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2022 State of Talent Panel: Hidden Workers and Innovative Practices Help Fill the Talent Pipeline; Flexibility Creates Balance During Return-to-Work

At the 2022 State of the Talent event, a panel of business leaders and education stakeholders took the stage to discuss current workforce challenges, how businesses are upskilling their current employees, innovation in times of the talent pipeline disruption, and facilitating return-to-work.

Moderated by Kelley Root, executive editor of Crain’s Detroit Business, the panel included:

  • Tim Dupree, President, Kelly® Professional and Industrial
  • Matt B. Elliott, Midwest Region Executive, Business Banking; President, Bank of America Michigan
  • Elisha Gilliam, Managing Director, Scalable Solutions, Year Up

“Hidden Workers” and Their Role in the Workforce

In Michigan, more than 1.5 million employees quit their jobs in 2021, forcing employers across economic sectors to scramble for talent. This “Great Resignation” has steered most of the conversation regarding the workforce over the past couple of years, with much of the conversation being about the lack of talent available. What hasn’t been discussed very often is the pool of workers who are looking for meaningful work, otherwise called “hidden workers,” according to a Harvard research report.

Hidden workers include individuals with criminal convictions, people on the autistic spectrum, veterans without a four-year degree, and opportunity youth, which are youth that live in high-risk situations.

According to Dupree, all of these individuals are “opportunities to drive equity back into the workforce.”

One way to invite hidden workers into the talent pipeline is to get rid of antiquated policies. Dupree shared that when Kelly worked with Toyota in Kentucky and eliminated several outdated policies, they improved the talent pipeline by 20%, reduced turnover by 70%, and improved talent diversity by 8%.

According to Elliott, other ways to get hidden workers – and other pools of talent – back into the workforce during the Great Resignation are to offer competitive wages and benefits, prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion, and focus on wellness, both physical and emotional.

“We’re doubling down on the value of our human capital. This is a critical issue for us as we get back into what our normal is going to be,” Elliott said.

Innovative Practices to Fill the Talent Pipeline

In times of talent pipeline disruption, it’s important for employers to get creative regarding hiring and bringing in people for roles they possibly wouldn’t have considered before.

Elliott spoke about integrating returning citizens into the talent pipeline as an innovative practice that organizations can use to find more talent, especially because Michigan has a very high incarceration rate.

“You automatically take people off the economic playing field if that’s one of the boxes that you’re going to be asked to check. There are a lot of people who really want to work hard, and if you’re allowed to do that, you’re going to find a lot of loyalty, a lot less turnover, and people who are really motivated,” Elliott said.

Removing the blanket degree requirement is another practice that can bring more people into the talent pipeline. Dupree used Kelly as an example, as it adjusted its screening policy so not all positions require a four-year degree.

“We’ve actually changed that because we believe that experience counts just as much, if not greater than, some of the education,” Dupree said.

Gilliam believes this is a great change that helps get more people into the pipeline. Blanket degree requirements can prevent talent who can otherwise do the job from getting a chance. She suggests that employers really assess what roles they have that do not need a degree.

“How do you open the door, get people in the door, and then help them attain their education so that they can move on that pathway that’s been described?” Gilliam said. “Everybody is not going to take the traditional path. Everyone is not going to start at the four-year college, but there should be opportunities to still obtain that four-year degree, in combination with being able to service your family today and earn a livable wage today.”

Partnering with job training organizations like Year Up is another innovative tactic that can bring more qualified workers into an organization. Year Up is a national program that trains and develops young adults – particularly underserved ones – and connects them with organizations like Bank of America to meet their specific talent needs and roles.

At Bank of America, this partnership has proven very fruitful, with Year Up placing more than 400 trained young adults into entry-level jobs annually – 70% of which turn into full-time roles.

“What’s made our program work primarily for this population that needs so much is not just about the training. It’s really about how do we professionalize those young adults? How do we wrap them into barrier reductions, so from housing to transportation – anything that’s going to get in their way, impacting their ability to learn and get placed into jobs,” Gilliam said.

 Returning to Work? Maintaining Flexible Arrangements is Crucial

With many employees opposing return-to-office plans, retaining a flex policy is important. This creates a balance between employee pushback against coming back into the office and the need to be in the office for clients who seek in-person availability.

“While I appreciate on one hand the need for flexibility, on the other hand, our clients and talent expect us to be available in-person,” Dupree said. “What we have done is give some level of flex arrangement to our staff. Set the expectation, help them understand what our customers think and expect of us, and then allow some level of autonomy within our management ranks to determine what that looks like for every staff member.”

Elliott also said being “clear about your ‘why’” is an important step to successfully navigating your staff back to the office.

“For a lot of people, they have to square the circle of ‘why would I want to spend 55 minutes commuting when it’s five minutes to community?’ The answer is, there’s value in spending those 55 minutes,” said Elliott. “It’s incumbent on the employer to demonstrate that value.”

Watch a recording of the 2022 State of Talent here.


Related:

2022 State of Education Report

2022 State of Education: COVID-19 Threatens Already Leaky Talent Pipeline, Jeopardizes Educational Attainment Goals and Regional Economy

2022 State of Talent: Business Needs ‘To Roll Up Sleeves’ as Region Works Toward Attainment Goals