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Drop the skills and chill?

August 1, 2018

By Shannon Reed, courtesy of SBAM Approved Partner ASE

The Wall Street Journal got people talking last week about a recruiting trend:  downskilling. Coined by Alicia Modestino of Northeastern University, the concepts of downskilling are simple in theory:  lessen the former favored “four-year college degree” and requisite experience to broaden your overall talent pool. 

Due in large part to the recession era recruiting options of 2006-2008, companies inflated job requirements with a host of “picky” skills and experience because they had more candidates than jobs. Fast forward to present day and the reverse is true, creating a fierce competition between employers who are all vying for their piece of the talent pie.

 Downskilling is part of a series of options open to employers who are struggling to meet hiring targets for entry to mid -level positions. Companies like Hasbro and Bank of America are piloting these concepts.  Other options include raising compensation structures to attract the talent as written or drop other time intensive requirements like drug screening and background checks (not recommended).   Regardless, downskilling provides a new reality for entry to mid-level applicants who, prior to these changes, simply didn’t apply because they lacked an educational requirement or did not fit the advanced profile. 

Tech companies have long proclaimed the merit of eschewing degree requirements, citing the speed at which technology runs outpaces the degreed programs available.  They were also quick adopters of eliminating background checks and drug screening requirements.  It’s evident in this field that these organizations would rather hire a candidate and adopt a “fail fast” mentality, than front load the selection process with requirements that bog it down.

Time will certainly tell if the downskilling of job requirements will achieve the desired effect.  In theory, it could impact the organization in expensive ways.  Degreed professionals who invested heavily in their education may become disillusioned with the influx of non-degreed professionals entering their space.  Training departments may find that they are tasked with challenges in the volume and content of training needed to support potential skill gaps.  Even HR policy could be impacted if the value of education slips.  Tuition reimbursement plans, long valued by staff and touted as a benefit by employers of choice, may fade into the background if college-level education becomes irrelevant. 

Regardless of how wide-spread it becomes, it is an interesting attempt at responding to what is one of the tightest employment markets we have seen in a very long time.  In the end, the ideal candidate is the one that can successfully do the work and do it well.  Companies need to rely on the experience and counsel of solid Talent Acquisition professionals to attract and qualify the best talent.

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