Skills-based hiring

For decades now, obtaining a university degree has been considered by many to be essential to obtain a 'decent' job. But not anymore. Increasingly across the globe, companies large and small are looking to recruit on the basis of individuals' acquired skills, rather than on their academic records.

The move is opening up seemingly limitless opportunities for talented non-graduates in a world confronting skills shortages, particularly in tech. It also opens up global mobility  opportunities for individuals...and poses challenges for HR staff in assessing the skills of candidates they are interested in hiring.According to 'The State of Skills-Based Hiring 2023' report, produced by the Amsterdam-based, pre-employment test platform TestGorilla, 73 per cent of companies are now using skills-based assessments during hiring. Increasingly, multinational giants, such as IBM, Google and Tesla, have quietly dropped 'graduates only' clauses from their job ads. “There’s no question that most companies have loosened their standards - they don’t necessarily require a bachelor’s degree specifically in their job description,” Art Zeile, CEO of Dice - a US tech career marketplace platform - told Fortune last month. “And more and more over the course of time, because they realise they just can’t find the people.”   In the UK, a survey of almost 15,000 employers by multinational recruitment and HR company Hays found that 49 per cent of private sector companies no longer considered it important that job applicants had a degree. Almost three-quarters believed an employee’s willingness to learn was more important than their existing skillset.

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Simon Winfield, CEO of Hays UK and Ireland, commented: “It’s encouraging to see employers are becoming much more open minded when it comes to hiring staff in a skills short market. There are still professions where degrees are required or preferred, however there’s so many more routes into the world of work including apprenticeships and academies where professionals can earn and learn at the same time."Opening up routes to entry is so important for levelling the playing field for professionals, with plenty of employers indicating aptitude and willingness to learn is more important than existing skillsets."Employers who can support different options to access work, focusing on skills and experience rather than qualifications will be more likely to stand the test of time when it comes to having the talent they need.”The Hays findings have been reflected in the US where data from LinkedIn found  45 per cent of companies were now explicitly using skills-related metrics, rather than qualifications such as degrees, to find candidates - an increase of 12 per cent on last winter.Sue Duke, vice-president and head of global public policy at LinkedIn, told CNBC: “The difficulties we face as we struggle to fill roles, weather economic shifts, and create a diverse and resilient workforce will only grow unless we change our approach to finding and nurturing talent.“Our research showed a skills-first approach could increase the global talent pool by nearly ten-fold. And a larger talent pool means less competition with other companies over the same candidates."Daniel Pell, vice president and country manager for the UK and Ireland at HR software company Workday, added on CNBC's 'Make It' programme that skills-based organisations were “far more likely to outperform their traditional counterparts” when it came to innovation, efficiency and adaptability.Another major benefit for both workers and employers, he added, was that skills-based hiring could be vital in building a more diverse workforce.“It levels the playing field for workers who may have been overlooked,” Mr Duke said. "This includes people who have not attended or completed university, women and younger generations."To meet the shift towards skills-based recruitment,  a "transformative paradigm" was needed in traditional education methods, according to Prof Sanghamitra Buddhapriya, dean of FORE School of Management in New Delhi. This, she told the Indian daily newspaper Jagran, would involve a shift away from an emphasis on degrees in favour of a heightened focus on cultivating essential skillsets to bolster the global mobility of students. "Flexibility in gaining academic credits is critical for increasing students' worldwide mobility and employability," Prog Buddhapriya wrote. "The Academic Bank of Credit (ABC) system...allows students to accrue credits from a variety of sources, including internships, industrial partnerships, and other universities."Furthermore, colleges should promote international relationships with approved universities worldwide, providing an environment in which students can acquire a diverse and globally recognised education."She added that education institutions must identify and cultivate jobs market-relevant competencies. "Input from industry is critical in this process, as it assists institutions in defining programme and course objectives, pedagogy, and assessment methodologies. A business management programme, for example, should try to teach problem-solving and decision-making skills, whereas an international business programme should focus on developing a global mentality." The shift to skills-based recruitment, however, is not just a challenge for educationists, but for HR, too. The traditional hiring process, where employers create job specifications and then match them to candidates, "isn't doing organisations any favours," according to Simon Bradberry, EMEA vice-president at Allegis Global Solutions, a global workforce solutions provider."Organisations are talking about becoming skills based, but are unclear how to transition away from job specs and CVs to a tasks and skills-matching process," he told The Times.Like a growing number of other companies, Allegis has developed a new workforce acquisition model to help organisations to make strategic operational changes to hire and manage talent based on specific skills and tasks. "It introduces a combination of new management positions within the organisation and a technology platform to underpin the framework," said the firm.All of which might prove more effective these days than asking a job candidate whether or not he or she has a degree.

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