A move towards skills-based hiring opens the door for a more diverse workforce, while keeping the door open for those pursuing traditional degrees.

Talent Gap - Hiring Practices - Degree Requirements - Udacity

You may have seen an article recently, entitled “Google, Apple And 13 Other Companies That No Longer Require Employees To Have A College Degree.” If you didn’t see that particular one, you’ve probably seen something similar. Publications from Glassdoor and Monster, to USA Today, Fast Company, and The Wall Street Journal, have recently covered similar ground.

Your reaction to these posts probably depends on your own educational background, and your own career goals going forward. If you’re worried about not having a college degree, this all looks like good news—you’ve got a chance to succeed based on your skills, not your pedigree. On the other hand, if you do have a degree, this may look problematic—a devalued credential, and more competition.

The truth is, this is good news for everyone.

There are three primary reasons for why a move towards skills-based hiring—and away from traditional degree requirements—is a net positive for all:

Skills
A move towards a skills-based hiring approach helps ensure that genuinely qualified candidates get hired. This is important, because it opens the door for the non-degreed, without closing it on college graduates. A recent VentureBeat article entitled “Indeed Aims To Democratize Hiring With Skills-based Job Screening” highlights the significance of this transformation:

“Job hunting website Indeed has launched Indeed Assessments, a platform that helps employers automate the screening process so they can make faster, more informed candidate evaluations. The Austin, Texas-based company said this is a big step in democratizing hiring. Indeed Assessments, born from Indeed’s acquisition of Interviewed in 2017, allows employers to screen candidates for skills specifically related to their open jobs rather than relying on just a resume, which helps reduce bias in the hiring process.”

Diversity
Wider talent pipelines foster greater diversity in the workplace. According to McKinsey’s recent “Delivering through Diversity” report (as reported in TechCrunch), “Companies in the top quartile for ethnic diversity at the executive level are 33 percent more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the bottom quartile.” The report goes on to observe the following: “That this relationship continues to be strong suggests that inclusion of highly diverse individuals—and the myriad ways in which diversity exists beyond gender (e.g., LGBTQ+, age/generation, international experience)—can be a key differentiator among companies.”

Cost
Getting the right people in the right jobs keeps hiring and employment costs down. A recent Forbes article on this subject highlights that college graduates who are not qualified for given roles, “cost companies more money to employ, tend to be less engaged in their jobs, have a higher turnover rate, and reach productivity levels only on par with high school graduates doing the same job.” This is problematic for all, as the article notes: “This combination of underachievement and misalignment hurts both US competitiveness and working-class Americans seeking a career path toward a decent standard of living.”

That final observation is perhaps the most critical one, especially when we flip it to the positive. In an economy where the right people are getting hired for the right jobs—and performing well accordingly—businesses thrive, and that means more opportunity for everyone.

The importance of lifelong learning

It’s important to also understand that the move away from degree requirements is happening simultaneous to a collective recognition of the importance of lifelong learning. Long-term career success in our modern economy necessitates an ongoing commitment to updating one’s skills, and given the rapid advance of technology, this process must and will take place outside of the traditional college context. So while a college degree can certainly be an important component of one’s long-term career chronology, it will—almost by definition—sit at the beginning of that timeline. Further developments will come via workplace training initiatives and self-motivated independent learning.

The end of the tech/non-tech binary

There was a time when all these changes were confined primarily to what we once thought of as the world of “tech.” But today, lines between tech and non-tech are blurred to the point of barely existing at all. As reported by GeekWire, Glassdoor recently found that 43 percent of open roles at “tech companies” are for “non-tech” roles. And Monster reports that ostensibly “non-tech” fields like healthcare are hiring more tech talent than virtually any other sector.

Skills and roles

Here on our Udacity blog, we recently wrote about two ways to establish and pursue meaningful goals for career advancement—focus on roles, or skills. Read in the context of the conversation we’re having here, it might be tempting to assume that a focus on skills is the more contemporary approach, but in actuality, both continue to be viable career paths forward, and this is ultimately the most important takeaway from everything discussed here, because as stated previously, a move away from requiring employees to college degrees opens one important door without closing another.

The talent gap is real

In an article recently published on Mashable—part of a series entitled “Voices of Women in Tech”—Chatelle Lynch wrote the following:

“As a chief human resources officer in the tech industry, I know firsthand that the talent gap is real. In the cybersecurity segment alone, experts predict some 2 million roles will go unfilled by 2019. And in an ultra-competitive, fast-moving industry—where finding and securing top talent can feel akin to spotting a snow leopard in New York City—addressing diversity in the recruiting mix can be a real challenge for many hiring managers.

But by putting diversity efforts in the back seat, companies deprive themselves of the rich creativity and ingenuity that fuels technology innovation. Building a diverse and inclusive team isn’t just the right thing to do — it’s a competitive weapon that simply can’t be ignored.

The talent gap IS real, but there is also REAL opportunity out there. With a move away from degree requirements, and a move towards skills-based hiring, opportunity is increasing for everyone, and that’s a good thing for all.