Skills-based hiring can help fill jobs quickly, retain talent, diversify an organization’s talent pipeline and provide a greater awareness of skill attainment and critical upskilling needs.

Lake County manufacturer
Worker in a Lake County manufacturing facility.

Co-authored by Phoebe Fleming, Orlando Economic Partnership Director of Research

Only one week in to the COVID-19 pandemic, AdventHealth’s talent acquisition team combed through its internal job postings and highlighted opportunities in virtual job fairs that would be a smooth skills transition for an individual with hospitality and leisure skill sets.

This new strategy is serving employers well as they take advantage of increasing talent availability created by layoffs and job losses in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As workers in hard-hit industries such as leisure and hospitality lose their jobs, understanding the talents these individuals possess and the skills required of them in a new role benefit both the employer and employee.

Skills-based hiring is a new strategy more and more companies are using. It requires a mindset shift – one that encourages an employer to evaluate an individual’s skills and abilities, instead of background, and rethink job description requirements. If implemented, skills-based hiring will help fill jobs quickly, retain talent, diversify an organization’s talent pipeline and help provide a greater awareness of skill attainment and critical upskilling needs.

Understanding new type of workforce data

The Orlando Economic Partnership uses cutting-edge research tools such as EMSI and Burning Glass’s Labor Insight to prompt our stakeholders to ask the right questions. As labor market analysis becomes more and more granular, the Partnership has moved beyond only using the unemployment rate and job counts to understand our regional labor market. Job titles themselves mean very little without the implication of certain skills and abilities that come with them.

Previously, to understand a regional workforce, economic developers and hiring managers turned to industry-based data as a means of measuring talent availability. A common method is to analyze the distribution of workers employed in industries such as construction, manufacturing, professional services, etc.

“In Orlando, 20 percent of Orlando’s employment is based in the leisure and hospitality industry. But that percentage does not reveal what type of work is being done by those individuals.

Dr. Dale A. Brill, Orlando Economic Partnership senior vice president of research and The Foundation for Orlando’s Future

“The fact is, employees categorized in the leisure and hospitality include performers, software developers, managers, finance professionals, as well as ride attendants and housekeepers,” said Dr. Dale A. Brill, Partnership senior vice president of research and The Foundation for Orlando’s Future.

Industry data does little to reveal these nuances. In many ways, the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) and the basis of industry codes used in government data sources has become obsolete thanks to the permeance and prevalence of technology use throughout industries. Another example is the fintech company Robinhood. The business software developer is categorized in the same industry bucket as a traditional financial institution even though the work is fundamentally different.

The next option for understanding the makeup of a regional workforce is to turn to occupation data itself. Known as standard occupation codes (SOCs) and tracked by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this data makes it possible to estimate the actual number of software developers, construction managers and performers employed in any region, regardless of industry.

“While these job codes do their best to account for the type of work being performed, an individual’s job title is simply a signal for the specific skills and capabilities they possess,” Dr. Brill said.

“Job codes neither update based on differences in geographic talent competencies nor capture emerging or highly demanded skills.”

Dr. Dale A. Brill, Orlando Economic Partnership senior vice president of research and The Foundation for Orlando’s Future

New data being pioneered by companies such as EMSI and Burning Glass use online job postings and resumes to match SOCs to the actual skills people in these positions use to perform their work. Skills can be specialized, technology heavy, focused on a specific job function (communication for example) and grouped into skill clusters based on how frequently they appear together in job postings. Skills demanded of workers can even change by geography within the same job title, as illustrated in the report produced by the Strada Education Network in partnership with EMSI.

New tools and technology, such as EMSI’s Resume Optimizer, have advanced to a point where it is possible to break down past job experiences and specific degrees into a common skill language. An individual with experience in new-hire orientation would have skills in corporate training and onboarding. A past barista has skills in customer service, merchandising, point of sale systems, etc. And with unique career pathways and experiences, no single person has the same exact set of skills.

An Accelerated Need

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and at three percent unemployment, the pending threat of automation on Orlando’s workforce was looming. Orlando was identified as a region most susceptible to automation, with 62 percent of the workforce possibly needing to reskill as the future of work shifted. Today, that threat is accelerated. A coronavirus recession will likely speed up the process of automation as businesses invest in technology and social distancing practices.

The need to reskill, upskill and understand existing skill advantages is greater now than it was even a few months ago. Skills are the DNA of an employee and an ability to better understand emerging skill sets is essential to Orlando’s COVID-19 recovery. By creating new, higher wage career pathways in the region, a mindset shift for innovative hiring practices is critical for ensuring short-term recovery and long-term growth.

For more information on skills-based hiring practices, visit www.orlando.org/covid19.

Article co-written by:

Phoebe Fleming Headshot

Phoebe Fleming, Director of Research

Phoebe is the Director of Research at the Orlando Economic Partnership, focusing on labor market analysis, regional economic issues, and community development topics. She studied Economics and Criminology & Law at the University of Florida and received a Master of Management Studies from Duke University.