Finding resilient and durable skills where you least expect
As the COVID-19 vaccine rollout continues in the US and the job market heats up, I’m hearing more employers express concerns about the possible inability to recruit the talent they need to run their business. Many companies come up short when they try traditional recruiting avenues like college job fairs, but at the same time they miss out on great talent by overlooking employees who come from non-traditional backgrounds.
This problem reminds me of a recent experience I had while volunteering at a mass COVID vaccination site over the last few months in Denver. Each day, my fellow volunteers and I move thousands of excited (and at times anxious) individuals through the site, which requires military-like precision and organization. The operational excellence of my site, and others just like it, has enabled the US to administer over 220 million doses in the last four months.
A few weeks ago, I was curious to know who or what was behind such a well-oiled operation, and eventually learned that my site was run by an organization that put on large music festivals before the pandemic. I was bemused by this fact at first, but as I reflected on the required skills necessary to pull off an undertaking at this scale, I couldn’t think of many professions that would be better suited. The sophisticated deployment, communication, customer experience, logistics, and protection of human health and safety required to run a music festival were exactly the same things needed in this scenario.
This is reminiscent of the challenging work ahead that faces many organizations that are beginning to adopt skills-based hiring models. As companies adopt these models, it’s critical that they prioritize enablement, and nurture a culture where identifying and assessing skills is valued over simply having a credential. Recruiting teams and hiring managers should strengthen their abilities to identify durable skills that are also transferable, even when they come from non-traditional companies and roles.
But the work doesn’t stop once the talent is hired and in-house. While it is tempting for organizations to invest only in a one-time development of perishable skills, like teaching employees how to use the newest project management software, it is crucial that they evaluate how they are supporting the ongoing development of durable skills, in addition to perishable skills, at all levels within the organization. Continued investment in the development of durable skills will be vital to ensure that talent remains fungible enough to thrive through the various business evolutions, product changes, and global pandemics a company might endure. This investment will not only benefit the employer but the employee as well. Cultivating durable skills in employees will open up additional professional opportunities for them and increase the likelihood that over time, they will become candidates in an employer’s leadership pipeline.
As the war for talent revs up, companies will do well by ensuring their recruiting teams are equipped to look for skills in locations they may have not considered before (from their very own frontline to, perhaps, even a music festival organization). And once these previously overlooked workers become in-house talent, Learning and Development teams will have a rich source of employees they can skill and nurture. Ideally, this workforce can then grow into the future leaders who workers want to be and who the companies ultimately need.