In a recent episode of HR Works Podcast, LinkedIn Vice President of Talent Solutions Mark Lobosco sat down to discuss the latest LinkedIn research report, “Global Talent Trends 2019.” In the episode, Lobosco offered insight into the research, as well as information for handling the skills gap and talent shortage.
Jim Davis: Hello, everyone, and welcome to HR Works, the podcast for HR professionals. I am HR Works’ host, Jim Davis, and the editor of the HR Daily Advisor, as well as a contributor to Recruiting Daily Advisor.
As vice president of Talent Solutions, Mark Lobosco is responsible for leading the global presales, sales, and customer success team for LinkedIn’s Talent Solution business, which helps employers find, attract, and hire the best people. Mark also leads a number of companywide diversity, inclusion, and belonging (DIB) initiatives.
Previously, Mark was vice president of LinkedIn Learning Solutions, where he was part of the acquisition team of Lynda.com, and then led the integration and overall strategy for a business-to-business (B2B) company. Before LinkedIn, he held a number of sales roles at SS&C Advent Software and received a BA in Psychology from the University of Boulder, Colorado. Thanks so much for joining us, Mark.
Lobosco: Thanks, Jim. I appreciate you having me on this podcast.
Davis: LinkedIn is in a great position to talk to both jobseekers and companies about what they’re looking for in employees and employers. What is a theme you’re seeing this year?
Lobosco: We are definitely in a unique position, based on the information that’s happening on LinkedIn on a daily basis, what people are posting, what people are sharing, and what people are liking, but with our global trend report this year, we did see a number of key insights.
One of the major themes we’ve seen is that the relationship between employers and employees is really shifting. But by surveying many of the companies, we know that not all HR and hiring practices have caught up with a number of these shifts.
What we do know from the research is that professionals are definitely expecting more from their employer. They want more transparency, they want more accountability, and ultimately, they’re looking for more trust.
And from companies’ perspectives, they’re not just expecting their employees and the candidates they’re hiring to have the technical skills to be able to do the job. They’re also looking for them to have the right soft skills, whether those skills be thinking creatively; being able to collaborate more effectively; and, in general, being able to adapt quickly in a world that is changing by the day due to technological advancements.
Davis: A candidate’s soft skills are tricky to get a handle on in a recruiting scenario. Someone might be nervous, or the person hasn’t really been given an opportunity to lead or to exercise those skills, necessarily. Do you have any recommendations to help companies identify these skills earlier in potential candidates?
Lobosco: Just taking a step back, soft skills are critical and difficult to assess when you are interviewing candidates. In the report, 92% of professionals agree that soft skills matter as much as hard skills. So understanding, assessing, and hiring for soft skills are critically important. But as you mentioned, most folks struggle. I know about 60% of professionals responded that they do struggle with this.
And the majority of hiring managers and companies are relying on things that work with different effects—things like behavioral questions are kind of the key way to assess soft skills, as well as other things in an interview like reading body language or asking situational questions.
Now, for some who have been hiring for years and are extremely effective at this, they’re still effective, but the majority of folks didn’t feel like they were as effective as they’d like to be. And because of this, there’s obviously major loss of time and money, as they’re unable to actively assess these skills. In the report, I think it was about 90% of hiring managers who felt that bad hires were lacking in soft skills.
And so, in the report, it looked like close to about 20% of companies are now either using or testing different kinds of artificial intelligence (AI)-powered solutions, which consist of things like games, to measure cognitive and emotional traits. What we’re seeing at LinkedIn—and for me, I lead a large global organization and hire several hundred people a year—is that new hires kind of backfill.
We, too, are kind of testing some AI solutions here, but we’re also continuing to focus on ensuring our hiring managers—and we have a lot of first-time hiring managers—are just really good at interviewing. We’re still leveraging some of the “older” ways to interview, like using behavioral questions for assessing soft skills.
Davis: Those are great ideas. Earlier, you mentioned that employers understood that they’re not going to get the perfect candidate—that they might have to train employees, whether in soft skills or other skills. That kind of connects with the problem with there not being enough talent out there, or the so-called “talent war.” What kinds of risks are involved with hiring someone you think you can train but who you’re not sure of, and do you think that those risks are worth it?
Lobosco: I’d say, from my personal opinion, that I think there are a lot of people with a lot of high potential who may not have the hard or technical skills to start, but they do have both the aptitude and the soft skills to be trained up. One of the things that we do at LinkedIn is ensure we are taking “risks.” This is particularly important with diversity candidates.
Working in tech, one of the challenges you have if you’re looking to build a diverse workforce and you’re recruiting purely from tech companies is that you’re typically going to get folks who look the same and think the same and have the same background.
Opening the aperture of thinking about candidates who may not have the technical skills or industry expertise to start but who can be taught those technical skills over time could actually have a bigger impact on the business because of the diversity of thought they bring to the team and the business.
What I personally found is that you can’t make that bet with all candidates, but if you’re not thinking about the diversity of who you’re hiring and recognizing that you can train technical skills, then you’re going to miss out on some really good talent.
Davis: That’s a great answer. Do you think that work flexibility is a perk or an essential part of running a business and meeting employee needs? Should companies be more open to embracing flex work?
Lobosco: I think every company is different and unique, so I think every company has to make the call based on its strategy, the culture it’s created, the location of employees, etc. There’s a lot of factors that go in, so it’s not one size fits all. There’s some reality of what’s happening in the world.
First off, technology. With video conferencing, messaging apps, and ubiquitous and fast Wi-Fi, employers do have more reasons than ever to explore a more flexible workplace, allowing employees to choose where and how they work. Companies are, indeed, kind of following that. On LinkedIn Jobs, we have over 20 million jobs today. We saw a 78% increase in the words “workplace flexibility” being mentioned in our jobs posts since 2016.
With that increase, we have seen that happen a disproportionate number of times within the tech industry, leading with workplace flexibility options far outpacing finances, health care, manufacturing, and other industries. Despite myths or anecdotal feedback, the research does show that offering more flexible work arrangements is better for work/life balance, and in addition, productivity generally increases, and turnover generally decreases.
The data would suggest that it is something all companies should look into, and then whether you implement needs to go back to the strategy of the company, as well as what role talent plays, which, for LinkedIn, is kind of front and center.
The changes, from a tech perspective, are coming from other areas. Diversity could be another kind of area of the population in the workforce. For example, through the research, women are 22% more likely than men to say flexible work arrangements are very important when considering a job.
In part two of this article series, we’ll continue the podcast interview with Lobosco, who shares insight on workplace harassment and transparency and how these things may impact your hiring process. To listen to the entire episode, click here.