Getting rid of degree requirements means changing a lot more than job-posting language If you're trying to hire for skills, you'll need to make changes to your promotions, pay, and culture, too

In response to the tight labor market and the need for more inclusive hiring practices, companies like Kellogg's, General Motors, and Bank of America are eliminating four-year degree requirements and adopting skills-based hiring. While removing degree requirements is an important first step, it's not enough on its own. Employers and managers must be prepared to make changes to hiring, promotions, pay, and culture to fully embrace skills-based hiring.

One approach to implementing skills-based hiring is to start small. Companies can begin by introducing this new approach in a specific division or business unit, allowing them to assess its feasibility and identify necessary cultural changes. It's crucial to challenge traditional thinking about job qualifications and train managers to avoid discriminatory behavior. Tracking workers' mobility, pay, and promotions throughout the organization can help ensure fairness and prevent employees from being left behind.

It's also important to avoid inadvertent tokenism when hiring non-degree holders. Employees should not be showcased as exceptions or made to feel bad about their qualifications. Instead, companies should hire workers based on their abilities and let them excel in their roles. Disclosing degree status should only be done with the explicit consent of the employee.

To attract a diverse pool of applicants, job postings should explicitly state that a degree is not required. This clarity encourages qualified individuals to apply and prevents potential candidates from being deterred by ambiguous language. Proactive recruitment is also key, as traditionally overlooked talent pools may not be aware of available opportunities. Companies should look beyond four-year institutions and consider high schools, community colleges, and workforce training programs.

Both companies and workers are new to skills-based hiring, so employers should not place the entire burden on applicants to prove their qualifications. Employers should take the lead by identifying the skills needed for each job and providing specific opportunities for applicants to demonstrate those skills.

To ensure a successful transition to skills-based hiring, job descriptions and interview rubrics should be rewritten to focus on skills and competency rather than credentials. This shift in mindset allows companies to accurately evaluate candidates based on their abilities instead of relying solely on educational background.

Lastly, it's essential to measure the progress of new hiring practices by tracking data. Companies should monitor metrics such as the rate of applicant hires and retention rates to assess the effectiveness of skills-based hiring.

While implementing skills-based hiring may involve some challenges, companies should not wait for more research before taking action. By starting now and embracing this approach, companies can discover the benefits of removing degree requirements and creating more inclusive hiring practices.  

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