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OneTen Releases Research Revealing How Hiring Managers Perceive Skills-First Hiring

The research finds that despite understanding the benefits of skills-first hiring, hiring managers are not extensively deploying the practice

OneTen, a coalition of leading executives and companies committed to facilitating the hiring, promotion and advancement of one million Black individuals and others without four-year degrees into family-sustaining jobs today released “Hire Skills for Higher Returns: Embracing a Skills-First Mindset”–a summary of research insights detailing how U.S.-based human capital management professionals perceive skills-first hiring.

The insights are the result of research conducted in partnership with Bully Pulpit Interactive (BPI) and show that in today’s competitive hiring environment, hiring managers are seeing the increased benefits of skills-first hiring–an approach that elevates relevant skills and competencies versus just using the requirement of a traditional college degree as a proxy for skills. For example, the research found that 91% of respondents report that skills-first hiring practices result in hiring more qualified candidates. However, while many hiring managers report having adopted skills-first hiring in some capacity, a significant number end up dismissing candidates with acquired skills because they lack the four-year degree credential.

“The results of this research clearly demonstrate that leaders responsible for hiring talent recognize the many advantages of skills-first hiring practices,” says Debbie Dyson, CEO of OneTen. “It is evident that there are conscious barriers preventing hiring managers from standing behind this approach. To truly appreciate skills-first hiring practices, hiring managers must first adopt a skills-first mindset. That means moving past potential biases that skilled candidates do not measure up to those with college degrees. It’s our hope that this report can help inspire companies seeking to take their businesses to a new level.”

To encourage hiring managers to expand skills-first hiring practices, the report urges leaders and organizations to highlight retention and the ability to attract more qualified candidates as benefits of a skills-first approach. The report also suggests that companies explore assessment tools and hiring manager trainings to alleviate misconceptions about non-degreed candidates lacking soft-skills or misrepresenting work histories.

“As companies navigate the challenges of talent acquisition, this research can help human resource professionals identify and overcome barriers to putting skills-first hiring approaches into practice,” says Ginni Rometty, co-founder and co-chair of OneTen, and former chairman and CEO of IBM. “Equally important, skills-first is not just an effective hiring approach–given its impact on retention, and promotion–it’s a broader talent strategy that can be more effective for all employees.”

“In today’s complex labor market, there is no doubt that companies need to come up with new strategies to bridge the gap between available capable talent and open job positions,” said Ken Frazier, co-founder and co-chair of OneTen, and former chairman and CEO of Merck. “Skills-first hiring practices enable companies to access qualified untapped talent pools, which is good for business and for creating greater economic participation.”

Key Findings:

  • According to hiring managers, the most convincing argument for adopting or expanding a skills-first approach is improved retention.
  • Skills-first hirers are twice as likely to say they have an easier time finding qualified candidates:
    • While 77% of hiring managers surveyed report difficulty sourcing qualified candidates, hiring managers practicing skills-first hiring found it 2x as easy to identify qualified candidates than those who do not.
  • Hiring managers reported accessing a stronger pool of candidates and more efficient hiring when using skills-first hiring:
    • 91% report seeing skills-first result in hiring more qualified candidates
    • 82% report seeing skills-first result in finding more motivated candidates
    • 79% have seen skills-first reduce the number of mis-hires, saving time and resources.
  • There is a gap between those who see the benefit of dropping degree requirements for relevant roles, and those hiring managers and companies actively deploying the practice:
    • 56% of hiring managers surveyed said that removing four-year degree requirements would have a positive impact on their company’s hiring practices, while only 31% of hiring managers report actively doing so.
    • 68% of hiring managers said that explicit encouragement of non-degree applicants to apply would have a positive impact, while only 36% report doing so.

The survey of 500 U.S.-based hiring managers was conducted online from June 21-July 2, 2023. Hiring managers were defined as those who work at companies of 500+ people and have some say or the final say in hiring decisions but are not part of HR departments. The margin of error on a truly random sample is +/- 4.4 percentage points; it is higher among subgroups.