Technology is great in so many ways, but it’s arguable that hiring hasn’t been one of the areas positively impacted by it. According to Manpower, 69 percent of employers are struggling to fill positions currently.
There are plenty of great tools recruiters can use — that’s not the issue. Part of the problem is supply and demand. There might not be enough candidates who fit a specific role’s criteria.
I once spoke to transportation experts in Columbus after they won a $40 million Smart City grant. They said the more lanes of highway you build, the more traffic you create. It’s proven behavioral science.
Creating more access to highways decreases the viability of alternative routes. We wind up building cities around that highway, making it so you can’t reasonably take a scooter to something 20 miles away. And that’s what tech has been doing to some of our most important processes.
The Tech Isn’t Failing; Our Process Is
This proves true in HR as well. ZipRecruiter offers great technology, and there are plenty of great tools at applicants’ disposal. But when candidates can “easy apply” to 1,000 jobs in an hour on LinkedIn while wearing sweatpants, something inevitable happens: We get traffic jams. Thousands of applications for one job can’t be viewed without some type of AI to sort and prioritize them. Inevitably, we’re matching people with jobs based on whether they hit the right 15 keywords.
There’s nothing wrong with the tech, but it can only do what we ask it to do. There’s a common term in AI that encapsulates the problem: “Bias in, bias out.”
How do we fix it? There are two trains of thought. We can lean in harder to tech and tell candidates to build their careers to fit specific keywords. The other option is to broaden what we’re looking for and how we look for it.
“We have to create candidates not attract candidates. In other words, you have to hire people with the potential to grow and train them, create apprenticeships and internships to get young people, or move and reskill people inside your company to grow,” HR expert and author Josh Bersin said in a recent post. “These are new focus areas in HR, and some of the most powerful disciplines to grow your company. It can be 6 times less expensive to ‘re-skill’ than hire externally.”
The Case for Intentionally Growing from Within
The video game industry isn’t a beacon for best practices in HR. Riot Games had 150 employees walk out last year. The Verge did a piece on how toxic management sank once-promising Telltale. In contrast, “Borderlands” maker Gearbox has been able to sell 7 million copies without burning out employees.
CEO Randy Pitchford’s process is simple: Don’t obsess over the graphics; people care more about the story. He wants to make sure employees know they can grow within the company. In an industry with high turnover and 18-hour workdays, Gearbox is attracting talent by caring about the long-term well-being of its team.
Top talent wants to land somewhere it will grow and thrive. They want access to opportunities; talented employees value environments that aren’t discriminatory, which Pitchford alluded to in The Wall Street Journal.
A strategy built on growing from within has the added benefit of attracting top external talent when you’re looking to grow. Consciously or not, candidates seek a culture they can trust.
How to Grow from Within
We’ve enabled people to think that the best way to advance in their career is to move out of, rather than up, an org chart. That’s flawed from a cost perspective.
There’s absolutely a cost to providing further education for employees. But if that cost is significantly lower than the cost of constant turnover, it creates a market for solutions.
We’re already seeing entrants to that space. Salt Lake City-based Carrus is looking to fill that re-skilling gap. “We’re providing training that leads not only to getting a job, but more importantly, to advancing careers in healthcare,” said CEO Misty Frost. “The current shortage in finding great people is creating more interest from employers to find ways of upskilling current employees to fill more advanced and specialty positions that were previously going to outside hires.”
A four-year degree isn’t the only way a candidate can boost her financial standing. Coding is a modern version of a trade job that a person could start within six months. We’re also seeing a rise in six-week certifications for people already in a given industry; these add a niche skill to their tool belt.
We don’t need to disrupt the entire model, but there’s more than one path. Our objective isn’t to find the person who checks off the most boxes; it’s to find the people who deliver the most value to the company. That can get lost in the day-to-day execution of small businesses’ HR functions.
If we truly want to find the best people, we have to be open — to multiple paths, to re-skilling, to disrupting our current model. They’re there; they’re just hiding behind an algorithm.