Today’s Hiring Game: How Degrees, Benefits, Diversity Come Into Play

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With businesses scrambling to fill positions in an era of worker shortages, some hiring managers are left to ponder resumes from job candidates whose skills or education don’t quite match the requirements advertised.

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The Hiring Game

Degrees and expertise aren’t everything, though, and other factors can be just as important in finding the right person, says Bill Lyons, the ForbesBooks author of We Are HR: The Business Owner’s Definitive Guide to Professional Employer Organizations.

“We encourage our clients to prioritize attitude and cultural fit above all else,” says Lyons, who also is the CEO of Lyons HR, one of the largest privately held Professional Employer Organizations in the country.

“That’s because in our experience, skills can be taught, but attitude is something that resides in a candidate’s psychological makeup and is much harder to affect through training.”

No College Degree Required?

The demographics of the workforce, along with the changing attitudes of workers as the nation tries to emerge from the pandemic, are creating subtle and not-so-subtle changes in employee recruitment.

One example is the debate over how critical a college degree is in the quest to match employers and employees.

Statistics show college graduates still earn more than non-graduates over the course of their careers, but there has been a priority shift, Lyons says.

“Many large employers, such as Google, Netflix, IBM and Apple, are creating their own company-specific certification programs that do not require a degree,” he says. “The screening criteria is structured to identify a candidate’s aptitude and potential for success within their own program and culture.”

Lyons notes, though, that those particular companies are in some ways outliers because of their high-profile status.

“They can essentially have their pick of candidates because so many people want to work for them,” he says. “They have the size, profitability, and most importantly, the public reputation as innovators that allows them to customize a training curriculum that is more relevant to their particular needs.”

Other companies that rely heavily on fast-changing technology also are in a better position to implement this recruiting and training strategy, Lyons says. The rationale is that traditional computer technology degrees become obsolete within two to three years, so keeping employees continuously updated on current technology is the better way to go.

Still, tech companies aren’t the only ones that consider other factors as just as important as education.

“The vast majority of other businesses that no longer require a college degree are looking for people with critical-thinking skills who are able to problem solve,” Lyons says. “There are screening techniques that test for this. They want people who possess the right attitude and who are trainable.”

A Yearning For Flexible Schedules

Employee benefits also continue to play a significant role in recruiting, but that too is evolving.

Historically, access to affordable health insurance ruled as the top employee benefit, Lyons says, but these days paid time off and flexible work schedules are emerging as having more importance to workers.

That’s likely related to changing demographics, he says, as Millennials make up 35% of the workforce followed by Gen X at 33%.

”The people in these demographics have busy lifestyles and place a higher value on their personal time than did the baby boomer or traditionalist generations,” Lyons says.

“They also rank employee assistance programs, financial wellness, and tuition assistance as highly valuable.”

An Emphasis On Diversity

Most job seekers also say that a workplace’s commitment to diversity is an important factor for them, according to a ZipRecruiter survey. That’s especially true with Millennials and Gen X.

When it comes to diversity, company policies must be crafted in a way that is both legally compliant yet inclusive and nondiscriminatory, Lyons says.

“But it always comes back to company culture,” he says. “What can HR do to cultivate a culture that will celebrate differences?”

While HR policies can’t favor one group over the other, he says, they can encourage awareness and respect, an appreciation for differences, and a willingness to collaborate with people with whom you may have little in common.

“This is all driven by the right recruiting strategies that result in hiring the right people,” Lyons says. “Then it is enhanced through initiatives that foster a healthy culture.”

About the Author

Bill Lyons, the ForbesBooks author of We Are HR: The Business Owner’s Definitive Guide to Professional Employer Organizations, is the CEO of Lyons HR, one of the largest privately held Professional Employer Organizations in the country. Lyons has more than three decades of experience and has helped hundreds of businesses drive performance, control HR and labor costs, increase profitability, and mitigate employment liabilities. Before starting Lyons HR Prior in 1995, he held positions in accounting and finance for both private and publicly held companies.