“Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs”: Is the talent pool dried up? Dr. Peter Cappelli says no.
The unemployment rate has held steady just above 8 percent since January. At the same time, many companies grumble that they can’t find the talent they need. They often blame schools for not properly preparing students for the workforce or perhaps the government for barring qualified immigrants. And when an employer does find qualified workers, the prospective employees might not accept the salary the company is offering. Many companies point to a skills gap as the root of lingering unemployment and any resulting lull in productivity.
Dr. Peter Cappelli, however, disagrees with this assessment. In his newest book, “Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs: The Skills Gap and What Companies Can Do About It,” he makes the case that a skills gap is an indistinct concept that masks defective hiring practices.
Dr. Cappelli is the George W. Taylor Professor of Management at The Wharton School and Director of Wharton’s Center for Human Resources in Philadelphia. A renowned researcher and thought leader in U.S. workforce issues and employment relations, Dr. Cappelli has authored a number of books, and long-time followers of The Seamless Workforce are probably aware that we’re big fans. Needless to say, we were eager to get our hands on a copy of his latest book.
In “Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs,” Dr. Cappelli dissects the idea that a skills gap is the reason why companies are having trouble hiring. Equipped with years of research and first-hand testimonies from hiring professionals and job seekers, he demonstrates that these workforce issues have deeper roots: a flawed hiring process.
Dr. Cappelli examines automated hiring software, companies’ unrealistic job qualifications and expectations, and low wage offerings, which might be sources of disconnect between employers and recruits.
While these practices might create a disconnect, they’re certainly not arbitrary. Companies must rely on applicant tracking systems due to cutbacks in HR and surging applicant volume. Lower wages stem from smaller budgets. High unemployment translates into an employers’ market in most industries. In other words, it seems as if companies can afford to be highly selective.
At the same time, employers expect new hires to arrive on the job with every skill they’ll need. Dr. Cappelli has found that there is a pervasive aversion to training incoming workers (or even to providing them with ramp-up time). In addition, few employers are willing to invest in current workers to promote from within.
Understandably so. Training can be expensive, and companies are naturally concerned about losing newly-trained talent to competitors. Yet workers effectively gain most of their skills through on-the-job experience, and companies that refuse to train employees are likely losing money in lost productivity when positions go unfilled.
So what can employers do to find and develop talent while minimizing risk? Dr. Cappelli outlines a number of training program models, some of which split the cost between the employer and potential employee. He also emphasizes the need for workforce planning and assessment so that companies know exactly when a job vacancy will begin to hurt their bottom line.
“Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs” breaks down the skills gap scenario, organizing the experiences of employers and workers, and dispelling myths from both sides of the hiring process. And job seekers take note: There is also a section full of tips for navigating applicant tracking systems. Stir these together and you have a quick, informative read that is thought-provoking, solution-laden, and applicable to anyone with a hand in the hiring process.
Frustrated hiring managers and the mainstream media have led us to believe that the talent pool is just about dried up. But perhaps, as Dr. Cappelli suggests, the hiring process is flawed due to the way companies think about talent. While both might have a role in the talent deficit, “Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs” provides concrete suggestions for reversing the trend.
To delve further into this issue and potential solutions, we invited Dr. Cappelli to stop by The Seamless Workforce to answer our questions and share additional insight on his book. Stay tuned!