Skills-First Is More Than A Hiring Strategy, It’s A Mindset
Adopting A Skills-First Hiring Mindset
By Michelle Sims, YUPRO Placement CEO
CEO of YUPRO Placement, a skills-first placement firm sourcing, recruiting, retaining and advancing traditionally overlooked talent.
Once considered a nice way to give people a leg-up, skills-first hiring has now permeated the national conscience. Nationwide movements like Tear the Paper Ceiling have captured media attention, bringing skills-first hiring practices and their benefits to the forefront. But with the global concern for workforce skills gaps, hiring for skills versus pedigree is now a business imperative.
According to McKinsey & Co., 87% of companies have skills gaps or expect to have skills gaps in the next few years. Korn Ferry estimates that by 2030 demand for skilled workers will outstrip supply, leading to a talent shortage that could cost the U.S. $1.7 trillion in revenue.
Demand for experienced talent with four-year degrees is fierce, meaning companies can no longer ignore talent skilled through alternative routes. More and more businesses are putting aside degree and experience requirements and recognizing skills, abilities and competencies.
But skills-first hiring doesn’t stop once someone is hired. Too often, talent is hired under a skills-first approach, but they don’t receive continued skills development once they’re in the door. If companies are truly ready to embrace skills-first hiring, they can’t just dip their toes in the water; they need to dive in head first.
Based on my experience as the CEO of a skills-first placement firm, I have three recommendations for organizations ready to take the leap.
Go beyond updating degree requirements.
Traditional and outdated degree requirements can significantly limit your talent pool. Four-year degree requirements can omit a large percentage of the population, including many qualified Black and Hispanic Americans.
According to a recent report by Intelligent.com, 53% of hiring managers say their company eliminated bachelor’s degree requirements for certain roles in the last year. This is progress, and it can’t stop here. This isn’t about jumping on the bandwagon and reluctantly agreeing to drop degree requirements to fill open positions quickly. This approach requires a mindset shift within an entire organization. It demands commitment, intentionality and the desire to support talent throughout their career journey.
Skills-powered companies recognize that talent skilled through alternative routes are motivated and ready-to-work individuals who deserve pathways to higher-wage jobs with the potential for upward career mobility. The 83% of organizations acting on DEI initiatives should adopt a skills-first talent acquisition strategy, and incorporate a skills-first mindset in enterprise-wide promotions and career advancement through continued skills-building learning pathways at all levels of the organization.
Prioritize skills development over the long term.
In order to address current and future skills gaps, employers must continually prepare their workforce of today for the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow. It’s important to offer entry-level employees options to gain new certifications, take classes or online courses and develop leadership skills.
Studies show 29% of Gen-Z and Millennials say learning and development opportunities were the top reason they chose to work for their current employer. Additionally, the top reason employees quit their job is that they don’t feel valued by their organization.
Employees want to know their employers see their value and potential. They want to grow, excel, advance their careers and be supported throughout that journey. Skills-first hiring can’t just be a recruiter checkbox or an HR directive. It should reverberate throughout the entire organization and be part of each employee’s long-term lifecycle within the company.
Skills-first hiring isn’t just a buzzword or a passing trend. It isn’t a short-term campaign with an end date. It’s a longstanding pledge to value candidates skilled through non-traditional pathways and a conscious choice to build in early-career talent upskilling from day one on the job.
This pledge isn’t merely symbolic; it delivers results. Studies prove diverse organizations are more innovative and McKinsey reports diverse organizations outperform their less-diverse counterparts. Businesses thrive not only when their hiring needs are met but also when the people they hire bring new ideas, perspectives and life experiences to the table.
Business, as usual, won’t get your organization where you want it to go. The silent barriers non-degreed talent faces must be exposed and torn down in order for untapped potential to flourish and businesses to thrive.