Finding Skilled Staff, How Tech Can Help
This is the second part in a series of posts looking at the impact of COVID on the Great Resignation, how this is deepening the digital divide of the disenfranchised workforce, and how technology can help both the workers and the hirers.
In this part I speak with a company that is using technology to help find skilled workers who might otherwise find themselves excluded from the workforce.
In Part II:
Tech to Find Appropriately Skilled Staff
As I'm reading the statistics mentioned in the previous post, it sparks thoughts of conversations during 2020 and 2021, about the opportunity for the shift to distributed workforce and to “WFH” to help build more inclusive, diversified workforces. The premise of this being that any employer only gets to review the applications of those people who decide to send in their application. There are many other people who might have seen the opportunity, but have decided, for one of many reasons, not to send in an application.
Putting everything together that I covered in Part 1, we have a confluence of a complicated set of conditions ...
- employers who are keen to attract diversified workforce,
- an increasingly large pool of potential employees, along with,
- employers compromising on their preferences for work experience,
- all in the name of finding staff who can actually do the job.
With that, technologies that aim to help solve the skill shortage, focusing on demonstrable skill rather than polished CVs should be quite in demand right now...?
Well, let's look at a company doing just this, Skillset...
Helping the Hidden Workforce Find Work
Skillset provide a novel recruitment platform that focuses on helping remove barriers for the hidden workforce to find work - and for employers to find staff with the right skills for the job.
What is the hidden workforce?
The hidden workforce encompasses a broad section of our societies, and represents those that are either unable to navigate CV-based application processes, or are actively or inadvertently discriminated against during the initial interview stages - even if they might poses the skills to get the job done.
Skillset define this as the following group demographics:
27 Million Hidden Workers
Across the demographics mentioned above, the hidden workforce number accounts for people who are out of the workforce, but would consider returning for the right opportunity, those who are unemployed and looking for work, and those who are under employed (e.g. part time, with more workable hours).
But the challenge with matching these workers to jobs is that these people are being (un)intentionally filtered out by the existing, digital and CV-focused application process. The CV process is not only subjective, but focuses on experience rather than the ability to do the job, and results in significant disadvantages for mid-career shifts, chronically underemployed and diverse populations.
Reducing bias, focusing on capability
Skillset are taking an approach that reduces hiring biases, using an innovative technology approach which enables applicants to take the role for a test-run from the comfort of their own environment.
Using carefully constructed computer simulations of the actual role, applicants are invited to try out the role and demonstrate their ability to perform the required job functions as well as their ability to overcome some of the challenges they might experience on a daily basis.
Simulating Job Roles
The platform provides simulations for several in-demand roles. These currently include call centre, customer service, sales representative, warehouse associate and bank teller - but more are being created based on customer demand.
Applicants are able to take part in simulated tasks that represent the real job. Each of these is customised to provide as close an experience as possible, including having to solve problems and deal with difficult situations.
In addition to the text and graphical interface, the platform uses the cameras and microphones to monitor the reaction and behaviour of the participant.
Dealing with ChallengesA big part of being able to do the job, is knowing how to cope when things don't go according to plan. The simulations challenge participants with unexpected events, and analyse how well they respond.
As described in the statistics in Part 1, there are many visual and vocal queues that trigger conscious/unconscious bias when interviewing a potential candidate.
While Skillset's platform implements machine vision and voice capture as part of the assessment process, to avoid bias from the recruiter, these recordings are not shared.
Instead, Skillset deploys AI techniques to identify key behaviours, traits or emotions during the session, such as confusion, attentiveness, discomfort, anxiety and others. Any observations detected by the algorithms will be added to the final report that is sent to the recruiter, but the audio and video will remain protected.
A two way street
As I heard recently, employment is a two-way street, and interestingly, Skillset's technology addresses this too.
The primary focus is to help employers tap into the hidden workforce, and find workers who can do the job based on their ability to conduct the primary functions of the role.
However, beyond this, it also enables the applicant to test out the role, and to decide whether this is actually a job they want to do before continuing the application journey. It is everyone's best interests for applicants to make this decision sooner rather than later, and avoid the cost and time associated with a hire that doesn't work out after a few weeks.
Workflows and SystemsEach simulation is created to give the closest possible experience to the real job function. In this example, participants are tested on how well they can help solve customer queries, when given the tools they need to answer the customer's questions.
For most of my career, I've heard directly from large international companies who struggle to keep up with finding capable employees to fill customer care, sales and call centre roles.
Over the last couple of years, this conversation has taken on a new dynamic, as large operational centres were distributed to at-home variants. Behind the challenge, there was a sense of excitement and optimism, that the new "WFH" or hybrid models would enable teams to become more diverse, and drive inclusion and equality across the business.
This now seems to have been trounced by the trouble of retaining staff, or finding candidates to fill vacant roles.
With that, I think solutions like Skillset's could add value to many types of businesses (and I'll be reaching out to some of you directly, to see what you think). In the meantime, if this sounds useful for your business, head over to Skillset's website to find out more.
On the flip side, from a disenfranchised, hidden worker's point of view, I think there is tremendous upside here too - helping find and apply for work that they might otherwise be excluded, or self-exclude themselves from.
There is one hurdle, though, and that is related to my point about the digital divide - if the hidden workforce don't have access to, or don't have the skills required to use the simulation, they are still going to be excluded.
I asked Skillset about this point, "People need to have basic computer skills for almost any job today - cashiers now using iPads or apps to take payments. We are aware that some people don't have their own computer, and we're working on solutions for this. One approach we are taking is to provide some of the simulations through a mobile app. We are also working with non profit agencies to enable those people to have access to a computer to complete the simulation."
Get in touch with Skillset
If you would like to know more, simply head over to Skillset's website or use the form below to send them a message.
Tell me what you think
What do you think? Share your thoughts with me, and leave a comment below.