Evolving Worker Recruitment to Address a National Hiring Shortage

Posted June 28, 2022, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Young man with Down Syndrome works on a tablet; a man stands next to him, observing.

Employ­ers across the coun­try are broad­en­ing their recruit­ment and hir­ing efforts to include groups that his­tor­i­cal­ly have faced bar­ri­ers to employ­ment, accord­ing to a new report from the U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce Foun­da­tion and the Tal­ent Pipeline Man­age­ment® (TPM) Acad­e­my. The pub­li­ca­tion, Oppor­tu­ni­ty Knocks, is based on stud­ies fund­ed in part by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

What is Oppor­tu­ni­ty Talent?

Labor short­ages that began dur­ing the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic left employ­ers in many areas rethink­ing their recruit­ment and hir­ing prac­tices, notes the report’s authors, Dr. David DeLong and Jaimie Fran­cis. These changes have cre­at­ed open­ings for oppor­tu­ni­ty tal­ent” – capa­ble work­ers who face employ­ment bar­ri­ers that are often out­side of their con­trol, such as lim­it­ed access to edu­ca­tion­al and pro­fes­sion­al oppor­tu­ni­ties. Includ­ed in this group: peo­ple who have been involved in the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem, immi­grants, peo­ple with dis­abil­i­ties and those from low-income households. 

TPM Case Studies

Researchers looked at sev­er­al ini­tia­tives to bet­ter under­stand what works — and what doesn’t work as well — when engag­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty tal­ent. The report cites find­ings from four dif­fer­ent case stud­ies that fol­low TPM part­ners. These are:

  • Cal­i­for­ni­a’s San Diego Eco­nom­ic Devel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (EDC) launched an employ­er col­lab­o­ra­tive to enhance the region’s tal­ent pool . This effort aimed to align employ­er staffing needs with local col­lege pro­grams to increase Lati­no tal­ent in soft­ware engi­neer­ing jobs. 
  • The Ken­tucky Cham­ber Foun­da­tion used their employ­er collaborative’s sec­ond-chance hir­ing pro­gram to devel­op pro­gram design tem­plates that increase job oppor­tu­ni­ties for tal­ent­ed work­ers with crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem involvement.
  • Con­sumers Ener­gy, Michigan’s statewide util­i­ty, cus­tomized an elec­tric line train­ing pro­gram to increase the num­ber of female work­ers and work­ers of color.
  • DTE Ener­gy, a Detroit util­i­ty, intro­duced work readi­ness work­shops to help women, peo­ple of col­or and those with dis­abil­i­ties gain the cre­den­tials and job skills need­ed to access oppor­tu­ni­ties with­in the company.

Strate­gies for Success

Each case study drew on six strate­gies that make up the TPM frame­work. Par­tic­i­pants in the ini­tia­tives stud­ied used many – or all – of these strate­gies when imple­ment­ing their pro­grams. These six com­po­nents are:

1. Orga­nize for Employ­er Lead­er­ship and Collaboration

Employ­ers should work togeth­er and iden­ti­fy sim­i­lar work­force needs to deter­mine the most promis­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for engagement.

For exam­ple, the San Diego EDC ini­tia­tive used TPM as an orga­niz­ing frame­work to bring togeth­er 17 employ­ers. This group focused on align­ing the region’s edu­ca­tion sys­tem to bet­ter meet the tal­ent needs of local com­pa­nies offer­ing soft­ware-relat­ed jobs.

2. Project Crit­i­cal Job Demand

Employ­ers should devel­op pro­jec­tions for job open­ings to accu­rate­ly assess their needs, includ­ing in the areas of work­force size and skills. 

The employ­ers of all four case stud­ies were able to com­mu­ni­cate how many employ­ees they need­ed, where they were need­ed and the ide­al time frame for hir­ing. TPN’s plan­ning process enabled employ­ers to per­son­al­ize their pro­jec­tions instead of rely­ing on more gen­er­al­ized labor data.

3. Align and Com­mu­ni­cate Job Requirements

Employ­ers should clear­ly define the job skills such as com­pe­ten­cy and cre­den­tials that are vital to crit­i­cal jobs. Employ­ers Con­sumers Ener­gy and DTE Ener­gy iden­ti­fied core skills that incom­ing work­ers need­ed to suc­ceed. Sim­i­lar­ly, the San Diego EDC worked with local employ­ers to empha­size skills-based hir­ing in their cre­den­tial requirements.

4. Ana­lyze Tal­ent Supply

Employ­ers should iden­ti­fy where they typ­i­cal­ly find their most qual­i­fied tal­ent and con­sid­er untapped sources. The Ken­tucky Cham­ber Foun­da­tion, for instance, devel­oped a new rela­tion­ship with Black­burn Cor­rec­tion­al Facil­i­ty to hire for­mer­ly incar­cer­at­ed work­ers for crit­i­cal jobs. 

5. Build Tal­ent Sup­ply Chains

Employ­ers should fine-tune tal­ent sup­ply chains so that they work for employ­ers, their part­ners and employ­ees. Each of the four ini­tia­tives under review found that lever­ag­ing the data col­lect­ed from employ­ers — such as demand pro­jec­tions or skills require­ments — result­ed in more effec­tive partnerships.

6. Engage in Con­tin­u­ous Improve­ment and Resilien­cy Planning

Employ­ers should use data from their tal­ent sup­ply chain to bet­ter fill crit­i­cal posi­tions. One exam­ple: Con­sumers Ener­gy used TPM’s con­tin­u­ous improve­ment process to cre­ate a more diver­si­fied workforce.

Five Lessons for Incor­po­rat­ing Oppor­tu­ni­ty Talent

The case stud­ies reveal five lessons for employ­ers who are inter­est­ed in con­nect­ing with and lever­ag­ing oppor­tu­ni­ty tal­ent. These five teach­ings are: 

  1. Look to TPM as a ver­sa­tile frame­work. Each of the four lead part­ners used the TPM frame­work to improve job oppor­tu­ni­ties and remove bar­ri­ers to employment.
  2. Strong part­ner­ships mat­ter. Col­lab­o­rat­ing with out­side orga­ni­za­tions and insti­tu­tions offer­ing wrap-around ser­vices was key to help­ing busi­ness­es find new work­ers, engage exist­ing employ­ees and sup­port their success. 
  3. New obsta­cles may sur­face; lis­ten to what the data tells you. Expect addi­tion­al chal­lenges to arise, be flex­i­ble and rec­og­nize how these chal­lenges may affect your over­all goals. 
  4. Incor­po­rate input from work­ers. Hir­ing ini­tia­tives should seek input from the very audi­ence mem­bers they are try­ing to reach. 
  5. Sup­port the repli­ca­tion of your success. When design­ing hir­ing ini­tia­tives, employ­ers should aim to doc­u­ment their find­ings and process­es so that oth­ers can fol­low in their footsteps. 

COVID-19 is not the sole cause of the nation’s evolv­ing labor pool, the authors note. Sev­er­al long-term shifts – such as an aging work­force, increased demand for com­plex skills and the chang­ing val­ues of work­ers – con­tin­ue to shape the employ­ment land­scape across mul­ti­ple sec­tors and indus­tries. The researchers point to the util­i­ty of the TPM frame­work in help­ing busi­ness­es and work­force devel­op­ment part­ners find, reach and hire new talent.

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