There was a lot of talk at the annual conference about skills-based hiring and skills training, notably from guest speaker former president Bill Clinton and from the SHRM leadership, including Taylor.
“We shouldn’t require a college degree if the job doesn’t require it. There are a lot of benefits to going to college that go way beyond economics, but we shouldn’t make our economy less efficient by lowering workforce participation when we have 10 million open jobs,” President Clinton challenged the in-person audience of 21,000.
That’s a message we have been hearing a lot lately in workforce development, so I took the opportunity to ask Taylor a question that I have been thinking about: If you don’t use a college degree as a proxy for what a job seeker knows, how does an HR professional screen for skills and talent?
“It’s really hard and it’s time consuming. It’s not efficient. Part of the degree requirement was it was efficient. I could weed out people who didn’t have it. A proxy for smart was what the degree was. Well, now that means HR’s got to go back to the fundamentals, and that is interview people,” Taylor tells me.
He says that those HR managers need to ask questions that show just how curious and smart an applicant is.
“We need smart people. Smart doesn’t mean you went to Harvard and have a college degree. Can you figure things out? During the interview process, HR people are trying to figure out how does your mind work. I’ll ask you questions. How can you solve problems? And are you curious? That’s real big,” Taylor says.
He adds that being a team player and having the willingness to work hard are equally important.
“There’s nothing that you can communicate better during an interview to a hiring manager more than the fact that you’re willing to work and you’re going to work hard at it and work smart. If applicants will get that across – hiring managers, if you’re looking for those things – we can almost train anyone to do anything.”
And that brings us to the next big question: How do employers attract and retain talent?
“One of the issues that’s top of mind right now is training and development. Given that 50%, even as much as 70%, of the jobs that exist today won’t exist five years from now – or will be so meaningfully reconstituted that they won’t exist – if we are not investing in our employees’ professional development…then employees will leave because they’re going to go where they can get the talent to remain competitive for decades,” says Taylor.
He the companies that are succeeding in attracting and holding onto the talent they need see upskilling and reskilling as essential, and they are offering education benefits to their workers as part of their benefits package.
“The first thing that companies are saying is, ‘This training is for both of us. It’s not just for you and it’s not just for us; it’s for both of us. We have to give you skills that will make you competitive in a rapidly-changing economic environment, and you need them just in case things don’t work out here and you need to go somewhere else. Even if you leave me, it’s yours.'”
Taylors says this is important because America has a worker replenishment problem and it’s everyone’s problem.
“I often say this, America is browning and graying at once. We just don’t have enough children out there ready to be the future workforce so we’ve got to get people to remain in the workforce longer and we’ve got to ensure that they have the skills to remain in the workplace longer. It doesn’t matter that you want to be in the workforce, and that you need to be in the workforce, if you don’t have the skills that we need. And that’s the problem.
“We’ve got 165 million jobs. The struggle is a lot of those people are leaving the workforce. The labor participation rate is down, inching up a little bit, but it’s still down. And it’s down because people want to work, but they know they’re not qualified to do the work. And that’s a struggle.
“More and more companies are saying it’s not just government’s job, it’s just not even higher ed’s job, it’s our job to bring people in, even if they don’t have the skills that we need, and we’ve got to give them to them. And we’ve got to constantly update them so that they are ready to be our workforce for the future.”
You can listen to the full interview here, or listen wherever you get your podcasts.
Episode 277: Johnny C. Taylor, president & CEO, SHRM
Host & Executive Producer: Ramona Schindelheim, Editor-in-Chief, WorkingNation
Producer: Larry Buhl
Executive Producers: Joan Lynch and Melissa Panzer
Theme Music: Composed by Lee Rosevere and licensed under CC by 4
Download the transcript for this podcast here.
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