Expand Your Talent Pool with the Equation for Equality

Posted January 25, 2024 | Leadership |
Expand Your Talent Pool with the Equation for Equality

Black, Latina, and American Indian women are underrepresented in most well-paying, fast-growing sectors, a phenomenon known as “occupational segregation.” Mitigating this problem requires career transitions across roles and sectors so that women of color can attain good jobs in areas where they are currently underrepresented.

The Equation for Equality, discussed in this Advisor, tackles the issues of occupational segregation, labor-shortage acuteness, and the risks faced by both individuals and employers when engaging with career transitions. The equation gives employers a way to expand their talent pool in a low-risk way by identifying workers outside a given sector that use a similar skill set to that required by an open position. Rather than viewing sector experience, academic pedigree, or employer history as the most relevant signals during hiring, the equation helps employers identify good employment matches based on skills.

By focusing on skills, the equation sets employers up to collaborate with skills-training organizations that can: (1) stand up to the type of training that employers need; and (2) connect employers to graduates of skills-training programs that teach the relevant skills, even if those graduates don’t have the traditional work experience or educational background the employer typically requires.

Understanding the Equation for Equality

The Equation for Equality aids in an equitable hiring process. It generates four helpful outputs:

  1. A top-of-the-funnel benchmark for candidate diversity. Hiring managers should aim to meet or exceed this benchmark before advancing to interviews or subsequent stages in the hiring process.

  2. A list of skills-similar occupations to include within the talent pool for a given position. This list of occupations expands otherwise narrow requirements around work experience and education.

  3. A list of skills that workers from the skills-similar occupations would carry into the new position. These are skills that employers can test for during the hiring process to ensure a strong employment match.

  4. A list of skills commonly required by the new position that the worker from the skills-similar occupation would have to acquire. Employers can train for some of these skills during the onboarding process and work with external training organizations for the rest.

The Equation for Equality Is Built in 3 Steps

  1. Create a skills-similarity score between occupations. The equation relies on a score for skills similarity between occupations. Skills similarity is the overlap in knowledge, skills, and abilities between two jobs. Although employment history is often a function of a given sector or career trajectory, many skills can be applied across multiple domains. For example, electronic medical records specialists have information system management, technical support, and data entry skills that are relevant in multiple sectors, not just healthcare.

  2. Review the feasibility and desirability of transitions. Once a skills-similarity score has been created between all pairs of occupations, the equation takes into account the feasibility of the transition and the desirability of the transition. Feasibility refers to the two occupations having similar requirements between years of work experience and level of education. For example, an industrial engineering technologist and an industrial engineer may use many of the same skills, but the overwhelming expectation of a bachelor’s degree for the engineering role means that a career transition is not feasible for an industrial engineering technologist without going back to school. In this way, the equation reduces the risk for individuals interested in making career changes by focusing on transitions that are feasible. The transition must also be desirable, meaning that the next-step job has higher earning potential or other desirable benefits.

  3. Bring in demographic characteristics. Finally, the equation compares the demographic characteristics of a given occupation with the demographic characteristics of all the occupations that share a high level of skills similarity and for which a transition would be feasible and desirable. The equation can then be used to reveal job changes that let people of color move from areas where they are overrepresented to those where they are underrepresented.

From these three steps, the equation generates the outputs outlined above. The top-of-the- funnel benchmark comes from looking at the race/ethnicity and gender characteristics of the full talent pool — not just people with work experience in the desired occupation but everyone with relevant skills experience. The equation also provides guidance on the skill sets that need to be taught or reinforced for individuals changing careers. Employers can work internally or with outside partners to stand up that training.

The Equation for Equality represents both a practical tool for employers and a paradigm shift in how employers approach hiring. Focusing on skills development can enable the marketplace to break the strictures of occupational segregation.

[For more from the author on this topic, see: “The Equation for Equality.”]

About The Author
Matthew Walsh
Matthew Walsh is Research Director at Lightcast, a company that provides global labor market data, analytics, and expert guidance to empower communities, corporations, and learning providers to make informed decisions and navigate the increasingly complex world of work. He specializes in projects related to workforce development — or how to create and connect people to good jobs that support individuals, families, and communities. Mr. Walsh… Read More