How Hiring Based on Competencies Helps Diversify and Retain Talent

November 18, 2021

By Alexa Scudillo 

Ginny Clark, former director of executive recruiting at Google, holistic leadership strategist, and keynote speaker at this year’s ESG summit, spoke about the powerful topics of talent recruitment, retention, and organizational culture. It’s no secret that there is a war for talent. Ginny points out that this talent war is a strategic business challenge and a driver of corporate performance.

Our world has been changed completely, and organizations are being forced to adapt to these changes. Shockingly, Ginny believes that the upward trend of employee turnover is a good thing. The pandemic has called into question how we work and has contributed to what is now referred to as The Great Resignation. For the first time, employees are given the opportunity to take a step back and decide what their career goals are and what their workplace expectations are. On the other hand, employers are now tasked with ensuring the needs of their employees are met.

Ginny identifies three focus points for organizations to keep in mind during this surge of workplace evolution:

  1. Build a foundation for the workplace of tomorrow
  2. Hire and retain the best talent
  3. Create strong cultures and consistent leaders

Build The Foundation for The Workplace of Tomorrow

The workplace isn’t just a physical building that employees work in, it is the infrastructure, the culture, and the standards of behavior that are modeled or tolerated in an organization. With that in mind, organizations need to investigate the workplace functions and systems that are supportive to them while keeping in mind that employees must also honor and follow these processes. Additionally, corporations must let the business dictate their talent needs, which Ginny repeatedly states is a leadership issue, not a human resources issue.

Hire and Retain the Best Talent

Too often selection criteria hinges on experience. Domain experience and educational pedigree are all criteria that overshadow the key attributes that people need to work successfully in an organization.

Ginny points out that competency, or capability to apply or use a set of related knowledge, skills, and abilities required to successfully perform critical work tasks, is the essential element when hiring new employees. Competencies are transferable. This means they are deconstructed elements of not just what you do, but how you do it, implying that employees with competencies can bounce from industry to industry with little to no experience in one field of work. Individuals must understand their competencies as well as leaders of an organization. In this new age of work, leaders who seek talent based on competency versus experience, level the playing field and give opportunities for a more diverse workforce.

The more diversity within an organization, the better that organization does, yet there are so many companies that lack diversity. Ginny warns us that this is not a supply issue, the talent is present in our nation’s workforce. A lack of diversity is what Ginny calls, organizational malpractice because leaders treat the symptoms, not the root cause. Treating symptoms such as underrepresentation, with programs such as employee resource groups and philanthropy does not tap into the foundational issue at hand. Ginny’s solution: competency-based assessment of talent. This is not to be misinterpreted as lowering the bar when hiring talent, instead it is raising the bar to make sure that people are hired based of capability to do the job right instead of experience in the field.

In terms of retention, Ginny asks leaders to self-reflect and think about the last time they asked their employees what it is that they want from the organization they work for and what their long-term goals are. As a leader, it’s vital that you know how to support the needs and goals of your employees. Performance evaluations, succession plans, and resources to figure out employee career goals are all functions within organizations that help employees feel more connected to their work and path of progression.

Create Strong Cultures and Conscious Leaders

Ginny asserts that creating a strong culture and having conscious leaders in an organization go hand in hand. The culture of an organization expresses its beliefs, values, and workplace expectations for employees. Additionally, culture is a product of the behavior of leaders in an organization. When poor behavior and lack of diverse representation in leadership is tolerated, companies pay financially for waves of employee turnover in their organization.

Successful leaders maintain two core competencies: decisive decision making and effective communication skills. Too often, leaders fear the adverse reaction to a decisive decision or they simply lack the conflict resolution capabilities that are necessary to overcome disagreement when making decisions.

This fear or anxiety can also hinder a leader’s capability to effectively communicate. Communication is essential in terms of providing employee feedback. Without effective communication from leaders, employees are left at a disadvantage.

Understand How to Develop a Better Employee Life Cycle  

Ginny effectively brought to light a series of ideas as they relate to understanding the processes that support the employee life cycle today. Leveraging competency-based assessments when hiring the best talent creates better opportunities for the best talent to succeed in roles fit for their competencies. Leader and manager behavior is the foundation for culture in an organization, therefore improving that behavior through better hiring practices will positively impact turnover.

About Alexa Scudillo

Alexa Scudillo is a Consulting Specialist in the Center for Individual and Organizational Performance.