairly common occurrence: lower tier draft picks have gone on to impress coaches, wow fans and bring home victories.

If employers don’t give workers a chance, they’ll really never know what they could be missing. This is another reason why the use of contingent labor continues to soar in popularity and permanence. By on-boarding unfamiliar workers, who are still adding to their professional portfolios, hiring managers can try out new talent -- to assess potential superstars and uncover those hidden gems at lower costs and risks. And because Millennials embrace the agile nature of assignment-based and freelance work, hiring managers have little to lose and everything to gain. Let Zenith Talent hire for fit, while you train for skills and reap the benefits; Request candidates from Zenith Talent by clicking the button below.

Sunil Bagai
Sunil Bagai
Sunil is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, thought leader and influencer who is transforming the way companies think about and acquire talent. Blending vision, technology and business skills honed in the most innovative corporate environments, he has launched a new model for recruitment called Crowdstaffing which is being tapped successfully top global brands. Sunil is passionate about building a company that provides value to the complete staffing ecosystem including clients, candidates and recruiters.
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