How to drive growth and high performance through bringing in entry-level talent through a workforce upskilling program
June 30, 2021 | By Deanna McBeath
With IT unemployment rates hovering between 2% and 3%, companies are continuing to look for unique ways to address the IT talent shortage. One solution is to build a sustainable pipeline of talent by introducing new entry-level skills into the makeup of your teams through a workforce upskilling program.
Some of the benefits of upskilling a new pipeline of talent include:
- Diversifying your team and investing in your community.
- Securing loyal talent aligned with your culture and specific business needs.
- Approaching staffing challenges in a cost-effective way.
- Freeing up your senior employees to focus on more complex and strategic initiatives while building leadership, coaching and mentoring skills.
- Improving retention by investing in your workforce’s career paths.
Five strategies to building a pipeline of entry-level talent
Adding entry-level talent to your team isn’t as easy as hiring someone with a computer science degree, placing them on a team and hoping they do well. To truly build a sustainable pipeline of entry-level talent, several factors come into play—like your business goals, hiring and recruiting strategy and on-the-job support. Whether you want to build and run an entry level workforce upskilling program internally or looking for workforce development support from an external partner, here are five ways to successfully build a pipeline of entry-level talent to fulfill the skill gaps in your organization.
1. Establish the reason for a new talent workforce upskilling program
It’s critical for leaders to understand the pains your organization is facing and how a workforce upskilling program focused on entry-level talent can help ease those challenges. Answering the following questions can help provide a clear understanding of the positive business outcomes your organization aims to achieve:
- Why do you want to bring entry-level talent to your organization and what will it help you solve? Are you trying to…
- Expand your workforce’s current skills?
- Find additional talent needed to work on initiatives and meet deadlines?
- Transition entry-level work from senior-level employees to junior-level employees?
- Focus on diverse hiring?
- Save costs?
- Change the contractor to full-time employee ratio?
- Retain talent for high-demand roles?
2. Understand your hiring strategy
By determining the number of people you plan to hire in the next year or two, you’ll set a clear plan on what the upskilling program needs to support. In addition, to maximize the effectiveness of a workforce upskilling program, it’s most impactful to build the program using a cohort model. A cohort size generally ranges from 8 to 35 individuals who are all being groomed for the same role. The idea of bringing on 20 people at one time to fulfill technical demands may sound great to leaders, but it may cause chaos in other areas. I recommend involving the parties who are responsible for recruiting, onboarding and supporting new talent to determine your hiring strategy and ensure you are prepared to give the best experience to your new talent.
3. Integrate recruiting, training and technical expertise into your program planning
Sync up with specialists from your recruiting, training, technical teams—and potentially diversity and inclusion experts—to collectively develop a program.
You’ll accelerate workforce performance if all teams can collectively:
- Understand the level of work and anticipated tasks your new entry-level talent needs to do on the job.
- Build your recruiting profile by determining the minimum skills required to be hired and part of the program—including nontechnical skills.
- Determine your diverse recruiting strategy and ensure it aligns with the recruiting profile. For example, if a four-year technical degree is the minimum requirement, your recruiting team may be limited on recruiting underserved individuals in the community.
- Decide how you are going to fairly assess your candidates, whether you are looking for technical aptitude or having baseline technical developing skills. Using a third-party technical assessment tool can ensure it’s fair and has been vetted to be legally defensible.
- Map out the training needed to get them from point A to point B (or point C). I recommend a mix of technical and business skills within a program to ensure you’re skilling up entry-level talent and molding them to be a good fit for your environment. This is also the time where you want to decide if company/department-specific tools or process training should be included and how much training they need before you immerse them on-the-job.
4. Support new hires while on the job
It’s not enough to just recruit great talent and train them on the immediate skills your business needs. Supporting them on the job is an essential piece of a new talent workforce upskilling program. You have invested a lot to get to this point, so make sure your new talent feels welcome and has a safe person or two helping them along the way who they can ask questions and share their struggles without judgment. For some entry-level talent, this may be their first corporate job, so providing them with a mentor to support technical skills, business skills and culture is necessary.
Another key component to supporting your new hires is by measuring and evaluating their performance. Communicate at the beginning what behaviors or milestones your team hopes your new hires will achieve at 30, 90 and 180 days. This not only sets a consistent baseline for managers and drives your new talent to meet the success criteria but will also help drive continued growth.
5. Consider developing a custom program with an external partner to get you from job-ready to full productivity
If you’re not ready to take all of this on internally, an experienced partner can help your organization unlock talent potential. Look for a partner who cares about your goals and outcomes and has proven success with bringing on new talent through workforce upskilling programs. With the right partner, you’ll be able to transform your organization and achieve all aspects of your hiring goals, such as recruiting diverse talent, training candidates on the skills necessary for high performance, providing on-the-job support through continuous learning and measuring your new talent’s success. Plus, a partner who allows a contract-t-hire model can help you determine a good fit before making a full-time hire investment.
About the Author
As a practice manager for Learning Solutions within TEKsystems Global Services, Deanna McBeath oversees a team that drives our workforce upskilling services within our clients’ organizations. These programs focus on building a future workforce with tomorrow’s skills and changing behavior needed to impact productivity.
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