December 15, 2011

Is Workforce Development the Key to Reducing Unemployment?

Workforce Running Ahead

If you understand basic addition and subtraction our unemployment rate should be less than 6%.  There are over 13 Million Americans “looking for work” and over 3.4 Million jobs open.  If those open positions could be filled by the people looking, we’d be down to under 10 Million unemployed workers or an unemployment rate of just under 6%.  This doesn’t account for the productivity that would be created because jobs are filled.  This also doesn’t account for the job creation “ripple effect” that would happen with more workers having disposable income.

If you add in the ripple effect of a booming workforce, now you’re looking at unemployment rates around 5%, which is really the lowest we can get to without massive disruption in the productivity of our society as well as inflation.  At 5% unemployment, wages start to go up, demand for homes, goods, and services increase, and America returns to its position as an economic powerhouse in the global economy.

It sounds really simple so why isn’t it happening?  Why isn’t our government pushing employers to develop their younger workers to move into the more advanced roles, thereby opening up jobs for new college grads?  Why are we relying on the importation of skilled foreign nationals to handle the technical hiring shortages?  Obviously employers need to remain competitive but there seems to be a skills gap which is keeping Americans from getting back to work, and keeping our economy creeping along at a snail’s place.

According to an  Accenture Report done recently, 55% of workers surveyed indicated they are under pressure to increase their skill sets in order to remain employed in their current job.  Only 21% reported receiving any additional training from their employers.  Furthermore, over 600,000 open jobs  are reportedly  open due to lack of qualified candidates. In fact, 40% of Inc. 500 companies (America’s fastest growing companies) report they do not have enough qualified candidates to fill their open positions now and believe the problem to be getting worse.

As recruiting professionals, you can’t really dictate that your organization or your clients participate in workforce developmentbut you can do your part to identify the intangible skill sets that can be developed into the talent needed by employers today.  You can advocate for moving from skills based matching to profile and traits based matching.  You can also advocate for internal candidates to be groomed for the future skills your company is going to need.

How do you do this?

You need to get out of the matching business.  Recruiting isn’t a “weird science meets” exercise.  What I mean is that you can’t search for 10 skills and/or key words see that they appear on a resume and think, “this is the employee of my dreams.”  You also can’t sit back and tell a hiring manager that their key roles aren’t being filled because you can’t find that “purple unicorn” who has exactly 10 years of developer experience with your specific developer platform.

Recruiters more than anybody need to understand the “personality and color” of their own and client organizations and what specifically makes people successful inside the company.  It certainly isn’t their experience gained in their last job.  It’s more likely the experience they have gained since joining the company.  What traits did those highly qualified employees have?  Start looking for aptitude and attitude.

When hiring candidates a criteria that is often overlooked and underestimated is the lateral capabilities that a candidate brings to the workplace.  I’ve heard recruiters dismiss a candidate for applying for two different types of jobs.  That is ridiculous.  Employees and job seekers are curious human beings.  Having interest in two roles is not a bad thing if the roles require similar fundamentals. Mufti-functional competencies are actually often key indicators of long term employee success.

You probably can’t single-handedly change your organization into one that develops its talent from within and takes a holistic approach to recruiting external talent, but there are some small steps that can be taken as a recruiter to end this kind of exact-match, skills-based thinking which is leaving over 3 million people without jobs.   Workforce development requires a commitment from employers and recruiters to change the way they think and how their hiring managers hire. People aren’t pencils or widgets to be procured based on weight and volume. People are most valuable for their potential and their work ethic – and to judge these qualities takes thinking beyond the typical selection process.

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Marie is a writer for covering career advice, recruitment topics, and HR issues. She has an educational background in languages and literature as well as corporate experience in Human Resources.