There's an urgent business case needed for finding new ways of hiring. The demand for workers is outpacing the supply. Finding qualified talent will be increasingly challenging as employers navigate a period of heightened economic uncertainty.
Employers have been too slow to move on the most sustainable way to hire and grow more effective, engaged workforces—hiring for skills instead of relying on pedigree.
The old indicators of a degree after high school, the right network to endorse you, and the correct past employers on your resume – are poor predictors of what matters: a candidate's ability to do the job.
Colleges and universities still claim they're an essential source of talent. For many recruiters, a college degree is just a box-checking, bureaucratic exercise. That attitude places a barrier between skilled workers seeking better jobs and employers needing new hires.
Further, while providing references and getting a gauge for "who you know" is standard practice, it puts perfectly competent candidates at a disadvantage. LinkedIn conducted research confirming that workers who go to top universities always have more influential networks, giving them an apparent advantage over people with good skills but lacking a network.
LinkedIn is reporting signs of a shift with job postings that don't have degree requirements up from 15% in January 2020 to 20% by June 2022.
HR teams are clearly beginning to look beyond who applicants know or what school they attended to find suitable candidates. 40% of recruiters on LinkedIn are now explicitly using skills data to find candidates. Employers are more open to new ways of finding and evaluating job candidates, and those that move swiftly in this direction will build more resilient teams.
Broader talent pool
When employers use degrees as a proxy for skills, they miss half of the workforce, as Opportunity@Work's research has shown. Millions of workers are skilled through alternative routes, such as a vocational or community college, military service, workforce training programs, skills bootcamps, and learning on the job – rather than through a bachelor's degree.
LinkedIn data suggests that certain industries – like professional services, finance, and tech – are some of the hardest sectors for workers without bachelor's degrees to break into. But bringing more candidates into the fold with diverse backgrounds increases the pool of eligible applicants – a competitive edge in today's tight labor market.
A degree is an achievement, but with careers stretching to half a century, a one-time intensive study period is not enough. The reality is that with the current pace of technological change, everyone needs to continuously expand their skills, especially as industries evolve so quickly. The same jobs today will require new skills five years from now. Organizations that understand this think more critically about setting up new hires from day one for continuous on-the-job learning.
Hiring those who have already developed some of these skills through other experiences can jump-start the training process and help companies future-proof their workforce.
Placing a higher value on pratical training like professional certifications, which are on the rise in popularity, and evaluating candidates via behavioral questions are other ways employers can gauge a candidate's ability to do the job.
When companies prioritize skills (not degrees or "who you know"), they will build a more agile workforce with experiences earned via many different routes, which can help to avoid "group-think" and lead to more dynamic teams. Companies that play by the rules of an old playbook from an old era will fall behind.
The labor market has long been one of the most opaque markets in the world, burdened by the inefficient and unequal ways we match talent and opportunity. Recognizing the diverse ways skills are acquired and adopting a skills-first approach to talent means greater transparency, efficiency, and equity in the labor market.
For prospective college students, the downside of signing up for a degree, like ballooning tuition costs, loads of debt, and declining value of degrees, continue to outweigh the pros. Colleges and universities everywhere are seeing fewer undergrad students.
Although less substantial, that decline is an extension of the pandemic trend of emptier dorms: in the two years beginning in 2020, more than 1 million fewer students chose to enroll in US colleges—a 6.5% plunge.
College enrollment has decreased by at least 1% every year since 2012, but the pandemic supercharged disillusionment with higher education. Colleges expected to see some of those students return with the loosening of restrictions, but it didn't happen.
When it comes to going to college, a significant number of Americans just don't feel the juice is worth the squeeze. 46% of parents hope their child pursues something other than a four-year degree after high school, according to a Gallup poll. Only 56% of adults under 30 who attended college believe the benefits outweighed the costs. Meanwhile, 80% of adults over 60 who attended college feel that way.