Industry urged to forget graduates and hire for skills

data 31The marketing and advertising industry must ditch its obsession with hiring graduates in favour of adopting a skills-based approach, as candidates who possess the right skills will not only excel in their roles, they will stay far longer, too.

That is one of the key recommendations to emerge from the Major Players’ Future of Work Report 2024, which draws on the insights and experiences of over 100 business leaders from across the UK, including Domestic & General, Sky, Nestlé, Financial Times, Omnicom agency Haygarth and Proud Robinson.

The company, which specialises in creative, digital and technology sector recruitment, points out that while the hiring market is starting to normalise to pre-pandemic conditions, businesses are being acutely challenged financially, with inflation, the cost-of-living crisis and increased labour costs all affecting the bottom line.

This is having a direct impact on cashflow and budgets, and the ability to attract, engage and retain top tier talent.

In fact, a third of organisations are still citing skills shortages as one of their major barriers to growth in 2024; an issue which is exacerbated by the rise of artificial intelligence and the desired skills employees must now possess.

These financial restrictions have significantly influenced remuneration packages, with most businesses acknowledging that current financial constraints are affecting the salaries they can offer.

Worryingly, almost half of businesses (49%), believe that this will affect their ability to attract and retain talent in the year ahead. Moreover, even more (53%) permanent employees believe that they are not being paid their worth based on their skillsets and experience.

The report argues that if businesses want to secure and retain highly qualified talent, they must adjust their salary bandings accordingly. If they cannot, they may need to look at alternative financial incentives – whether that is performance based rewards or a bonus structure.

When it comes to staff retention, business leaders understand its importance, yet only 10% fill their roles internally. Meanwhile, only half (51%) of businesses have a designated diversity, equity and inclusion budget, down from 72% in 2021.

The report maintains that one of the key ways to tackle the staffing crisis is to adopt skills-based hiring, which focuses on evaluating candidates based on their abilities and skillsets, rather than on their education, past career experience, or how good they look on paper.

This transition from traditional hiring methods is becoming more ingrained in other sectors, and evidence suggests that, those who have adopted it, enjoy a more efficient hiring process that is faster, fairer and reduces the number of mis-hires.

In fact, by prioritising the skills necessary for the position, organisations increase the likelihood of recruiting candidates who are not only a good fit for the job, but who can also adapt quickly to their new role.

In addition, it can lead to a faster time-to-hire as companies are able to efficiently evaluate and prioritise candidates based on their quantifiable skills in early candidate assessments.

The report goes on to claim this strategy can also increase the talent pipeline by up to ten times and help level the playing field by prioritising transferable skills. It also allows businesses to find new, untapped candidates, lessening the need to compete with other companies for the same talent.

According to LinkedIn research, employees hired on their skills are 2.8 times more likely to be high performers in their roles compared to those hired solely based on their formal education or pedigree. This not only leads to better job performance, but also enhances the overall productivity and outcomes of an organisation.

And, one of the most significant advantages of boosting retention is the reduction in employee turnover rates.

When candidates are hired based on their skills, they are more likely to be a better fit for the role, therefore leading to greater job satisfaction. Additionally, a Forbes study found that employees without degrees tend to stay at a company 34% longer than those that do.

This skills-first approach can unlock opportunities for millions of candidates, equipping organisations to build agile, innovative, and future-ready workforces.

But before businesses can adopt a this approach they should create a skills matrix to determine which skills are essential for the job now, and which might require training for use in the future.

To effectively train people and enable them to gain relevant skills quickly, it is crucial to have a well-thought out plan that integrates contextual education; a clear career framework in parallel with learning and development processes; and people managers who are willing to develop and coach their staff.

LinkedIn CEO Ryan Roslansky said: “Companies that focus on skills and shift away from more antiquated signals like degree, pedigree, or where someone previously worked, will be able to ensure they have the right people with the right skills, in the right roles, doing their best work.

“And it doesn’t stop there. Once you have those employees in the right roles with the right skills, it’s equally important to continue investing in their career progression and skills.”

Major Players managing director Joanne Lucy concluded: “We find ourselves in the midst of an unparalleled transformation in our work culture and environment. The past four years have been marked by tectonic shifts in the world of work, fuelled by persistent economic uncertainties, global unrest, and the swift pace of technological progress.

“These changes continue to require businesses to adapt and respond to intricate scenarios that are interlinked and rapidly evolving.
“This myriad of challenges, along with an evolving workforce, means business leaders are having to delve deeper to deliver growth and performance in an uncertain period, all while allowing their people to thrive.

“To do so, I believe business leaders must provide a clear vision for employees; one that focuses on transparency, succession planning and calculated risk, allowing people to take on new and augmented roles and, vitally, creating a collaborative environment.”

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