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To combat challenges in recruiting employees, some companies are taking a hard look at their job descriptions and qualifications in an effort to open up positions to a broader range of candidates. Often, that means dropping requirements for baccalaureate degrees that aren’t really necessary to perform the work.

A recent report from the Burning Glass Institute and Harvard Business Review, however, found that to be successful in such skilled-based hiring efforts, employers must commit to implementing and acting on the changes.

The researchers found that companies fell into one of three categories. Skills-based hiring leaders are increasing their share of workers hired without bachelor’s degrees in the roles analyzed by almost 20%. In name only firms, 45% of those studied, saw no meaningful difference in their actual hiring behavior after they removed the baccalaureate degree requirement from their job listings. And backsliders, about 20% of the companies studied, saw short-term gains after getting rid of the degree requirements, but the benefits didn’t last long.

“Our analysis makes clear that successful adoption of Skills-Based Hiring involves more than simply stripping language from job postings,” they wrote. “To hire for skills, firms will need to implement robust and intentional changes in their hiring practices – and change is hard.”

But for those who successfully adopt the practice, it “yields tangible, measurable value,” the report authors said.

“At Skills-Based Hiring Leader firms, non-degreed workers have a retention rate 10 percentage points higher than their degree-holder colleagues,” and “non-degreed workers hired into roles that previously required degrees experience a 25 percent salary increase on average,” they said. Skills-based hiring leaders in healthcare and social assistance, for instance, increased their share of non-degreed hires by 17%, the study found.

The investigators said that their analysis showed that at least another 250,000 jobs per year could benefit from a skills-based hiring approach.

Jobs best suited for the transition, they said, include some found in senior living organizations. The jobs included construction managers, web developers, distribution managers, production and planning clerks, computer programmers, event planners, first-line supervisors – food preparation, first-line supervisors – sales, payroll clerks, sales, and document management specialists.

If the skills-based hiring approach sounds like something you’d like to explore, you can access the full report here.

Lois A. Bowers is the editor of McKnight’s Senior Living. Read her other columns here. Follow her on X (formerly Twitter) at Lois_Bowers.