What’s the Fix for the Great Resignation? Hire Generalists and Train Them

Aug 30, 2021

The pandemic forced companies to rethink the onboarding process and now it’s time to update the hiring process.

Return to the office plans are in flux and the threat of the Great Resignation is still looming. The pandemic forced companies to rethink the onboarding process and now it’s time to update the hiring process. Companies can combat potential departures by rebuilding recruiting strategies to emphasize professional development opportunities. 

Julie Rieken, CEO of the HR platform Trakstar, said companies can’t build the future of work based on past precedent.  

“Instead of looking for ping-pong tables in the office, candidates started pushing harder for learning and growth opportunities,” she said.

Rieken recommends that recruiters evaluate every stage of the candidate experience to ensure it’s as clear and informative as possible. 

“Every stage, from the job post to the final interview, should proactively highlight the processes and structures supporting growth and skill-building within the organization,” she said.

Neil Duggan, director of technology and emerging skills and talent acquisition at Liberty Mutual Insurance, said his company also emphasizes training during the hiring process.

“Upskilling/reskilling can lead to improved employee engagement and retention, making the topic an important part of every candidate conversation,” he said.

Here are four ways to revamp the hiring process to emphasize learning opportunities and rethink what the ideal candidate looks like. 

Look for generalists, not experts

If your job descriptions read like a terms of service statement, it may be time to rethink the skills required section. Instead of looking for the imaginary perfect candidate with the ideal set of skills, reframe the search. Some companies look for people willing to learn new skills and grow with the company.

Gibson Smith, co-founder and chief people officer at Avionos, said the company looks for generalists instead of specialists. Smith said this tactic expands the candidate talent pool and creates the opportunity to train candidates with the company’s best practices and methodologies.  

“Instead of breaking down and building back up, we can start very greenfield in platforms and domains that can accelerate their growth trajectory,” he said. 

Smith said the company also emphasizes transparency and trust in the hiring process instead of a bait-and-switch approach.  

“We are a very entrepreneurial environment where employees can really make an impact, but we are very clear the onus is on them to seize those opportunities,” he said.

Avionos uses a boot camp training format to build specific skills with Adobe Experience Manager and B2B Lightning Commerce as well.  

“It’s also provided a path for individuals to really anchor into as well as insight into where this particular path can lead,” he said.

Use a build, not buy approach

One factor driving the Great Resignation is a lack of opportunities for professional development. A Qualtrics survey found that 60% of employees say they received no professional development and training last year and 64% said they were offered no networking or mentoring opportunities.

One way to improve that element of the employee experience is to make internal development programs a central part of the hiring process. 

Charlie Ackerman, senior vice president of human resources at Bosch, said the need for internal professional development programs is more important now than ever before due to a tight labor market and a skills gap among employees.

“Decision-makers need to ensure their employees feel empowered to take what they are learning and implement it within their own processes to achieve better outcomes,” he said.

Ackerman said the company takes a “build” versus “buy” approach to recruitment and talent development. 

“We provide ample opportunities for associates to receive re-training and upskilling in core competencies, like software development, IoT and AI, that support where our company – and society at large – is headed,” he said. 

Bosch started a software development apprenticeship program in 2020. The first class included a former chef, a financial manager, a shop technician and a mortgage banker. Several were hired for full-time jobs at the end of the program. This approach reinforces the company’s culture of innovation, Ackerman said, and shows that these programs lead to real opportunities.

“All these efforts reinforce our ‘build’ versus ‘buy’ model, which has proven to be a successful business advantage that allows us to not only close that skills gap in a highly competitive jobs market, but also differentiates Bosch from a recruiting perspective,” he said. “Individuals know when they come to Bosch, they have ample opportunities to explore new and exciting work, technologies and career paths.”

Focus on the three virtues: Mastery, autonomy and purpose

Now that remote work is here to stay, companies have to rethink perks and benefits. Free snacks and a foosball table don’t work as well when the office is less than half full. Replacing these benefits with something more substantial – like professional development opportunities – could be a wise move. To make this move, companies have to consider what is important to employees beyond a salary and health insurance.

Rieken, of Trakstar, said that businesses have to build a strategy that gets people in the door and helps them stay long-term. That means helping people achieve mastery, autonomy and purpose. 

“Making these three elements a priority communicates not only pathways for growth but an invested interest in providing the tools necessary to do so,” she said. 

Here’s what that looks like in practice, according to Rieken:

  • Mastery: The ability to learn new skills

  • Autonomy: The ability to own projects and make important decisions

  • Purpose: The sense that there is a mission and a commitment to people and culture

“For mastery and autonomy, this includes the professional development courses available, whether that looks like internal training led by managers, reimbursement for continuing education classes, or anything in between,” Rieken said. 

She expects virtual training to become the norm to ensure equal access for all employees and for time spent in-person to be redirected to instead apply those learnings and collaborate together. 

Use new hire training programs to recruit

Another change to make in the recruiting process is to look for people who value learning, smart risk-taking and creativity. Duggan, of Liberty Mutual Insurance, said he looks for candidates that are continuous learners that want to grow within a company. 

“Candidates with the right qualifications are not always easy to find, so we work closely with the learning and development team to create new career paths for candidates that can help them gain skills and access to technology jobs,” he said.

The insurance company’s hiring process considers people with a four-year degree in computer science, individuals from code schools, bootcamps, apprenticeship programs like Appernti, as well as internal hires. 

The company’s TechStart program supports the recruiting process, he said, by allowing candidates to see new career paths and understand how we can support them in that journey. All entry-level new hires complete this 12-month program that includes technical training, a team project and a five-month assignment with an existing team.

By Veronica Combs