The COVID-19 crisis threw gasoline on many gradual but groundbreaking shifts in the employment market. Career paths are not as static as they were before, with workers driven (or forced) to move into alternative spheres. According to recent studies, over half of workers are looking to switch career paths in the near future.
The pandemic has made the existing trend towards reskilling more urgent, especially within small to medium sized businesses, and businesses in traditionally ‘non-tech’ industries. Entreprises of all types are searching for talent that can pivot quickly, be it to resilience strategies or to emerging technical skills that will keep them on top of the wave of digital transformation.
At the same time, layoffs and furloughs have created a burgeoning pool of new candidates looking to obtain skills in order to fit into the changing market demand, and to broaden personal horizons.
Startups and larger enterprises alike can capitalize on the reskilling wave to transform their businesses for the better, but to do so it is imperative that traditional notions of job roles are torn down. Formulaic job descriptions demanding specific qualifications should be replaced by a call for creative, collaborative, adaptable people who can steer you through uncharted waters. Even if those people come from totally unexpected career backgrounds.
Here are a few key advice on how your business can support career shifters in a mutually beneficial way:
Understand What Motivates Career Shifting and Reskilling
People coming into your startup from different career backgrounds can be incredibly rewarding, breaking the rigidity of your thought processes and connecting you to other industry areas. It is important for business leaders to be aware of why people make the decision to change career paths or develop new skill sets.
Career shifting happens for two major reasons: external reasons, such as technological unemployment or layoffs; and internal, including personal burnout or the desire for a more flexible schedule.
Career shifting has become a growing trend across industries. In general terms, essential skills are only optimal for around five years. And studies show that 9 out of 10 executives see current or future skill gaps in their workforce.
Today, unemployment is rising, but the technology industry has been less impacted than many. In fact, there has been a growing demand for technological solutions to get through the pandemic, from healthcare to food delivery tech.
In this context, many will be considering shifting careers to cover the growing demand for tech workers and other niches opened up by the pandemic.
On a more individual level, changing things up is considered fundamental to people’s professional and personal wellbeing. Sticking to the same career path indefinitely can actually stop you from stepping into higher thought leadership roles, pursuing a more fulfilling lifestyle, making more money and, importantly – making the most of all of your skills (or even your best ones).
Supporting people’s personal wellbeing should be all the more compelling to employers given current pressures. An unhappy hire will not fare well in today’s isolated and unbalanced environment, while a content, ambitious one will help you towards greener pastures rather than leave you for them.
So if we know reskilling is a future necessity, isn’t the path forward clear? Far from it, but the first step is to start talking more about skills and less about roles.
Distinguish Between ‘Roles’ and ‘Skills’ Needed for the New Normal
The “critical” qualities needed in an employee today are inherently different from a year ago. Before, the focus was on staff meeting strategic market and product goals. Now, it’s all about safeguarding essential processes, being resilient and adaptable.
As such, when you’re filling employment gaps, the actual job title has become less relevant than the skills you need to attract. How can you put out a job ad for “COVID-19 crisis strategist”? You can’t. Open job positions need to be presented as problems that need solving. And candidates need to be evaluated less by their professional stripes and more by their soft skills and personal qualities.
You may well find your ideal candidate comes from a completely different background to those you’ve traditionally sourced from. Imagine you need a business strategist to turn your company around and tap into new markets. What if the best person for the job is a psychology researcher, who knows how to gauge the personalities and wants of different consumer groups, rather than a former marketing director who may be limited by their conventional work background?
How to Attract the Right Talent for You
Now, how can you actually be certain a career shifter is right for you if you can’t rely on traditional indicators like previous job roles or education?
The best approach is to shake things up. Go beyond (or disregard) CVs.
Top job candidates should be able to offer you an alternative showcase – from portfolios to websites, vlogs and other digital platforms. Throughout the recruitment stage you should endeavor to discover how their skills have been put into action. In interviews, discuss how they’ve been able to overcome adverse situations, and what strategies they’ve used to deal with the past few months. Try and determine how quickly they adjust and pick up skills – abilities they’ll need to adopt a new job role.
Other skills you should be looking out for in today’s climate are the interpersonal skills that will help keep remote teams unified: that includes empathy but also, for example, experience in long-distance communication.
While it’s easy enough to lie or leave details out of a CV, such questions will get straight to the heart of whether or not they fit your company, regardless of where they went to school or how many years they’ve been in the industry. Our own vision is that eventually CVs will be scrapped altogether for skills-based evaluations.
Show You’re a Cut Above the Rest
As an employer, you have the responsibility of selling your business to the right candidates – they won’t just flood in because times are tough. Today’s employees are more adamant about workplaces supporting their wellbeing, career development, on-the-job education, and flexibility.. And with companies on low budgets, they have to advertise more than their paychecks.
Nurture employee development by offering educational options to staff, from group tutoring to inviting experts to give workshops and tutorials. Integrate mentor schemes where employees shadow staff or even executives in other job areas which may be a better fit. If you’re hiring a reskiller, chances are they’ll want to upskill or reskill in future.
Your actual job advertisements have to reflect all of the above. Stop alienating candidates with predetermined criteria you may as well have copy and pasted from a generic HR manual. That means checklists of degrees, years of experience, hard skills and tools
Consider fashioning a job ad that actively calls out for career shifters. Advertise how your business can support their potential to grow into thought leadership positions. Use your team page and social media to highlight the presence of any career shifters on your existing staff, showing your company is already forward thinking in this respect.
Companies of all sizes are starting to embrace the reality of the new job market – this reskilling revolution is not going to fizzle out after the pandemic. If you’re able to make it a fixture of your long-term strategy, you’ll be tapping into a much broader skill set that will enrich your company now and in future.