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Whose job is it to help the bad fits?

Our board member David Creelman contributed the following guest post.   Over the last 15 years or so, the technology tools available to help organizations recruit and select talent have become increasingly sophisticated and pervasive, making it much easier for employers to avoid making bad hires. In the following post, David raises the troublesome question, who’s responsible to help the bad fits?

Selection processes for high volume jobs are continually improving. Employers hire fewer and fewer bad fits. It is nice to talk about people being ‘bad fits’ instead of ‘unemployable’ but let’s be honest, if someone is a bad fit for an entry level hourly job then they may not have the basic capabilities to be a favoured employee anywhere.

So what happens to people who are unable to find a job because selection systems are so accurate? In a sense, effective selection has removed some of the need to mentor and train the bad fits because it’s possible to avoid hiring them in the first place. In the old days one can imagine a poor employee knocking around from job to job, but eventually—thanks to a few helpful managers and an opportunity to get some experience and grow up—they turn into an acceptably productive citizen.

Maybe organizations have a social responsibility to turn their considerable expertise at identifying what makes for good employees around to identifying opportunities to convert the bad fits  into employable candidates.  Organizations using these screening tools have defined the measurable attributes that successful candidates need to have. Rather than just discarding the data about the failing candidates, there is an opportunity to put to use those insights about what causes people to be screened out.

Let’s imagine that a high volume employer discovers from their screening data that a lack of basic numeracy is the most common thing that makes people virtually unemployable. That is good information for school systems and also to direct workforce readiness efforts aimed at young, low income people. The problem is unlikely to be as simple as that. It probably has to do with more fundamental life skills like coming to work on time and not getting into fights with co-workers. That kind of thing is harder to fix.  Still, precisely identifying the missing skills is the first step to fixing them, and providing practicable feedback to educational systems, workforce readiness service providers and policy makers could drive much higher returns on their collective efforts to help young people reach the first step on the ladder.

I’d urge organizations to go a step further and encourage their front line managers and training professionals to volunteer their skills to non-profit organizations devoted to helping people make themselves more employable. Maybe we can harness all the data selection systems generate, not just to exclude the poor fits, but to help fix the fit.

What do you think ?  What’s the role of business in helping people make it to the first rung of the ladder?

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  1. Danny Noonan: I planned to go to law school after I graduated, but it looks like my folks won’t have enough money to put me through college.

    Judge Smails: Well, the world needs ditch diggers, too.

    I’m not a socialist, in fact; I’m not really sure what I am but… I believe individuals should take more ownership of their careers. In fact, if they aren’t managing their careers, then no one is. I’d also like to highlight the role of family and/or parenting in all this. If you suck, then turns out, people around you have allowed you to suck. In short, I don’t think it is a corporate responsibility to make “you” better… pre-hire or post-hire. Getting better should be a personal responsibility.

    How about dem apples?

    August 3, 2012
  2. Joyce Maroney #

    William T – You messaged me that you disagree. What’s your take?

    August 4, 2012
  3. Training is one of those things that has gotten cut, slashed and generally forgotten during the Great Recession and not-so-great recovery. A lot of training budgets were cut, and the money for such programs went away a lot more quickly than it has returned.

    Plus, I just don’t think there is much of a training mindset anymore. Yes, some companies are investing in training (to their credit), but a lot of organizations simply feel that they don’t need to given the state of today’s job market.

    I’m with Tincup that people need to take more ownership of their careers and be doing what they need to do to keep their skills up-to-date. But I also think that companies need to invest in training, too, because it can pay them big dividends over time. When both sides are focused, we get a more vibrant and employable workforce.

    Maybe training and development is one of those areas that won’t really come back until we hit a hiring crisis and there aren’t enough skilled workers readily available. I hope that’s not the case, but I fear it is — another reminder of the terrible economic fix we’re in and seem to be struggling to get out of …

    August 7, 2012
  4. Mackenzie #

    I have the impression there is a skilled worker shortage in the tech industry, judging by how constantly programmers are pestered by headhunters wanting to poach them. I haven’t seen that translate into more corporations training on the job though–just a bigger push for H1B visas.

    August 13, 2012

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