With talent shortages affecting many areas of the talent market, employers now have to utilize new and innovative ways of finding and attracting talent. One unfashionable — but potentially effective — tactic for dealing with talent shortages is hiring underqualified staff and training them on-the-job, with the goal of making them into competent employees or even high-performing superstars. It’s not rock and roll, and it’s not original, but it just might be the way to resolve talent shortages in a given firm.
In fact, more and more employers are taking the brave step of investing in underqualified staff, this Career Builder study suggests. The study found that 61 percent of employers had hired underqualified staff with the aim of training them to become qualified, and 49 percent of employers plan to train workers who don’t have experience in the company’s industry or field, which is a 10 percent raise from the previous year.
Of course, hiring underqualified workers does come with some risks. There is the chance that the underqualified employee will fail to become a productive member of the workforce. That being said, the risk is not as high as many may think. A study from Leadership IQ found that only 11 percent of new hires fail because they lack technical, functional, or job-specific skills. The overwhelming majority of news hires that fail actually fail because they lack the right attitude, motivation, temperament, and personality to fit in at the company.
Given the fact that technical skills are not the primary cause of failure in new hires, a policy of hiring underqualified workers in the absence of suitably qualified candidates may be a sound policy indeed. Of course, employers still need to make excellent hiring choices to ensure that they choose underqualified candidates who have the best chance of becoming success. Below, I offer several tips to help employers harness the power of the underqualified candidate market.
1. Get an Apprentice
Apprenticeships are making a big comeback in both the U.K. and the US. What’s so good about this approach to hiring the underqualified is that employers can hire committed learners, and many governments offer financial and institutional support to help employers train their apprentices. This is perhaps the No. 1 way to harness the power of the underqualified talent market.
2. Focus on Attitude During Hiring
As mentioned above, most new hires fail because they are poor cultural fits. Therefore, employers should place a greater emphasis on psychological fit during the selection process.
Employers should start by profiling their own organizations and team cultures to understand the kind of temperaments, attitudes, and dispositions that do well in their businesses. Then, employers should look to hire hire underqualified staff who match these successful personality profiles.
3. Assess Candidate Potential
It is fairly easy to determine whether or not a candidate has the skills to do a given job. Harder to assess is a candidate’s potential to learn the skills needed. Ideally, employers should focus on hiring candidates with the greatest learning potential.
There are plenty of ways to assess a candidate’s learning potential. Employers can conduct aptitude tests, measure candidates’ “learning agility,” or look for behavioral examples in a candidate’s past that demonstrate how quickly and easily they were able to acquire new, ideally similar, skills.
4. Develop a Learning Environment
Actively create an environment that supports and encourages learning. Employers can implement mentoring and buddy programs, budget specific learning time for new hires into project plans, reward and incentivize learning by linking it to bonuses, or create a grade/badge system that rewards learners each time they learn a new skill or improve their competency.
Using these four techniques, employers can gain access to and harness the full power of the underqualified talent market, giving them an edge over their competitors in the war for talent.