CEO of YUPRO Placement, a skills-first placement firm sourcing, recruiting, retaining and advancing traditionally overlooked talent.
The next time you jump on a company video call, pay attention to the squares on your screen. What do the people look like? Where do they come from? What are their gender identities and races?
In most cases, you’ll find the people in those squares look, feel and operate much the same as you do. The unfortunate reality is our networks are typically homogeneous. And it takes effort and intentionality to change that.
It’s the same story for recruitment and talent acquisition teams. The network you’ve built over the course of your life is the network you leverage to find talent. If your network has always supplied you with qualified candidates, you keep going back.
But that strategy isn’t working for many organizations anymore. The ways we’ve always sourced, vetted and developed talent aren’t delivering the same results—or we’re realizing the results are not what we need in our current economic and social environment.
To expand your network into new and overlooked talent pools, you must first break it down. Break down every silo that exists. Break down every assumption and belief you have about talent. Break it all down so you can build it back up into something better.
Talent isn’t untapped, it’s overlooked.
People often talk about talent being untapped. As if people are trees that just haven’t been tapped for the liquid gold inside. That’s hardly the case. They are putting themselves out there and applying for jobs, but they’re being overlooked. Talent dripping with skills and abilities from experience, training programs and certifications are being passed over.
It comes back to that homogeneous network. Talent often lack the social capital and network other privileged groups take for granted. Think back to your Zoom squares—and even more broadly to your family, friends and acquaintances.
When organizations consistently look for talent with the same degrees, same experience levels and from the same places, they get sameness. And that leads us to where we are now— companies struggling to fill open positions or retain talent. The only way you’ll break out of that cycle is to challenge the status quo and seek out new and different avenues for sourcing talent.
It probably won’t happen naturally. Your current network might not get you there. You should apply new strategies, work with different partners and make organizational changes.
Adopt a skills-first mindset.
Companies trying to diversify and expand talent networks often arrive at the skills-first doorstep. Skills-based hiring strategies recognize that degree and pedigree requirements omit 66% of Americans who do not hold a four-year degree, and by removing them, for certain entry and mid-level positions, companies can access an incredibly skilled and ready-to-work workforce.
This workforce pool is often overlooked because they live in rural or marginalized communities, struggle to develop social capital, have gaps in their resumes or lack access to resources and support.
By redefining their approach to talent acquisition with a skills-first mindset, organizations can slowly shift their homogeneous talent pool into one that’s more inclusive. Once you’ve made the commitment, the hard work begins.
Break it down and build it back up.
The process of breaking down your hiring network requires honesty and transparency. It must also be judgment-free. The processes you have and the networks you’ve built may have been established long ago in a different era. Acknowledge it, work through the following questions, and move forward into a new era.
Where are you sourcing talent from?
Think back over the last 6 to 12 months and list the top five places your company recruited talent from. Consider job boards you used, partners you collaborated with, and where referrals came from.
Are those the same places you’ve sourced from over the last 5-15 years? Has the organization ever sought out new recruitment avenues? If so, what happened?
The only way to move forward is to have a clear picture of where you’ve been and what you’ve done.
How have recruitment sources impacted your workforce?
Next, analyze the makeup of your workforce. Do you lack some racial, gender, geographic and/or experiential diversity?
The impact of a homogeneous network stretches far beyond the physical makeup of your workforce. It can result in teams that are burnt out and over capacity. Has productivity decreased or has creativity stalled across the company? Think about your pipeline for management and leadership. Is that diverse? Does it exist at all?
To be fair, recruitment and talent acquisition teams are not to blame for every organizational challenge. Company leadership has equal—if not more—responsibility for addressing workforce opportunities.
What’s needed to advance change?
There should be a champion within a company’s leadership ranks who advocates for building an inclusive talent network. That champion should recruit other advocates who communicate the business case for expanding into overlooked talent pools.
Identify entry and mid-level roles within your organizations where degree and experience requirements can be removed and instead emphasize necessary skills. Ensure job descriptions and postings for those roles are unbiased and inclusive.
Evaluate your internal processes for promotions and advancements to ensure they are fair and don’t give unnecessary weight to pedigree and tenure. Then, identify partners like placement firms, nonprofit talent developers, and workforce development organizations that can connect you with talent skilled through alternative pathways, such as bootcamps, internships, apprenticeships, the military and certification programs.
From homogeneous to heterogeneous.
As your hiring network diversifies, you may find it’s easier to fill entry-level positions and see productivity rise, retention increase and new ideas permeate the company.
It doesn’t mean you completely abandon the network you had before; instead, you intentionally leverage it when it makes sense. The point is, you’ll recognize when different resources are needed and why.
Over time, those Zoom squares we talked about will change. That sameness you felt before will dissipate. It’s not easy and it will take time. But the cost of maintaining the status quo is high. Are you ready to break it down so you can build back stronger?
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