Coronavirus (COVID-19), Recruiting

Building a Modern Workforce that’s Prepared for Anything

With millions of workers sequestered in their homes as the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, companies have quickly rediscovered the value of adaptability. Employees and managers have been forced to learn how to make remote work as productive as possible, despite the fact that many of them are doing it for the first time. This requires them to draw upon a range of soft skills, such as creativity, digital savviness, and the ability to be productive without a manager looking over their shoulders.


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In many ways, COVID-19 is accelerating a trend that was already becoming more and more important in the American workforce: the move toward employees who can keep up with a rapidly changing, tech-enabled economy. This means companies have to revamp the way they identify and hire talent; the antiquated method of glancing at a résumé and sitting down for a chat is no longer capable of producing a workforce with the skills necessary to compete at the highest level.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few of the most effective strategies for building a workforce equipped to handle whatever the future holds.

Know Exactly What You’re Looking For

The economy has never been more dynamic than it is right now, so it’s no surprise that companies are increasingly demanding a workforce to match. While each company’s needs are different, just about all of today’s employees should be adaptable and trainable, tech-savvy, and capable of working remotely. They should also have the soft skills to help them interact with colleagues and customers as naturally and productively as possible.

There’s a reason employees report they need more educational opportunities at work: The skills required in their jobs are changing more frequently. Companies need to make a conscious effort to seek these trainable candidates out in the hiring process—the capacity to learn is one of the most important characteristics an employee can have. Even when candidates lack digital skills and haven’t yet accustomed themselves to remote work, companies should investigate whether they’re capable of developing these abilities.

Despite the economy being more digitized than ever, companies that emphasize human-to-human bonds are outperforming those that don’t. While technology has increased opportunities for engagement, many tech-enabled interactions are dry, impersonal, and even annoying. When your employees have the interpersonal skills to interact with customers and each other productively, your company will be more successful both internally and externally.

Identifying an Entirely Different Set of Skills

We often think of skills in a two-dimensional way. On résumés, many candidates include a list of “proficiencies” (such as their familiarity with certain types of software and other productivity tools) or “experience” doing certain tasks, managing people, etc. But there are more fundamental aptitudes and talents that companies should be able to identify.

For example, an applicant could report that he or she is a good programmer, but how much does that really tell you? Programming requires the ability to think critically, solve problems, and develop creative ways to make systems and processes run more efficiently. It’s also an iterative process, which means it rewards people who have the capacity to learn quickly and put their knowledge into practice. So you’re not just looking for candidates with the word “programmer” on their résumés—you’re looking for candidates who have a toolbox of soft skills that will make them flexible, innovative, and trainable.

The same applies to candidates who say they have “leadership experience”—one of the most common lines on a résumé. You should be more interested in the interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence that make someone a good leader. These are all reasons hiring managers need to look past the résumé and figure out which applicants actually have the skills they’re advertising.

Evidence-Based Hiring Practices for the Modern Workforce

Even if you know what you’re looking for in a candidate and you understand the difference between résumé skills and real skills, none of this knowledge will do you any good without the right hiring practices in place.

Instead of relying on outmoded methods like résumé evaluation and interviews, companies should take an evidence-based approach to hiring. For example, there’s overwhelming evidence that one of the most reliable indicators of job performance is general cognitive ability. This is because cognitive ability encompasses so many of the other characteristics companies care about, such as the capacity to learn and adapt over time.

Data-driven hiring practices can also cut down on bias and discrimination. As the country becomes more diverse, so, too, does the workforce. This is why it’s imperative for companies to use hiring methods that don’t consistently discriminate against candidates based on gender and race (as résumés and CVs are proven to do).

As the economy increasingly demands workforces that are highly skilled and adaptable, your company’s ability to find employees with these characteristics is only going to become more crucial. By using rigorous, evidence-based hiring methods instead of the old-fashioned approach of reviewing résumés and chatting with candidates, you’ll build a workforce that’s prepared for anything.

Josh MilletJosh Millet is the founder and CEO of Los Angeles-based Criteria Corp, a pre-employment assessment company with a simple goal: to help organizations make better hires. With over 20 million assessments administered globally, the company has helped organizations make objective, data-driven hiring decisions that lead to better business outcomes with its SaaS product, HireSelect. HireSelect is composed of scientifically validated assessments across multiple dimensions including aptitude, personality and skills.

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