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Corporate Strategies

Today’s Talent of Tomorrow: How the Skills-First Revolution Can Revolutionize Your Business

General Assembly
May 9, 2024

Facing a labor market that has been incredibly tight for years, and a global talent pool where less than half of potential candidates hold a college degree, companies have expanded the search for talent beyond traditional applicants. That’s why some employers are overhauling recruitment strategies and eliminating college degree requirements in favor of skills-based hiring.  

Between 2017 and 2019, employers reduced degree requirements for 46% of middle-skill and 31% of high-skill positions. The pandemic accelerated this trend, especially in hard-to-hire industries like Software Engineering, UX Design and Data Analytics. Major technology companies like Alphabet (Google), Meta, Netflix, Airbnb, IBM and Apple have since dropped degree requirements for many technical roles. 

If you are ready to consider overhauling our approach to recruiting your tech talent, read on for the download on skills-based hiring. 

What is skills-based hiring, and why is it better?

Skills-based hiring refers to the practice of evaluating a candidate’s abilities and knowledge based on their specific skills and expertise, rather than their academic credentials, certifications or work experience. This approach is designed to provide a more accurate assessment of a candidate’s ability to succeed in their role. 

There are multiple benefits to skills-first recruitment, including:

  • A more diverse talent pool: Skills-based hiring opens roles up to candidates who would have previously been overlooked because they did not have a traditional four-year degree, empowering companies to actually achieve DEI goals thanks to a bigger and more diverse talent pool. 
  • Better ROI on talent investments: By taking a skills-first approach, employers can ensure employees have the technical skills needed to perform their jobs effectively and drive the company’s goals forward. They can also eliminate the bias that comes along with criteria like what school a candidate attended, or what companies they have previously worked at. 
  • Improved job satisfaction and retention: Matching candidates with the right job for their abilities leads to increased job satisfaction and better employee retention. When employees are a great fit for their jobs, they will be less likely to experience burnout and more likely to be more productive and effective. 

Skills-based hiring = a long-term talent pipeline

Companies need to think about building a long-term, future-proofed talent pipeline. Veteran tech workers with traditional college degrees and years of experience are in high-demand, so it’s time to start thinking about how you can create your own talent pool from high-potential candidates that you might not typically think of. 

ServiceNow, for example, partnered with General Assembly to build a talent pipeline that helped the company meet its DEI goals. It started with a 6-month apprenticeship program meant to serve as a pathway to full-time employment. General Assembly helped ServiceNow connect with career changers who don’t come from traditional tech backgrounds, but were attending bootcamps or courses to gain skills in areas like UX and product design. Many of them have gone on to succeed in full-time roles within the organization. 

“You’ll be pleasantly surprised and inspired by the fact that there is really, really great talent out there, just waiting for that chance to show how much they can contribute and how much they can make your product or the way you work even better by diversifying your workforce,” said Kurdin Bazaz, Staff Design Program Manager at ServiceNow on advice for companies embarking on their own skills-based hiring journey. “Take that one step and start small. You don’t have to start really, really big. Start small. Test your concept, modify it, pivot.”

How to adopt skills-based hiring practices

Overhauling your recruitment strategy might sound overwhelming, but as Bazaz pointed out, there are small steps you can take to integrate skills-based hiring into your approach that will lead to big wins down the line. Here are some suggestions: 

  • Remove college degree requirements from job postings: Your job postings should highlight the skills required for a role (such as knowledge of specific programming languages or technical tools) vs. preferred academic credentials or years of experience. 
  • Incorporate skills-based assessments into the interview process: Technology employers already often include coding or problem solving tests as part of the interview process. With a skills-first approach, this section becomes the most important part of the interview. 
  • Ramp up training and development: Not all skills need to be sourced externally. Many can be taught to your existing workforce. Employees are eager to develop new skills that will help them advance in their careers. Consider, for example, whether you can train your data analysts to be data scientists. 
  • Launch an apprenticeship program: Apprenticeship programs can help you tap high-potential but often overlooked talent who have the skills needed to do the job, but don’t necessarily see themselves in a tech role. Non-traditional candidates like coding bootcamp graduates often struggle to feel like they belong, even when they land a role in tech. Apprenticeship programs can solve this by equipping entry-level employees with mentorship and coaching through a formal program that ultimately builds a pipeline of skilled talent for high-demand roles. 
  • Consider partnering with talent builders: If you have specific talent gaps within your organization, such as in UX, software engineering, or data, partnering with a talent builder like General Assembly can help you solve them faster. Another option could be to invest in community reskilling programs in your region. 

At General Assembly, we’re graduating job-ready tech talent everyday and building sustainable talent pools for businesses across the globe. If you’re ready to explore how General Assembly can help you attract and retain diverse talent, get in touch.

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