While many traditional hiring avenues are increasingly tapped, savvy agencies are beginning to recognize the potential of less traditional talent pools. We’ve identified the top three untapped talent pools that business and HR leaders should consider today.
First, recent moms and dads bring impressive and unique capabilities to the table and are actively seeking new opportunities with flexible employers. Second, best-in-class talent are favoring remote opportunities over more typical full-time, in-office roles; there are tools aplenty to help these people flourish. Lastly, people with non-traditional educational backgrounds very often present a rare blend of skills, output, and the right attitude.
Super Mums and Dads
Let’s first think about the traits of a successful parent. “Parenting requires people to be smart, efficient, resourceful multi-taskers that deal with demanding situations all day,” said Hugh Tallents, a partner at cg42, a boutique management consulting firm based in New York. “They have to be great teachers, learners, hugely responsible, and endlessly creative.”
“Whether they have consulting experience or not, in many weird ways, there is no better training ground for consulting than being a parent, and vice versa,” Tallents said.
The 2016 Modern Family Index (from Bright Horizons® and conducted by Kelton Global) recognizes parents, “not only as ace multitaskers, but also as stronger than their counterparts in handling finances, managing time, and dealing with crises.”
The Modern Family Index suggests that today’s parents are determined to build families without delaying, de-prioritising, or abandoning career goals. Returning mums and dads would give up a lot, including money, to work for an employer that is family-friendly. New parents may be rethinking their previous jobs, too. Half have taken a job for less money since returning to the workforce and three in five report that they are likely to switch employers after having a first child, according to the Index.
At the same time, more than half of those surveyed look forward to developing their career. In other words, there is a clear opportunity for agencies to tap into a highly capable and eager pool of candidates who are primed to make a shift. Savvy corporates will see the retention potential in recruiting qualified talent and fostering a family-friendly culture.
“The main thing that consulting lacks, and parents need, is flexibility,” Tallents said. “So if you could provide it creatively, then would you be able to get access to incredible talent, with the right character and likely some great life experience to boot? That's the bet we want to make.”
Tap into the super parent opportunity:
Embrace a family-friendly culture and develop family-first policies, if they don’t already exist. Think flex-time, HR training for all staff on the acceptance of working parents. Encourage a work/life balance and consider offering at-work childcare options.
Market and promote this flexible culture when recruiting your talent.
Start connecting with super moms and dads on resource sites like https://www.workingmums.co.uk/
Remote Workers: Closer Than Ever Before
Another untapped pool for technology, strategy, and design talent is the remote worker. Sometimes referred to as “flexible working”, this group might be comprised of:
Partial remote workers -- employees that spend at least one day per week working outside of the officeAnother untapped pool for technology, strategy, and design talent is the remote worker. Sometimes referred to as “flexible working”, this group might be comprised of:Remote Workers: Closer Than Ever Before
“Full remote” professionals -- who may find a full-time home office more productive or fulfilling (or generally, more “doable”)
Older workers -- who bring industry experience but may have difficulty with daily or long commutes
People with medical issues -- such as obesity-related diseases or dependence on home medical devices
Rural workers -- who are separated from urban centers of employment
Part-time, freelance, or contract workers -- who typically work from established home offices and bring a proven ability to thrive in a “virtual” environment
Not surprisingly, a recent Gallup poll found that remote working is on the rise. In 2016, 43% of employees worked remotely in some capacity, up from 39% in 2012. The poll also showed that people are moving along the spectrum from partial remote toward full remote. In 2016, more than one-third of people spent 80% or more of their time off-site, compared to less than a quarter of people in 2012.
Phil Lewis, managing director of the consulting firm Corporate Punk, has put this potential into practice to pivot with the changing landscape. “I want to work with best in class talent, in ways that I thought the world was moving,” he said. He’s long detected that top-of-their-game talent are not necessarily looking to be tethered to a desk -- but not everyone see this. “It takes a lot of energy to conceptualize what the gains are outside of a 9 to 5 paradigm; they haven’t been bit by the benefits of untapped talent pools.”
Lewis cautions against the oft-used expression virtual staff or virtual office. “I avoid the word virtual. It implies that everything is outsourced,” he said. “Our challenge is, how do we build a business that embraces remote working and flexible work styles and outside personal and professional interests, but also have these people be as deeply committed as if they were full-time?”
In other words: “How do you build a virtual team that doesn’t feel virtual,” Lewis said.
A growing number of tools and platforms can help. “The key thing -- the danger in remote working -- are tools to compensate for lack of connection, for a lower burden of connectivity. You can’t create this with technology, but you can supplement it,” Lewis said. For example, he avoids an emphasis on email, as it can be too easy to hide behind screens. He suggests instead a focus on conference calling or collaboration tools.
Tap into the remote-worker opportunity:
When building your team, consider not just partial but also full remote workers.
Invest in tools and processes for effective communication, time-management, and collaboration. We heard suggestions for Google Chat, Google Docs, Slack, Zoom, and Skype.
Identify the marketing potential and leverage your success with your prospective clients and customers. For example, if you promote new business staffing models for your client, show them how you’ve successfully built this into your own culture and operations.
The non-traditional education background
Candidates with a well-aligned educational pedigree or an advanced degree from a prestigious institution are often catapulted to the top of a hiring list. Today, a candidate’s life story -- which includes their interests, skills, volunteer pursuits, work experience, and nontraditional education -- should be considered over or alongside more traditional academic criteria. There is tremendous potential for forward-looking corporates who recognize the value of a person’s pursuits outside of a traditional classroom.
In a Pew Research Centre survey, only 16% of Americans thought a four-year college degree prepared students for high-paying jobs in the modern economy.
“I'm a big believer that you can teach pretty much everything that we do but the one thing you can't teach is an interest in commerce and the way business works,” Tellants said. “In many ways, the delta between formal education and commercial thinking is getting wider, not closer.”
It’s not necessarily a gamble, either. There is a need to fill a high number of technology and design roles; job descriptions for these positions are clearly defined and typically based on very specific skill sets and platform proficiencies. When recruiting talent, a corporate can -- and should -- assess and measure a candidate’s proficiency through samples, tests, or portfolio reviews.
Another reason to consider broad life experience and non-traditional education is that the composition of jobs in technology, strategy, and design is ever-changing. Corporates expect that hires bring a mix of skills to these “hybrid” jobs. Workers with broad skills experience and real-life pursuits might be a better, more multidisciplinary fit than their academic counterparts with shorter or more focused work histories.
Shillington Education, for example, offers design education to help people upskill, launch independent businesses, or succeed with major multinationals. Anthony Wood, the Global Managing Director of Shillington Education, suggests that perceptions are changing. “Employers are definitely recognising the talents and capabilities of "new school" designers,” he said. “To be successful as professional designers, graduates need more than just talent—they must master the industry-standard design software, hone their creative process, have a varied design portfolio, know how to pitch their work, be able to meet tight deadlines and always stay agile.”
Considering a candidate’s story might also be a better indicator of their soft skills. A New York Times article suggests that, “the skills-based approach has already yielded some early and encouraging results in the technology industry, which may provide a model for other industries.” Corporates recognize that the right personal attributes help create a more dynamic, harmonious workplace and a better, more effective business.
Leaders like Tellants agree. Less important is where someone went to school, “so long as they are smart, humble, high-integrity people that are really interested, interesting, and coachable,” he said.
Workers themselves recognize that they’ve honed many key soft skills on the job more so than in a traditional classroom. In the same Pew Research Center survey, nearly half (46%) of people polled said that they learned critical thinking skills in their job; only 19% of people said they acquired these skills via formal education and 18% said they did so through life experience.
Tap into the non-traditional education opportunity:
Invest in training for workers for continuous acquisition of new skills; offer courses or certifications.
When recruiting, recognize “new school” talent, like graduates from Shillington Education.
Consider the retention potential. People that are hired chiefly based on their educational pedigree may find their work less enjoyable or less fulfilling than those who bring a strong track record of on-the-job or personal experience and satisfaction with a certain skill or task. Filtering and hiring talent based on experiential pursuits might just result in happier employees and reduced turnover.
Forward-looking agencies and professional services firms are already wading into these relatively untapped talent pools, with noted successes. One clear benefit we hear is that these new talent sources are providing needed diversity.The Diversity Bonus and Market Edge.
“Consulting is also one of those niche professions where the value of diverse backgrounds is immediately valuable in creative problem solving and avoiding confirmation bias,” Tallents said. “If you are following very rigid models where no interpretation or insight is required, then you can have just one type of person, but, in what we do, you need to ask different questions to get different answers.”
Tapping into these more untraditional pools also presents an opportunity for creative agencies to “lead by example” for prospective clients. This may be particularly valuable for agencies that focus on change management or innovation strategy. For example, are you educating your client on how today’s top talent are seeking more remote opportunities? Then present your own company as a case study. “For me, it’s how we build a business that is an example to our clients,” Lewis said.
As businesses and leaders turn to these new talent pools, there are also significant opportunities for related service providers and resources, like job search sites geared toward working parents and remote talent, and innovative educational programs. One company we spoke with has been honing a Portfolio Course program for 20 years and is keenly positioned to leverage and support this changing talent landscape. For more, please see an interview with Shillington Education here.