Photo: Jeremiah Lawrence

Closing Analytics Talent Gaps: College to Career

Nearly all organizations are struggling to find top talent and identify best practices for aligning college and career pathways. Moreover, there is a substantial talent gap when it comes to early-career hires. Recent research from Strada/Gallup found that while 95 percent of chief academic officers felt graduates were prepared, only 11 percent of business leaders felt that recent hires possessed the necessary skills to be successful at the start of their careers.  

 The solution lies in getting all the components right, which means aligning the right skills, taught in the right academic programs, to the right students, who are ready to work at the right companies. 

The Demand Challenge

For educational institutions, increased interaction with employers will likely better prepare students to enter the labor market. These relationships will help institutions develop programs and curricula designed to prepare students with the most in-demand knowledge and skills to compete in the job market. The ten emerging tech jobs for 2020 — as forecasted by Emsi, a labor market analytics firm — point to a continually evolving digital landscape. Some of these jobs reflect nascent technologies, while others exemplify how quickly yesterday’s innovations have become standard operating functions today. The list is telling, including Cloud Data Engineer, Site Reliability Engineer/Developer, MVC (Model View Controller) Developer, Data Analytics Specialist, Cyber Defense Engineer, Visual Interaction Designer, and Infrastructure Developer. 

As higher education faces declining enrollment (some of which is triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic), ensuring that students receive the training they need for the most in-demand skills is essential. A better connection between educators and employers could mean that curricula are adjusted more quickly to reflect labor market needs. In turn, this could enable educational institutions to not only provide up-to-date training and enablement, but also increase enrollment as a result.  

Aligning College and Career Pathways

To close the competency gap and find top early-career talent, it may not be enough for companies to simply post positions in a variety of places and engage prospective employees at college career fairs. Many academic programs partner with workforce organizations who work with a variety of employers to help their students with data projects, internships, and in-demand skill-building to help ensure their students are more competitive on the job market.  

In the data science and analytics space, SAS Academic Programs is one of the leading workforce analytics organizations. Recently, I spoke with Lynn Letukas, Director of Global Academic Programs at SAS, a leading analytics software company, to better understand the tools and strategies that align great early-career talent to top employers.    

As Letukas explained, “SAS is uniquely positioned to align college and career pathways because our analytical solutions are used by 90 of the top 100 Fortune 500 companies, so employers look to us to gain a competitive advantage in their hiring needs. Programs at colleges and universities that teach SAS also look to us to help their students obtain those in-demand jobs.” SAS does not just work with large multinational companies, as Letukas explained, “Through our work with Fortune 500 companies, we gained considerable expertise on best practices for building college-career pathways and now, we’re broadening that work through the use of a scalable solution that can help any company fill their early-career talent needs.”  

In an effort to offer a more expansive opportunity for prospective employees and employers, SAS recently partnered with Handshake to help customers identify top early-career talent.  Letukas explained, “We are very excited to work with Handshake on a scalable solution so that nearly any organization looking to find top talent in the analytics and data science space will have more equitable access to the talent pipeline. By expanding the scalability of talent connections, we are helping to facilitate a more unified college and career pathway.”  

A New Approach

What’s notable about this new paradigm in talent sourcing is that it returns to an age-old tradition of higher education as the provider of talent — armed with not only the traditional breadth of knowledge, but competencies that remain viable into the future. At the same time it circumvents a rising issue in education: not all students who are aiming for jobs in the technology sector are choosing obvious majors, and a large proportion don’t settle into careers related to their majors at all. 

As reported by CareerBuilder, half of college graduates do not go into the field of their university major and one third never work in the field of their major. Further, an Emsi report on college students’ early career tracks indicates that the typical career path is more circuitous than straight — which may mean employers are missing out on attracting the right candidates if they are only hiring from the same academic programs or majors. To put it simply, there is clearly a need to better align supply and demand. 

What my conversation with Lynn Letukas brought to light is that companies need to participate in talent acquisition far sooner along the employment journey, which for smaller firms, until recently, may have been somewhat limited. From a talent perspective, being able to quickly engage in a new job has a marked impact on the success of an early hire. For students, that can hinge on receiving an education that has its eye on the market, and gaining access to pre-hire opportunities, such as internships and other early experiences, to not only get a feel for an organization and a role, but also to get a sense of their own competency and potential. The Strada/Gallup survey found that for college alumni, “supportive relationships and relevant, engaging learning experiences,” are connected to higher engagement and wellbeing in the workplace. 

Expanding Opportunity

The SAS/Handshake partnership provides a new roadmap to acquiring early-career talent for all sides — it democratizes opportunities both for companies who may not have the resources of a Fortune 500, and for students who may get lost in the maze of larger talent connection platforms. 

This partnership also provides a new resource for recruiters looking for the means to increase talent pools by turning universities themselves into talent pools, and providing ways to make contact, connect, and source. This, in turn, may bring about an effective solution to another pressing need — to create more diverse teams in the workforce. This is also a new way to find top talent outside of traditional STEM programs, and create more dynamic and ongoing relationships and outreach. That’s exactly what our future talent needs to help them start their careers, and it’s what companies need to close the analytics skills gaps and meet their growing hiring goals. 

 This post is sponsored by SAS.

How to Build a Talent Pipeline to Keep Your Company Moving Forward

With unemployment at a historic low, even successful companies in thriving industries are struggling to find employees. Compounding this issue, Americans today are less willing to move for new jobs than they were in the past. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the national “mover rate” hit a record low of 11.6 percent in 2011 and still remains far below the figures of decades past.

This lack of mobility hurts some industries more than others. Research projects conducted for multiple chambers of commerce suggest these areas include construction, manufacturing, health care, transportation and logistics. Robert Half, a global staffing firm, found that 65 percent of CFOs struggle to identify talented workers for job openings — and that’s even before the struggle to hire talent once they find it.

To prevent this situation from getting worse, companies should reimagine their recruitment strategy as a pipeline. This talent pipeline, much like a sales pipeline, gets talented prospects identified and interested in the company early so that when the time comes to hire for an open position, qualified candidates have not only already been pre-identified but they are eager to take the role.

The Necessity of the Talent Pipeline

As reported by the Los Angeles Times, recent research shows that there aren’t enough qualified workers to fill vacant positions. Many of these roles exist in new or developing fields, like data analytics and cybersecurity. For example, IT companies have 17 percent more jobs open than qualified workers to fill them. Training programs have sprouted to try to correct this imbalance, but companies need these workers faster than today’s training programs can produce them.

The issue with training lies in the multidisciplinary nature of these new jobs. Data analysts, for instance, require both advanced software skills and keen business sense. People with that combination of skills are rare, and while those who do possess the necessary training are paid handsomely, there simply aren’t enough of them.

That leaves companies clamoring to catch the attention of the best candidates — and that’s where the talent pipeline comes in.

Traditional economic development models rely on the assumption that a talent pipeline consists only of people with credentials. In today’s world of online education, however, learning is not limited to traditional brick-and-mortar locations. Advancements in technology have opened new learning opportunities and have created widespread access to aptitude tests that guide people into optimal career paths based on their innate abilities. By using aptitude-based tools, companies can identify “raw talent” earlier and communicate with those people sooner than ever before.

Modern companies can identify students with the abilities those companies will need in order to compete in the future, all while the students are still in high school. Once identified, students can work with companies through apprenticeships, internships and on-the-job learning opportunities to develop the skills they need. It’s kind of like playing “moneyball” in Major League Baseball, only for the workforce instead of relief pitchers.

With millions of students entering American high schools every year, companies that leverage this advantage can get the future workers of Generation Z interested in their industries before they even choose a college. For areas like manufacturing, that’s a big advantage. Many Gen Z students, like millennials before them, have begun to skip college in favor of jobs that don’t require taking on massive student-loan debt.

Constructing an Effective Talent Pipeline

Ready to find your future employees? Follow these tips to build a talent pipeline that brings in more qualified candidates and gets younger prospects interested in your company.

Look Beyond the Resume

Resumes, while helpful to outline past accomplishments, don’t reveal the potential of those who submit them. Several tools claim to help employers understand personalities, strengths and interests, but even those extra tools fail to capture the reality of an employee’s true potential. Those surveys can be rigged, especially by smart candidates who understand how to answer in the way the company wants to hear.

Rather than rely on half-measures or self-reported surveys, companies should turn to performance-based tools to get a real understanding of what candidates are capable of. The most effective tools capture real measures of aptitude and provide proven, reliable information about a prospect’s innate abilities.

Proactively Invest in Future Talent

It’s hard to fill a talent pipeline when your company has multiple openings. Business environments put a strain on everyone, from employees picking up extra work to teams interviewing day in and day out to fill the roster. This mentality often leads to suboptimal talent, as the company takes any warm body to fill a spot.

However, by focusing on high-school students, companies can identify future talent with the abilities they need early enough in the process to create a stable, self-renewing workforce. General Electric, for instance, uses its program in Boston to train young people for STEM positions — and, in the process, it identifies the students who would make the best employees later.

Outsource the Workload

Long-term talent pipelines set up companies for long-term success, but they don’t solve short-term needs — at least not yet. To solve this, companies can turn to freelancers and contract-based staff to bridge the gap while their high-school-aged talent pipelines bear fruit.

Fortunately, good freelancers exist in abundance. If the current pace of freelancing continues, more than half of all Americans will work for themselves at least part time within 10 years. That means a plethora of skilled talent is already out there and eager to take on more work for companies that need them.

Will improved educational opportunities close the talent gap? That’s hard to say. However, shortage or not, companies with an effective talent pipeline will be able to attract the best and brightest to work for them. By investing in the future and finding short-term alternatives to bridge the gaps, companies can stay ahead of the talent shortage and secure the superiority of their workforce for years to come.

Armando Garza is the chief evangelist at YouScience, the first online aptitude-based career guidance platform, and his goal is to help young adults find their best-fit careers at the intersection of their talents and passions.

Tending The Leadership Pipeline: It’s All About Engagement

Workplace lore has it that a manager who hires a millennial is facing a number of challenges. Among them: how to engage and retain a generation marked as me-centric, fickle, not versed in social or business etiquette and prone to jumping ship six months after utilizing an expensive bout of training. Yet millennials are now the majority of the workforce — and they’re not kids anymore. And I’m growing tired of everyone placing labels on this generation vs that generation. It’s We Generation after all. They’re, we’re already rising up through the ranks to positions of leadership, in some cases they’re, we’re building credible and thriving organizations. It’s time to start tending our talent pipelines with a sense of their maturity and potential — which means deepening your commitment to employee engagement in ways that fully embrace our new skills and mindsets. Nothing could be more important right about now.

Here are four ways to push for more real employee engagement and optimize your leadership and talent pipeline:

  1. Pay attention to their ambitions.According to Deloitte’s fourth annual Millennial Survey, which includes 7,800 future leaders from 29 countries. The bottom line is that there’s a compelling skills gap: just 28 percent of Millennials feel that their current organization is making full use of their skills. But more than half (53 percent) aspire to become the leader or most senior executive within their current organization. To keep them ambitious about their current organization takes a commitment to engage them, providing them with the increasing training and challenges needed to grow.
  1. Mind the gender/confidence gap. Combine the success of women in leadership roles and the mistaken assumption that millennials are somehow immune to the gender gap, and you wind up with a potentially damaging disconnect that may cost you future leaders. As it turns out, women millennials are still lacking parity in terms of ambition with their male counterparts. The Deloitte survey found that 59 % of men aspire to the top job in their organization, versus 47% of women. Yet they’re not lacking self-awareness of their aptitudes, and in this regard, women are actually ahead: in terms of professionalism, hard work, time keeping and discipline, woman actually rated themselves higher (45%) than men (37%). Again, it’s a question of engagement.
  1. Encourage cross-mentoring. despite any sense of intergenerational attitude gaps, enabling the cross-mentoring of generations in the workplace has obvious advantages, including a broader span of knowledge and expertise, and clear exchange of social, emotional and leadership intelligence. Create opportunities where Gen-Xers and boomers can mentor millennials, and you’re creating a pipeline of future leaders that will sort itself out: those who rise to the top in many organizations are those who will be able to leverage the wisdom of experience into their own skill set, and apply it to leadership roles.
  1. Fully merge the company culture with social and mobile. We are now all digital citizens, as my friend Kevin W. Grossman noted recently, and in order to fully engage the very generations that are going to lead us (let’s not forget about Generation Z), there can’t be any gaps in a company’s social and mobile presence. That folds back, as well to that Deloitte statistic that only 28 percent of Millennials feel that their current organization is making full use of their skills. And let’s not forget who is going to make up the bulk of consumers.

The presence of this generation has already changed the workplace, but now it’s beginning to change the face of leadership as well. Ground people in the values and mission of the organization, but let them leverage their de-facto mobile and social culture as they begin to reshape the workplace as well, or you’ll hamper the growth of the business.

And each generation of leaders has had their own communication style — so here’s one thing to remember. You may not feel comfortable getting a text or tweet instead of an email, or an IM instead of a phone call. But it’s the same business, and if you’ve aligned your future leaders with the mission of the organization, there’s nothing to worry about. Trust me on this.

A version of this was first posted on Forbes.

Ignore Youth, Destroy The Economy?

I hate to sound all Michael Jackson, but children, they’re the future, man.

Yes, they are. The sad thing is that despite the roaring job market, we’re still not employing them at a rate that would be healthy to our economy. In the UK, 737,000 young people between the ages of 16 and 24 are classified as unemployed. That’s 16.2% — and in Europe the problem gets worse. In Spain, the figure has touched 57%.

The employment market is not dissimilar from the housing market. If you don’t let people onto the bottom rung of the ladder, houses at the top become harder to shift. The market stagnates, and progress suffers. In the jobs market, there are a host of consequences, which I’ll look at in this piece — but first, as if you need convincing, the advantages of youth.

Why You Should Hire More Young People

If you’re like me, you’ve more or less accepted that you’re not “young” anymore. It’s taken a while, but you’ve gotten there. You’ve acquired the battle scars of (approximately) 15-20 years in full employment, you’ve acquired your ways of working, and you’re part of the system.

Remember when you were younger and you had more ideas? More of a rebellious spirit in you? You need some of that.

Youth Is Innovation

It’s a hackneyed idea — perhaps a cliche. Yet, it’s a well-worn cliche for a good reason. As I progress into my 40s (next year, if you don’t mind), I find myself relying on younger people for that creative spark, for those ideas that will spark a campaign.

What I get is an alternative worldview. What I can do is take that, shape it, and put it into a framework that I know will work, and produce results for our clients.

The first step — if you’re anything like me — is to accept that you don’t know everything, and you never will. You can learn, and you can run to catch up, but when the ideas start to dry up, there are plenty of people who have good ideas.

Without innovation, you lose your competitive edge. In other words, if you don’t have someone to push your worldview out of shape and make you think differently, you’ll always think the same way, and that’s not good business. Someone else will be doing the thinking, and they’ll be somewhere else.

Youth Moves People Up

Just like in the housing market, movement is a good thing. Whereas people tend to move houses once every seven years, people move jobs at a much quicker rate — often within an organization, either being promoted or moved sideways.

Change is a constant, and people expect it. The last thing your people want is to stay in the same position for seven years, with the same salary and the same prospects. Without the feed of employees at the bottom of the ladder, longer-serving employees may feel that they have come to the end of their time with you.

If everyone wants to progress, it stands to reason that there is someone at the bottom of the ladder, learning the ropes. And this may be a little bit Karate Kid (wipe on, wipe off), but someone has to do the “churn.”

In order to bring about progress for your existing employees, you need to refresh at the bottom end of your organization; otherwise they’ll feel stuck, and eventually find that progression elsewhere.

But … Youth Brings Responsibility

It’s everyone’s responsibility to ensure that youth unemployment reduces — and that we get the best out of young people in the workplace. There is no way of nurturing talent unless we’re bringing people through, teaching them the ropes, and giving them the opportunities they desire. Those opportunities may not be framed in the way we know them; research clearly shows that Millennials desire more ethical outcomes at work, and actively seek roles that are morally sound.

Managing talent is multi-faceted, but over the last few years we appear to have forgotten the bottom end of the funnel, and we’ve stopped giving young people the chances they need. That needs to change, and there are incentives for you as an employer to turn that around.

The apprenticeships scheme, for instance, allows employers to take on a student, at a low cost, and train him or her up while they are studying. This has an extra edge over internships, where the intern can “come and go as her or she pleases” — because you are offering a fixed position.

If governments are encouraging us to get involved, we should. I, for one, will be looking at the apprenticeships scheme here in the UK, and I actively encourage others to do so too. We all have to do our bit — and I’m convinced that we’ll all do better as a result.

About the Author: Gareth Cartman is a marketer with a background in HR. As an employer, he is fascinated by talent development and management. As a Dad, it’s the same, but more stressful.

photo credit: Waag Society via photopin cc