Research by the European Union (EU) has confirmed that labor shortages are still inhibiting economic development across the continent.
Yes, the bloc has shown remarkable resilience in the face of three key challenges – the Russia-Ukraine war, sky-high inflation and ongoing supply chain disruption – but businesses are still hankering for a solution to that perennial, yet increasing, barrier to growth: the skills gap.
There is an ongoing mismatch between the skills that most people seeking work possess and the skills and qualifications required for the types of jobs that are actually in demand.
High-growth industries such as healthcare, construction, science and technology have been the worst affected by this. The problem is not new, but the price of inaction has never been higher. T
he sustainable growth of the private sector – and also the wider economy – is at risk unless businesses can find more highly (and appropriately) skilled people.
This is why Brussels has designated 2023 as the European Year of Skills. Its aim is to promote training in future -ready skills to help people stay in their jobs or find new ones.
Training people in the specific areas that employers need and then matching them to vacancies might sound like a straightforward task, but it isn’t.
The main obstacle is that recruitment remains too focused on academic qualifications, particularly degrees.
This means that, no matter what skills people gain, they may struggle to pass even the CV screening process unless they have the stipulated qualifications.
It’s time to change this situation and move towards assessing candidates by skill potential rather than their academic achievements.
Hiring for skills is the solution
In an interview with LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky, Mercedes F1’s principal, Toto Wolff, recently spoke about his non -linear path to the top of motor racing.
He recalled an old conversation with the firm’s chief people officer (CPO). After assessing the skills that were needed at the team and how the company considered talent, the CPO told him that its recruits would need to come from the world’s top universities.
Wolff asked bluntly whether the organization would ever consider an applicant who “hasn’t been great academically but set up various tiny businesses”.
When the CPO told him that such a candidate wouldn’t even make it through the first stage, he replied: “So that’s me. I would have never qualified for a job here at Mercedes. What does that say?”
To end such deep-rooted prejudice, organizations need to rethink their recruitment processes and become skills -first employers.
Under this model, as defined by Deloitte, skills are the currency of work and the basis through which people are hired and then matched to future opportunities and promotions.
Accenture is one business that’s been leading the way in recruiting and promoting based on skills, rather than qualifications. UNLEASH recently interviewed Filip Gilbert, managing director at the consulting giant, to find out how it has made this happen.
Accenture has 750,000 employees, 100,000 of whom were hired during the COVID-19 crisis. Half of these did not meet the traditional academic criteria. Instead, they had the qualities that Accenture was looking for – notably, technical digital capabilities and the desire to learn.
Gilbert says it was essential to see this as a holistic skills assessment rather than a box -ticking exercise based on degrees and other qualifications.
Of course, a skills-focused approach will do more than just help employers to fix their labor shortages in the short and medium term. It will also help them to build more resilient, agile teams that can better weather future economic shocks.
Gilbert agrees. Any employer has a responsibility to ensure that its people are “happy, feeling that they can develop themselves and remain relevant and employable”, he says.
Doing this is good not only for the individuals concerned. It also bene fits the employer, the wider economy and society as a whole.
This piece was first featured in Raconteur’s Future of HR 2023 report, distributed in The Times and in association with UNLEASH.
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