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What Comes 'Round, Goes 'Round

A recent Wall Street Journal article bemoaned the difficulties employers are having in finding the job candidates who possess their desired skill sets. Regardless of how high or how low the jobless rate is, this is an age-old problem that never seems to get solved. Not unusual, as many “problems” that involve the human condition cannot be fixed with a one size fits all approach.

The article examined how despite the high numbers of unemployed workers, the number of qualified workers is small. While it explored longer-term trends – such as the role of the U.S. education system and whether it’s preparing people for the workforce – it failed to place adequate emphasis on two important factors that can be fixed today:

1. The use of pre-hire assessment tests – regardless of how large or small an organization is, adding assessment testing into the qualification process can help quickly find that “needle in the haystack” candidate. An inexpensive investment, the information gleaned from the test results can add a dimension to the candidate selection process that isn’t readily available to the naked eye; regardless how many structured interviews are conducted or how well written an applicant’s resume. Even when sourcing candidates for more generic job openings that might be high turnover situations – such as retail sales clerk – targeted assessment testing will help HR and hiring managers hone in on the candidate who has the best “front-line” skills. That decision can directly translate into revenue. In the case of sourcing specialized knowledge-based workers, assessment testing isn’t optional, it’s imperative. Well-documented, making a bad hiring decision can have a profound negative impact on a company.

2. Corporate training and development programs – there’s a great article currently circulating on the Internet about the class of 2014. It covers 75 items that children born in 1992 think are “normal” when contrasted to earlier graduating classes. The list needs to add # 76 – that the workplace isn’t the place where you’re going to learn new skills. The minute times get tough, organizations cut back on training and development programs and, after this last recession, it’s doubtful we’ll see a rebound in this area in the near future. Sadly, this becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy – you cannot find skilled candidates because no one is nurturing skilled workers.

Is anyone reading this post old enough to remember attending Xerox Professional Selling Skills? Or a management training course where you learned how to foster your team’s productivity? Aside from the inherent recognition associated with the privilege of participating in these programs, they were the “real MBA” classes. Becoming a society of individual contributors with noses glued to mobile devices isn’t going to solve the problems identified in the Wall Street Journal’s article. But that’s a topic for another day. The net is, if you don’t plant seeds, you don’t get flowers. And if you don’t train, you don’t cultivate desirable skills and increased intelligence.

Article first published as What Comes 'Round, Goes 'Round on Technorati.