How to hire for the future, not the past

As India Inc bids for a future-proof economic reality, skills-based hires, transferable skills, and a more equitable approach to hiring will be imperative

Ashutosh Gupta
Updated: Aug 10, 2021 06:23:38 PM UTC
Professionals must welcome an upskilling revolution with open arms, while companies must shift the needle from past experience to future potential. Image: Shutterstock

The ongoing health and economic crisis has transformed the professional landscape drastically, and in many ways. For starters, economic drivers are being redefined, business operations are being reimagined, and the ‘way of work’ is witnessing a complete rehaul in the remote work reality. As the ripple effects of this disruptive change continue to upturn the job market, one thing that has emerged as a top business priority is the need for upskilling.

These dynamic times have transformed many jobs, if not rendered several roles obsolete; not just today, but for years to come. And to shelter from these long-term economic shocks, professionals must welcome an upskilling revolution with open arms, while companies must shift the needle from past experiences to future potential. Championing this dual-paradigm shift can be challenging, but the prospect of preparing a future-ready workforce to revitalise India’s economic recovery far outweighs the obstacles.

Against such a rapidly evolving backdrop, adopting a skills-based approach to hiring and developing talent will be elemental in shaping India’s future of work.

Skills-based hiring to revitalise the economy 

At its core, skills-based hiring looks at a candidate’s skill sets and professional capabilities, instead of singling them out for their work history. To truly legitimise this journey, companies must reconsider how they define job descriptions. Instead of outlining an elaborate list of qualifications, employers must list the requisite skills — both digital and soft skills—for the role they’re hiring for. Doing so will help them articulate their requirements better, which is ever-so critical in attracting the right talent.

Similarly, evaluation processes can also be recrafted in order to assess skills, rather than solely relying on education or experience as alternatives. Specified assessments centred on hard skills, ‘job auditions’, or innovative soft skill tests can be used as a few metrics to determine if applicants fit the bill. Echoing this sentiment, our recent perception study among India’s youth showed that every second (51 percent) Gen Z Indian wants employers today to value skills when hiring, while 44 percent want their employers to make careers an experience, not a process. Collectively, these statistics show us how India’s young professionals are looking for jobs that can ensure fair play at every milestone of their professional journey.

This serves as a distress call for companies to rethink how they hire today, and for leaders to implement better processes so they can access wide and diversified talent pools.

There are a number of reasons to leave behind traditional recruitment processes that place emphasis solely on educational qualifications, experience, or personal referrals. This way of hiring eliminates or disqualifies all those who may not have access to elite institutions or strong professional networks, simply because of where they come from. And as the uneven impact of the pandemic continues to prevail upon those who are hit the hardest, the need to move away from such an approach becomes nothing short of imperative to create a more equitable workforce for tomorrow.

Embracing skills can 'future-proof' careers
While companies must play their part, potential candidates should follow suit by proactively pursuing a skills-based approach towards finding and landing the right opportunity. Professionals must sharpen their focus on digital literacy and collaborative capabilities, specifically seeking to develop emerging skills that are actively shaping the job market.

In many instances, this can be done effectively by assessing the transferability of their existing skill sets, or by picking up the right skills that can help them transition their careers with appreciable agility in today’s rapidly digitising economy. For all those wondering where to start, SQL and Javascript have been featured as two of the most in-demand skills on LinkedIn as of March 2021.

The potential of nurturing transferable skills in uncovering opportunities is especially relevant in India, where over the past year, 1 in 3 professionals have started new jobs by moving to a different industry. Boosting skills can help smoothen career transitions, and provide a wide arena of lucrative possibilities even when certain avenues are shut due to circumstances. Recognising the need to facilitate such learning, LinkedIn partnered with Microsoft last year to help three million people in India, and 30 million people globally to acquire digital skills since the onset of the pandemic.

Thinking business growth? Think reskilling
Internally too, companies must consciously cultivate a culture of learning, upskilling employees on a regular basis. When filling open roles internally, companies should deploy structured learning programs to fill gaps in the knowledge of employees, guiding them towards skills required to dispense responsibilities in other positions.

Additionally, promoting a culture of learning among employees can make this ‘great talent rehaul’ more inclusive, thus ensuring that the existing workforce isn’t neglected in this transformative hiring landscape. Allowing employees to participate in cross-functional teams, entrusting them with varied responsibilities, and offering more time off for upskilling are good ways to incentivise learning and consequently ensuring stronger retention of existing workers.

At LinkedIn, we are motivated to see individuals, employers, educational institutions, and government agencies speaking the same skills language to improve workforce planning, hiring, and development programmes. Ultimately, following through with a skills-based hiring approach will result in an engaged, efficient workforce and a nurturing work environment, all of which is integral to smooth functioning despite market volatility. Moving deeper into these times of change, we must reimagine the role of learning, and let our people take the centre stage, while deploying a skills-based approach to hiring as the lever for business growth and economic recovery.

The writer is LinkedIn's India Country Manager


The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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