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Broadening the Talent Pool with New Thinking About Hiring Prerequisites

Top row, from left, Melissa Swift and Bridget Gibbons
Bottom row, from left, Daniel Justiniano and Joseph Kenner

On Tuesday, the BCW’s fourth Talent Tuesday webinar focused on expanding the number of potential employees by accessing new worker populations.

The webinar—Diving Headfirst into New Relationships: The Untapped Potential of Leaping into a Larger Labor Pool—encouraged employers to seek new talent among groups of people who are traditionally overlooked, but no less qualified for many open positions. The panelists included Melissa Swift, U.S. Transformation Leader at Mercer; Bridget Gibbons, Director of the Westchester County Office of Economic Development; Daniel Justiniano, Director of Operations at ConConnect; and Joseph Kenner, President & CEO at Greyston.

BCW President and CEO Marsha Gordon moderated the webinar, and she began the discussion by noting continuing struggles businesses face in finding workers. “The solution may require widening your searchlight so that you’re covering a broader spectrum of potential applicants, from people with disabilities to seniors and the formerly incarcerated, there are thousands of county residents that are ready, willing and more than able to fill your talent needs,” said Gordon.

Swift noted that the national labor force is 4 million workers short, and she suggested rethinking old assumptions. “Sixty percent of the jobs in the United States require a college degree. Does 60 percent of the work in the United States require a college degree? I would argue no,” said Swift. “Pulling that requirement right out, you get a more diverse talent pool, and you get a bigger one…. If anything, you’re getting people with more interesting life stories.”

Fair-chance hiring—the avoidance of questions about an applicant’s conviction history before a conditional job offer is made—opens the talent pool to the formerly incarcerated.

“So far, we’ve seen amazing results…We’re seeing really high retention rates, upwards of 85 percent over the course of six months and also really high-satisfaction rates, both from the employer and employees,” said Justiniano of ConConnect’s results placing the formerly incarcerated with employers. “When you do help people in this population, they tend to be extremely loyal.” ConConnect is currently participating in the BCW’s Westchester Innovation Network (WIN) initiative.

Gibbons said people with disabilities also demonstrate job loyalty, an attractive quality for many businesses. “Turnover can cost $15,000 per employee for an organization: recruiting a new person, training them, getting them up to speed, paying a search firm…. So, if you can reduce your turnover, that’s a huge cost savings,” said Gibbons.

The Greyston Bakery uses the process of open hiring to bring in new bakery apprentices with no questions regarding their backgrounds. “It’s really anybody with a barrier to employment; anybody who has been excluded,” said Kenner of the expanded employee pool. “There might be thousands in Westchester County that have this situation, but literally millions across this country that fall into that bucket.”

The final Talent Tuesday is on June 20 at 9 a.m. Click here to register. An archived version of this week’s Talent Tuesday is posted on the BCW’s Facebook page. A post-panel podcast, Beyond the Panel, is posted here.

The fourth Talent Tuesday is co-sponsored by Balancing Life’s Issues, Mercer, Simone Development Companies, Thalle Industries and The Catalyst—Westchester County Economic Development.

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