• Andrea Glispie

Technology Skills-Based Hiring Innovation Lab Closes with Important Lessons Learned

In response to local research on the potential of degree inflation in job postings for the Computer Support Specialist position and funding from JPMorgan Chase, Pathways to Work created and recently completed the Technology Skills-Based Hiring Innovation Lab (Innovation Lab), the first of its kind in Dallas. The Innovation Lab brought together HR professionals from local companies in need of entry-level information technology talent to explore how to utilize skills-based approaches in their recruiting, hiring and onboarding processes. According to Skillful, A Markle Foundation Initiative, the practice removes credential requirements from job postings, outlines skills specific to the position in the interviewing and selection process and reduces bias that often filters out otherwise qualified candidates. This results in employers being better able to match open positions to the best candidates.

At the beginning of the Innovation Lab, the participants included Alkami Technologies, Capital One, Dallas College, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, JPMorgan Chase, and McKesson. Unfortunately, Capital One and McKesson were not able to complete the full Innovation Lab experience. MNK Infotech and Forever Gifts were added halfway through the innovation lab learning experience.

The Innovation Lab consisted of eight learning modules over a nine-month period. The Innovation Lab kicked off in August 2019 and wrapped up in June 2020. Each learning module took place over a 2.5 to 3-hour period and covered various aspects of the skills-based hiring process from writing job postings, evaluating candidates, selecting and onboarding new hires, and fostering employee retention.

A key component of the Innovation Lab encouraged companies to put what they learned into practice. To the extent they were able, companies could select at least one skills-based strategy to pilot. These may have included a competency-based assessment to screen applicants, a skills-based hiring job posting, training staff on hiring bias, or utilizing a skills-based hiring platform. At any point during the lab, companies could begin testing new practice. All the companies elected to wait until the Innovation Lab’s conclusion to pilot skills-based hiring strategies. Most were interested in looking to implement changes at the beginning of the hiring process. Companies focused on projects which included reformatting job positions to emphasize skills over degrees, exploring assessments to evaluate soft skills, educating colleagues on available tools to uncover bias in job postings, and re-engineering the interview process to incorporate behavioral interviews.

The experience of planning and launching the Innovation Lab unearthed a treasure trove of valuable lessons to support future learning cohorts including the following:

Start small but recruit wide. In a world of competing priorities, attrition of Innovation Lab participants should be anticipated. Additional companies were recruited halfway through the learning experience to ensure there were opportunities for robust peer learning and sharing.

Content experts are essential to deliver the message. Pathways to Work formed a strategic partnership with Skillful, an initiative of the Markle Foundation, where staff from the initiative facilitated many of the Innovation Lab sessions , particularly those related to job postings, competency-based assessments, employee onboarding and retention.

Changes to the hiring process requires many layers of approval. Hiring is a complex process that involves many staff from many different departments. In future Innovation Labs, participating companies will need to bring a small team of individuals to the Innovation Lab each of whom represents various aspects of the hiring process. This approach will ensure that the company has multi-department and level buy-in for making changes to the hiring process.

Emphasize homework between sessions rather than a pilot project. Future Innovation Labs will encourage participants to complete homework assignments between each session instead of focusing on one pilot project. Since hiring is a complex process of interrelated components, smaller homework assignments will give participants a chance to focus on each aspect of their current hiring process and explore ways to bring each aspect into closer alignment with skills-based hiring

Peer sharing can ignite imaginations. Giving participants ample time to exchange questions and insights with one another is a critical aspect of the overall learning experience. One company’s experience to reengineer its interview process so that candidates were given more opportunities to showcase their skills motivated others in the room to explore ways that they could innovate as well.

Read more about our lessons learned here.

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