Companies’ unwillingness to let employees grow into a job only amplifies their difficulty in finding the right talent, Peter Cappelli writes in The Wall Street Journal. Cappelli is a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
In a post last week on companies’ role in turnover, I pointed to his comments about the unwillingness to train workers. He says companies want workers with the exact skills for the job when they are hired, and likens any training to that of an equipment vendor: “Here’s how to operate the copier.”
At the same time, recruiters routinely report difficulty in finding talent, especially tech talent, a situation Cappelli describes as often merely an affordability problem — being able to pay what these workers can command.
Finding candidates to fit jobs is not like finding pistons to fit engines, where the requirements are precise and can’t be varied. Jobs can be organized in many different ways so that candidates who have very different credentials can do them successfully.
He offers ideas for developing the talent employers need:
- Working with education providers: In his example from North Carolina, workers must complete a course or more to be hired. They pay for the training themselves. But it could also work for internal candidates, with companies offering tuition reimbursement.
- Bring back aspects of apprenticeship: Offer a lower salary during a learning period until the worker gets up to speed.
- Promote from within: Let workers grow into the job by organizing projects to help them learn.
Pursuing options like these vastly expands the supply of talent that employers can tap, making it both cheaper and easier to fill jobs. Of course, it’s also much better for society. It helps build the supply of human capital in the economy, as well as opening the pathway for more people to get jobs.
It’s an important instance where company self-interest and societal interest just happen to coincide.