We’ve written a lot lately about how design thinking can help in the recruiting process – and for good reason. Inability to find good talent is getting in the way of business success.
Four out of five business leaders say that they think their company can lead disruption in their industries, according to a recent report from Mercer. But they can’t do it if they can’t find the right people – and that’s one of their biggest barriers. More than half of the companies surveyed said “excessive time to fill open positions” was their top human capital risk. When they can’t find talent many companies miss opportunities to innovate. However for other companies this challenge is driving innovation.
The war for talent is a complex, human-centered problem that makes it an ideal challenge to tackle with design thinking. When companies get into the heads of desired talent, talk to extreme candidates (those who might not fall in the typical short list of applicants) and brainstorm crazy solutions to closing their talent gap, they can find surprising new approaches to attracting or creating new talent.
Here are a few of our favorite innovative solutions that companies (and one city) are using to solve their talent woes.
Wichita Promise gets candidates to MOVE: Wichita, Kansas is home to multiple major aircraft companies and suppliers, including Textron Aviation, and Airbus Americas Engineering. But the Midwestern town isn’t a destination for highly skilled talent, and it was struggling to provide the people that these companies needed to grow. In response, a local non-profit secured $500,000 to launch Wichita Promise MOVE, a program that covers all relocation, living, food and tuition costs for promising young talent to come to Wichita, get trained in one of two certification programs at Wichita State University Tech, then land jobs at one of these leading industry firms. The city has won nationwide attention for the program, and within the first few months it already had more than 1,000 inquiries from candidates in every state in the nation.
Cognizant builds its own talent pipeline: Cognizant, the global technology services company, nearly tripled in size in the past decade to more than 250,000 employees. Its rapid growth has created a steady demand for talent that is tough to meet. To close the gap, in 2016 the company partnered with Per Scholas, a non-profit IT training program in New York City to provide free technology training to underserved local communities, including women and disconnected youth. Cognizant worked with the Per Scholas to plan the curriculum for four fast-paced (three month) certification programs in cyber security, IT support, systems administrator, and web development; and covered the cost of a 15,000 square foot training center in the Bronx. Along with learning tech skills, students receive mentoring, and training on communication, interviewing and other soft skills that will ensure they are workplace-ready. More than 600 candidates completed the program in its first two years, creating a valuable new pipeline of talent for Cognizant; and the company is now expanding the program to a new center in Texas.
Companies repay employee college debt. One of the biggest burdens new grads bring to the workplace is college debt. More than 44 million Americans now collectively owe $1.5 trillion in student loan debt, and the number keeps growing. This debt impacts their career decisions, and leads to stress and anxiety that can impact their productivity. To combat this stress several innovative companies, including Fidelity, Aetna, PWC, and Abbott, have added college debt repayment to their benefits programs. These programs cover part of employees’ loan debt on a monthly or annual basis, or offset debt repayments through additional contributions to their 401K. Fidelity, which was one of the first to offer the option in 2016, reported that more than 25 percent of employees signed up for the benefits in the first three years, proving this is an attractive option that could help companies appeal to young, debt-burdened new grads.
Starbucks pays for college. Forget college debt. In 2014, Starbucks launched its College Achievement Program, which covers 100 percent of the cost of tuition for employees to get a bachelor’s degree through Arizona State University’s online program. At the time of launch, 70 percent of the coffee chain’s employees had no college degree, and CEO Howard Schultz thought it would help foster a sense of community and employee engagement.
He was right. More than 8,600 employees had participated in the program by the end of 2018. While they aren’t obligated to stay with Starbucks after they graduate, the company reports higher retention among these employees, and that they are four times more likely to be promoted. They’ve also found that 60 percent of all new hires express an interest in the program.
You may not be able to cover college tuition, or build a state-of-the art training center to fill your own talent gap. However, these examples prove that when companies let go of assumptions about what current and future employees need, and use a human-centered approach to solutioning, they can find exciting new ideas to bring into the fold.