By Tina Marie Wohlfield
As an HR leader, I feel we have the best seat in the organizational house. As champions of all things people, our ability to engage, influence and inspire people has a direct impact on revenues.
No matter where you look today, there is conversation about the state of the “workforce”. Whether it be referred to as “The Great Resignation”, “Reshuffle” “Reinvention” or “Reflection”, those we employ all seek something more out of the employment experience that we have been ignoring for way too long.
I am blessed to have two teenage sons. Two of those coming up in the “minors” will soon be part of this “sea of talent” which will compromise the workforce of the 2030’s. No matter what or how you say it, the concept and definition of “work” has been permanently altered over the past five years and it is up to us to help organizations move forward. When viewing the future of work (through the eyes of my teens) I have come to this conclusion. There isn’t a “lack of talent”. What there is are outdated views on the knowledge skills and abilities needed to be successful. What exactly do we need (in candidates/employees) and what is it that we can teach/develop and leverage to help our organizations succeed? If we stop viewing candidates through archaic and unrealistic perspectives, then we won’t miss out on this “sea of talent” that is yearning for experiential opportunities to explore careers.
I reflect back to how I landed in HR, and it was not the traditional path. In High School, I wanted to be a rock star. I wanted to be on MTV and tour the world. I was a music major and filled my schedule up with filler classes. My son’s have different opportunities than I did. Our local High School has invested in career technical education opportunities and currently offers 43 different career pathway options to explore without having to leave the building. From a robust culinary program to robotics, insurance, health care, skilled trades and more, these students get to explore and test drive career options before college and acquire certifications and job opportunities directly out of high school. In addition, there are student organizations, competitions, and mentoring opportunities with working professionals in their career paths to support their learning. As an HR leader I celebrate these efforts to help shape the future of work at exactly the right time to better equip them to be workforce ready faster.
I recently had a conversation with an organization struggling for seasoned talent because of the lack of individuals pursuing careers in that field. I asked them the typical HR probing questions about their approaches. When discussing candidates, they said “we do not have time to train” and limited their pipeline to only plug-in-play talent. In addition to current talent needs, they also have a succession problem with an average tenure of over 20 years, many of these individuals’ nearing retirement. They know they need to start developing a knowledge pipeline – but have failed to address the issue with the same answer “we do not have time to train” and “we are all fighting for the same seasoned candidates, and they are just not out there”. The talent is out there – you are just looking right past the untapped reservoir right in front of us all along!
How can we in HR try to explain to a CEO or hiring manager that it is just as effective to take an eager to learn pallet and create the right foundation as it is to onboard a seasoned professional/SME in that functional area? There needs to be a balance and blending of experiences that each bring to the organization through curiosity and transferable skills. It is when we find that balance that the magic happens. Unfortunately, we have a lot of work to do from how we approach onboarding, engagement and the traditional definition of “work”.
My sons have opportunities to better equip them to be workforce ready in 2030, today. They are learning valuable skills through experiential learning, mentorship, networking, professionalism (resume’s/interviewing/offboarding), problem solving and communication skills. They and others like them, who took non-traditional career paths but are curious to explore new ones, offer us something we often overlook – curiosity. These individuals are not bound by a structure that defines success by the number of years in a role, versus what one is able to learn and accomplish. The best part which we are skipping is the messy stuff in the middle. It is the “how did you learn and apply that knowledge” that we should be focusing in the selection and development of talent.
So, I challenge you, my fellow HR and organizational professionals to connect to the future of our workforce, now. Be a mentor, ambassador, or career technical program advisor to those in a school related career program (HS or college). Be an ambassador to those in other career areas thinking of transitioning to your field or industry. Open up your organization to potential candidates – not just when you have openings but to build a pipeline, let them explore if they “see themselves” as part of your organization (or in that field). Create job sharing or intern opportunities, days of development and invest in learning for your current employees. Rethink how you identify the KSA’s for the positions within your organization. Instead of waiting for the future of work to come to you – put yourself as part of the shapers of the future of work today!