As employers continue to grapple with the talent shortage, some manufacturers are having success hiring more non-traditional candidates and using innovative and inclusive methods in their recruitment. Non-traditional candidates are people with relevant skills who may not meet traditional job requirements. Education and experience are often overlooked and maybe even excluded when sorting through resumes or applications. This could include the neurodivergent community, justice-impacted or returning citizens, people with disabilities, youth between 18-24 who didn’t go to college, limited English speakers, and others.
So how do you become more inclusive in hiring?
- Create a DE&I-Centered Hiring Framework
I spoke with Karen DeGrasse, a purpose-driven professional with over 15 years of experience in workforce development. Her focus has been on recruitment initiatives and employment training in untapped communities, with people of color, the homeless, neurodivergent, and incarcerated and justice-impacted citizens. She believes there are plenty of people looking for work. “Employers should consider updating their mindset regarding their recruitment, onboarding, and retention strategies because the current system creates employment barriers. Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS) are creating barriers as well as useful as they are. The ATS looks for keywords in the resume to identify the most suitable candidate. Applicants must update their resume with keywords to be considered a match. If their resume were created by a friend or Social Worker, more than likely, they would not have the keywords for each job they apply for. Some applicants are using resume templates found online, yet many templates are not compatible with Applicant Tracking Systems. Furthermore, not all people have computers and are using their phones to create their resume having to toggle back and forth from app to app on a small display.” Karen explained.
Over 1.1 million Illinois households don’t have computers, according to the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity estimates. It presents a barrier when applying for jobs and the opportunity to further their skills. People are capable, have experience, and are resilient; however, their socio-economic status may also add barriers.
Karen coaches applicants on how to overcome these obstacles and helps them understand what employers are looking for from candidates in job postings and on the job. Applicants are encouraged to push past self-doubt and practice how to communicate their values verbally and in writing.
Karen shared, “people want to feel valued and appreciated; their self-esteem would benefit from knowing how their task, however small, contributes to the company's success, the big picture.”
Karen is the Director of Workforce Development and co-founder of Next Edge Corporate Partners LLC, an organization that provides employer-centered employment skills training. Next Edge Corp trains from the employer's point of view and offers employers the opportunity to participate in non-traditional recruitment initiatives. The Next Edge Corp team gives participants the tools to apply, compete and retain positions in their desired industry and the knowledge and solutions to overcome obstacles they may face.
Karen recommends that HR professionals and recruiters have a “mind shift" when it comes to resumes.” She adds, “A person may have a great deal of experience, even leadership potential; however, it’s not communicated in their resume, so don’t expect that there will always be a polished resume.” Karen also noted that “people in positions to hire may want to consider themselves to be a “Coach” when it comes to asking questions - and they should ask probing ones that elicit genuine answers. If the candidate is not a perfect fit, share how your potential job offer is an opportunity to help them get closer to what they desire to do.”
Here is what one employer had to say: “As an owner and operator of Momentum Coffee and Coworking, I have experienced challenges hiring and retaining staff. The program offered by Next Edge Corp really worked for us! I hired a graduate of the program who is nearing 1 year of employment. She has a great work ethic, wonderful attitude and is a positive addition to the team. I'm considering having all of my new hires attend the employment training with Next Edge Corp.” – Nikki Bravo Executive Director, Ignite Technology & Innovation, Inc.
Next Edge Corporate Partners also offers solutions for onboarding and retention. Programs can be customized to what the employer needs. The core training curriculum can be completed in one week, with continuing education offered in the first 90 days and they offer long term mentoring to enforce concepts and maintain a positive peer group.