Are 27M Hidden Talents Largely Ignored by Mobility Professionals?

Is talent now too scarce for mobility professionals and HR representatives to find the right fit for a vacant position? With unemployment a recent issue due to the pandemic, it’s highly unlikely that talent scarcity is to blame for all this. A study by Harvard Business School’s Project on Managing the Future of Work demonstrates that more than 27 million people in America are categorized as “hidden workers” or hidden talents.

Hidden workers or hidden talents are defined by this research as aspiring workers who are actively seeking work, but don’t qualify the standards of a company’s hiring process. It further elaborated that, these workers are sub-categorized as:

  • Missing hours (those working at least one part-time job but are willing to work full-time)
  • Missing from work (those unemployed for a long time but actively seeking employment)
  • Missing from the workforce (those not working and not seeking but are willing to work given the right circumstances)

If 27 million potential talents are willing to work, why haven’t businesses filled the talent gap within their organizations when they needed it the most? One factor identified is the method of how companies seek and screen candidates.

A considerable percentage of employers (88%) believe that qualified candidates are screened out because they don’t exactly match the requirements of the job descriptions, such as having a four-year college degree.

Eva Sage-Gavin, a former CHRO of different Fortune 500 global consumer, technology, and retail corporations, admits that she had observed these scenarios firsthand in a Human Resource Executive article. Moreover, she mentions that if companies desire to see the economy recover, they have to hire people.

She further recommends the following approaches in attracting new applicants from the “hidden workers” population:

Consider skills and experience versus credentials

Many businesses adopt traditional hiring systems that don’t seem to tackle the talent gaps organizations are currently facing. Adopting a traditional credentials checklist in the hiring process while failing to update clear job descriptions overlooks overqualified individuals. Businesses now have to shift to looking into candidates’ skills rather than college degrees. Oftentimes, relevant skills far outweigh the degrees. Opportunity @ Work even dubs individuals, who have acquired skills through professionally unconventional means but may not hold a college degree, as STARs (Skills Through Alternative Routes)

Filter in, not out

The algorithms of many businesses’ recruiting systems need to be effectively updated to become more inclusive to hidden workers. Companies may be limiting themselves when it comes to seeking desired talent when their automated recruiting systems hastens the process but don’t necessarily pre-qualify applicants qualitatively.

Craft new evaluation metrics

It’s high time businesses become more forward-thinking and modernize their recruitment processes to highlight applicants’ long-term performance and metrics. SHRM suggests some metrics that are more relevant to business performance such as new hire productivity, rate of advancement, and attrition. Company culture was mentioned as well.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a decrease in the unemployment rate in September by 0.4%. It also highlights that the total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 194,000.

At first glance, the numbers reported by the government look quite optimistic. However, hidden workers are still often overlooked due to outdated recruitment systems that rely heavily on tracking automation that fail to qualify its candidates through the basis of skills. 

Automation can become superficially efficient because the main purpose of their implementations is to speed up the pre-qualifying process where skills are often bypassed due to credentials being prioritized.

The long-standing gaps in talent signal the need for employers to revisit their recruitment systems, check the entire processing of candidates. This will result in a more inclusive hiring process that can serve the current business needs as well as the needs of hidden workers who are actively looking for employment.

Sage-Gavin reiterates the importance of considering these workers as she shares her personal experiences in the field of Human Resources. While working with front-line employees in the retail and food service industries, she discovered that many had powerful experiences that should be given credit to but lacked the college degree many businesses often seek for.