Overcoming the Challenges to Skills-Based Hiring

Recent studies are interesting in that they show most employers, including government entities, are moving toward skills-based hiring. This makes sense: degrees don’t mean the same things they used to, and potential employee skills are not clearly defined by them. In the fast-paced, ever-changing workspaces of today’s job market, skills matter more than ever.

However, those same reports, including one conducted by the Burning Glass Institute, show that many HR personnel still rely on resumes and degrees for making hiring decisions. This could be for many reasons, chief of which is that they have no alternative. The systems they need to base for hiring on skills instead are simply not available to them.

While educators have increasingly adopted skills-based certifications and employees have access to more robust Personal Evidence Records, for those efforts to be effective, employers need to look for them and know how to evaluate and understand skills-based resumes and personal evidence records.

The good news is that we can do something about that. When it comes to hiring for skills, employers do have choices. “How does that work?” Here is a quick guide to what we know, and what still needs some work.

What Are the Challenges Employers Face?

First, employers have a legacy of hiring based on degree requirements along with those for experience. For example, a look at job listings on LinkedIn reveals:

  • The job requirements for an AI Content Writer, Technical Writer, and Earth Science Educator all require at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university
  • All require from 4 – 8 years’ experience in the industry, except for the AI content writer, which requires “proven experience in content writing” without a specific time requirement
  • In fact, of the first eight job listings on the careers section of the site, six require a bachelor’s degree and the same number have experience requirements
  • Only one mentions “skills” ahead of education and experience

While far from a scientific study, this quick survey of careers shows the current lack of skills understanding and skills-based hiring capability. The intersection of industry, education, and learners / potential employees is ill-defined at the moment. How do educators and learners communicate acquired skills to potential employers?

That’s why it is no surprise that skills-based hiring has not worked as well as many would have liked or even expected to date. The report from Burning Glass Institute mentioned above shows that: “Simply dropping stated requirements seldom opens jobs to those who don’t have a college degree.” And that, “For all its fanfare, the increased opportunity promised by skills-based hiring was borne out in not even 1 in 700 hires last year.” Positions that were newly classified as not needing a degree saw a low 3.5% increase in hiring for those without one. Together, “the net effect is a change of only 0.14 percentage points in incremental hiring of candidates without degrees.”

This illustrates a vital part of the path towards skills-based hiring: industries must work with educators to co-design methods for understanding skills, how to verify them, and how to apply that knowledge within the hiring process.

But even before that happens, there are some things employers can do. Here are a few of them.

Upskill and Reskill Your Current Workforce

Your workforce is likely made up of workers who possess skills you may be unaware of. Hiring from within and upskilling and reskilling your current workforce will cut the time and expense it takes to bring a new employee up to speed, due in part to cultural and industry understanding.

There are things you can do to determine more about your workforce.

  • Test your workforce for soft and hard skills: from Gallup Strength Finders to Enneagram testing to other skills tests, you can determine what skills you already have within and those you need to hire for elsewhere 
  • Look beyond degrees to certifications and experience illustrated by verifiable and secure Personal Evidence Records. In other words, look at learned skills and what employees have shown they can do, not which degree they have earned
  • Use rich skill descriptors (RSDs) to standardise and clearly define the skills you are looking for and establish position criteria
  • Integrate with EdTech to improve skills visibility from degrees or certifications when you do rely on them for hiring

Evaluating your current workforce and adopting better skills definitions to promote and move your staff from within is a good way to establish processes that can then be adapted to external hiring. Adopting skills-based hiring requires some changes to human resources.

And those changes are essential. The global tech talent shortage is expected to impact $450B worth of unrealized output by 2030. One of the first things any organisation can do is to initiate HR training.

Reading Skills-Based Resumes

What is the difference in a skills-based resume? In this type of resume, the resume summary and skills come first and are the primary focus. This replaces the typical chronological resume, which lists education and experience, often in the order in which the learner received them.

The issue with the chronological resume is that it may not accurately reflect the skills the learner has acquired since or even during their schooling. The further the learner is from completing education or training, the less relevant degrees, diplomas, and certifications are, and the more important skills are.

However, reading skills-based resumes also includes verification. With a chronological resume, transcripts can be ordered, and former employees can be contacted. When it comes to skills verification, there are tools available:

  • Integrate digital badges into the hiring process
  • Use rich skill descriptors (RSDs) to evaluate skills resumes
  • Learn to read and understand framework data

As learners and potential employees move to more skills-based learner records, HR departments must adapt to read and utilise them. The openRSD open access library and others like it can help hiring managers understand RSDs and are used to define for educators who are preparing the employees of tomorrow, and for those employees to understand the positions they are applying for. 

Work With Educators to Improve Skills Based Records

Educators, like HR Departments, understand that skills-based programs are the way of the future. But a new study by the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning showed that while “86 percent, believe programs that build specific career skills are important, only 22 percent said their institutions have competency-based frameworks in place throughout their programs that define and facilitate these skills.” 

The research found that 85 percent of schools communicate regularly with employers about the skills they are looking for in new employees. Two-year colleges are doing better in skills preparation than four-year institutions. According to the study, 73 percent of two-year institutions said they had skills-based initiatives in place for some or all of their programs, but only 61 percent of four-year colleges and universities said the same.

It is critical that universities and educational institutions partner with employers in an even more active role to co-design both courses and certifications to meet their hiring needs. As employers drop degree requirements for hiring, they need replacement metrics, and educators can help them develop those as well.

In a world where polls like one taken in November by Go1 show that nearly half of the workers surveyed said their college degree did not prepare them for their current jobs, the need for cooperation, transparency, and training is even more vital than ever.

But even once universities, learners, and employers are on the same page, how do HR departments transition from a degree-and-resume mindset to a skills-based one? Certainly one piece of that is enabling better access to personal evidence records.

Accessing and Understanding Personal Evidence Records for Hiring Purposes

Let’s say a job listing defines the skills the company is looking for rather than degree or resume requirements. A prospective candidate applies for the position and, rather than a traditional resume, offers a link to a digital wallet or Personal Evidence Record that contains digital badges or credentials. What is the next step for employers?

Fortunately, Edalex has put together some resources about what to do with digital evidence records. Because first we must understand what digital credentials are and how to use them. But one of the first questions employers must ask is, “How was this credential issued, and how do I verify the information contained in it?”

Validation with today’s technology is less difficult than it ever has been. Collaborations between non-profit organisations and commercial EdTech developers are actively working on solutions designed to make learners more visible in today’s crowded talent marketplace. Companies like Walmart are continuing their investment in these programs because they understand that skills are not only the way to better hires that last in a given position longer, but are also the key to equitable hiring practices and the improvement of DEI initiatives. 

This is the path to a learner saying, “I have a skill” and an employer being able to quickly and securely validate that statement. We have the technology to make this possible, and to alter the landscape of education and hiring. 

Gen Z may be the generation that fuels this change, as a Jobs For the Future survey reveals their feelings about education to career pathways and how those are changing. 

Talent marketplaces like Learning Vault offer options for both learners and employers to connect using digital credentials and badges. More of these marketplaces are being developed constantly. 

The key is not that they be developed, but that they be adopted and used by employers, which will, in turn, inspire job candidates to use them as well.

The Untapped Skills Market

Many brilliant, un-degreed job candidates are underemployed and yearn for better career options. Studies show that three-quarters of Americans consider their jobs a vital part of their identity. Those same individuals can help companies solve issues like turnover and underperformance. 

But for this to work, those individuals must have a way to showcase their skills to employers, and employers must acknowledge the value of both hard and durable skills learned in non-traditional environments. 

There’s an untapped market out there, and one that can help to solve the skills gap challenges companies face. There are skilled workers just waiting for the right opportunity, and skills-based hiring can help both groups immensely.

In today’s competitive market, employers need all the tools they can to hire the most skilled workers available. These tools are available and ready to implement. The future of education, learning, and hiring is here. All you have to do is become a part of it.

Are you an employer who wonders how all this will work for you? Or an educator who wants to find a way to work more closely with learners and industry to shape the future? Contact us today and Edalex and we can show you how digital credentials can impact your tomorrows, today.

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