Laying the Foundation for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.

Insights

Laying the Foundation for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Teron Buford

By: Teron Buford, VP Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Growing up as a Black male in inner-city Chicago, I experienced my fair share of hardships. One might think that, as opportunities presented themselves, things got easier. Not exactly. Laws of thermodynamics suggest that energy is never destroyed but is transferred from entity to entity. I think the same can be said about the struggles of people of color as they navigate the landscape of predominantly white educational and professional workspaces. The worry and anxiety shifted from my neighborhood to my classroom. From my classroom to my office. All along the way, the challenges never subsided; they morphed to fit my new landscapes.

I remember sitting in an English 101 course as we covered literature that focused on social injustice. This took place at a predominantly white college in St. Paul, Minnesota. We were reading a book in which the author purposely left behind her financial stability to explore what it might mean to live on minimum wage. From paycheck to paycheck. During one of our class discussions, a young woman raised her hand and matter-of-factly asked “why don’t people just save more of their money? If they just saved more money, they wouldn’t have to live like they do.” My blood boiled as my inner monologue argued with itself: “Wow! She clearly has no idea about the systems in place that impede financial mobility and financial security. Is it my job to educate her? Am I to be the spokesperson for a group of underserved, underrepresented, and clearly misunderstood people? If I raise my hand, am I going to find myself on an island, fighting a worthy but losing battle? What do I stand to gain if I speak up? What do I stand to lose if I don’t?” I gathered my thoughts, calmed my spirit, and raised my hand.

I remember sitting in a meeting with a former employer where we were looking for ways to bring greater access to a product. We discussed some of the feedback we’d received that claimed our processes were biased and skewed, our policies were rooted in oppression, and that we were effectively marginalizing an already over-marginalized population. We went around the table giving countless examples of our intentions and explaining why our operations needed to remain the same. Some scoffed at the notion that we were a part of the problem. They even pointed out ways in which we have provided the solution. After about 40 minutes of pacifying and justifying our perspectives, my inner monologue was at it again: “I mean, the feedback is making good points. How can so many people experience our product in the same negative way and be wholeheartedly wrong? I understand that our intentions are positive, but does that outweigh the actual impact? Ok, now this is high stakes. Speaking up could jeopardize my job. My income. My family’s finances. Is this my fight? Can someone else do it? Maybe I can send a softly worded email after the meeting? No. That won’t get it done.” I cleared my throat, collected my thoughts, tried to push aside the fear, and spoke my piece.

“Diversity” seems to be the new buzzword floating around the atmosphere. Organizations are scrambling to recruit new and diverse talent. Interestingly enough, I was on a call with a friend at a large organization the other day. He’d asked why most of his diverse employees were leaving the company after 2-3 years. He’d shared that they had solid compensation packages, fancy titles, and fulfilling job responsibilities. I asked about the company’s culture as it relates to equity and inclusion and, not to my surprise, he couldn’t speak to it fully. And that’s the issue: treating DEI as a numbers game will never pan out in the end. The environment matters. The culture of the company as it relates to belonging matters. And, if companies are ever going to get ahead of the curve, they’ll have to build environments that are intentionally conducive to respecting diversity, building equity, and living out inclusion.

For the longest time, we based the success of diversity initiatives on sheer numbers. “That company has XX% people of color and women, which means they’re doing well.” Today, we understand that the issue is a bit too complex for tally marks alone to tell the whole story. Diversity and inclusion, from my perspective, is cultivating an environment that is not only demographically representative of the greater population, but also encourages, empowers, and uplifts the voices of employees who have been historically under-represented, under-valued and, quite frankly, silenced. A commitment to living out these ideals should not only be reflected in a company’s mission, vision, and values, but should be genuinely felt across the company.

There is something to be said for companies that have paid more than just lip service to their commitment to diversity and inclusion. Creating positions, departments, and/or committees with the dedicated responsibilities of increasing diversity and inclusion within an organization is a step in the right direction. Each company, however, will have a different set of obstacles to overcome on their journeys towards creating diverse and inclusive environments and should look to their workforce to help them identify the gaps. At Avenica, for example, we’ve created a diversity board comprised of leaders from various departments who have united to create intentional company-wide learning opportunities. Each quarter has a theme around which topics will be introduced and each month has a dedicated learning goal. There’s a mix of readings, videos, interactive modules, and person-to-person conversations to help aid in the growth process. We will also be rolling out an anonymous feedback survey that will allow participants a safe space to provide input. Regardless of the approach, it cannot be stated enough that company-wide buy-in is integral in this process. Companies should intentionally work to ensure that all employees understand the value of a diverse and inclusive work environment.

All of this, of course, is easier said than done. The marathon of creating inclusive and welcoming spaces functions less as a one-person race and more like a relay; requiring a concerted effort from all involved. No one has all the answers. For more help with laying the foundation for DEI work, I’d recommend starting (but not stopping) with the resources below.

Stay strong.

 

About Avenica

Through conversation, high-impact coaching, and best-in-class support, we translate and meet the needs of our client partners by identifying and transforming potential into high-performing professionals. At Avenica, we are working from the inside out to embrace diverse thought and perspectives while actively working to dismantle systems of oppression and implicit bias. With a deeply-held belief in human potential, we transform lives and enable organizations to achieve new heights.

If you’re interested in partnering with us to develop or hire your workforce, let’s talk. If you’re a job seeker, please join our network to connect with an Avenica Account Manager.

Related Articles

The Underemployment Trap: Why Your First Job Is Critical

Insights

The Underemployment Trap: Why Your First Job Is Critical

Avenica

LinkedIn

Employment rates in the U.S. have risen every year since the Great Recession of 2008–2009. And today unemployment is at near-historic lows. While that’s great news for many job seekers, hiding behind those gaudy numbers is a phenomenon that’s far less positive—one that impacts young job seekers most of all.

It’s underemployment.

Underemployment happens when someone is in a job for which they are overqualified—the typical situation is a bachelor’s graduate in a role that doesn’t require a degree. Consider the cliché of the Art History major working as a barista. Or a “foot-in-the-door” job, such as an IT grad working the help desk or a sports performance major folding towels at a health club. Underemployment also happens when someone would prefer to work full time but can only secure part-time employment.

First-job underemployment has lasting effects

Where you start has a big impact on where you end up. A 2018 study found that 43% of new college grads were underemployed in their first job—earning an average of $10,000 less than grads who find employment appropriate for their qualifications. And this wage gap compounds year after year, so workers who are underemployed at the start of their careers are more likely to remain that way, even decades later—stuck in a rut of lower-paying, lower-prestige jobs.

Underemployment obviously has negative consequences for individual workers, but there are big ripple effects as well. Underemployed workers will have less income overall, which means they may be less likely to pay off their student loans, buy a home, go on vacation, or go out to dinner—all of which impacts the health of the broader economy.

Underemployment seems to be growing

A certain amount of underemployment will always be with us. Some new grads take more time to find their career path. Others may choose careers that don’t fit their area of study. Still others may lack the motivation or interest in pursuing roles appropriate for their credentials.

Although researchers and experts differ on the exact numbers around underemployment, most agree that it’s growing. Why?

Multiple factors are at work. College enrollment has grown since 2000—which means more new graduates are pursuing a finite pool of jobs. Older generations of workers are holding onto their jobs longer, further reducing the number of higher-skill positions. The trend toward contract, gig, or part-time roles means many recent graduates find themselves with less than a full-time work. And the skills required for today’s jobs are more complex and changing rapidly, which means many graduates are leaving school without the abilities employers need.

Safeguarding your career against underemployment

The rise of underemployment is definitely cause for concern. But there are things you can do to protect yourself and your career. Here are just a few:

  • Select the right major. When it comes to underemployment, your field of study makes a big difference. The fields least likely to be underemployed include engineering, computer science, nursing, and education. The areas of highest underemployment? General liberal arts, performing arts, security and law enforcement, leisure and hospitality, and fitness. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York keeps fascinating stats on underemployment by major.
  • Get real about what employers need. Whatever your area of study, students or recent grads shouldn’t assume their degree will guarantee a job in their field. Do your research on specific jobs, salaries, skills, and employer needs in your profession of interest.
  • Seize opportunities to upskill. Employers still value the communication, analytical, and critical thinking skills that college graduates have. But hiring managers often look for specific, technical abilities as well. Building these “last mile” skills—whether through online tools, volunteering, or technical classes—can make all the difference.
  • Explore Avenica. We don’t like to toot our own horn, but preventing underemployment is kind of a big thing for us. Avenica specifically works with college graduates to help them identify their career goals, interests, and skills and then match them to opportunities that are the right fit.

Whether you’re still in college, mere months away from graduation, or already out in the working world, underemployment may be lurking. But there are steps you can take to keep it at bay. Educate yourself about this trend and you’ve taken a big step toward building a successful career for the long term.

About Avenica

Through conversation, high-impact coaching, and best-in-class support, we translate and meet the needs of our client partners by identifying and transforming potential into high-performing professionals. At Avenica, we are working from the inside out to embrace diverse thought and perspectives while actively working to dismantle systems of oppression and implicit bias. With a deeply-held belief in human potential, we transform lives and enable organizations to achieve new heights.

If you’re interested in partnering with us to develop or hire your workforce, let’s talk. If you’re a job seeker, please join our network to connect with an Avenica Account Manager.

Related Articles

The Skills Gap: Impacts and Opportunities for Entry-Level Hiring

Insights

The Skills Gap: Impacts and Opportunities for Entry-Level Hiring

Scott Dettman

LinkedIn

THE SKILLS GAP: DEFINITION & SCOPE

Employers Are Noticing a Skills Gap at the Entry Level

The skills gap has been addressed and dissected from multiple angles—from media thought pieces to academic studies to government statistical analyses.

Our focus, however, is a bit different from previous explorations of the issue: this report examines the unique qualities and impacts of the skills gap at the entry level—particularly from the employer or hiring manager perspective. While the skills gap has huge implications for mid-career workers and beyond, our focus here is the roles that launch workers’ careers and serve as a major source of a businesses’ talent pools.

What Do We Mean by Entry-Level Jobs?

In this paper, “entry level” means a worker’s first, professional, post-college, “real” job. In traditional corporate settings, these roles allow new workers to gain hands-on experience by applying the knowledge they gained in college to real-world situations. For employers, they are a way to accomplish necessary business tasks that don’t require advanced skills—tasks that more experienced workers prefer not to do, and that companies don’t want to pay a premium for. Entry-level roles are also a major source of talent for organizations: developing homegrown talent into productive, experienced employees is much more affordable than hiring experienced people from outside.

The Scope of the Skills Gap

How big is the skills gap, exactly? What kind of impact is it having on companies and the economy? A quick recap of recent studies in this area reveals a clear answer: it’s pretty big.

  • One study estimates that the skills gap will cost the U.S. economy $1.2 trillion over the next decade.
  • A McKinsey Global Institute report found that up to 375 million workers worldwide may need to find new occupations as digitization, automation, and artificial intelligence continue to disrupt the workplace.
  • The World Economic Forum found that only 27 percent of small companies and 29 percent of large companies believe they have the digital talent they require.
  • In a study by the Society for Human Resource Management, 83% of human resources professionals surveyed said they had trouble finding suitable job candidates within the last 12 months.
  • A recent study found that 79% of CEOs worry that their employees’ current skills aren’t enough to meet quickly changing workplace needs.
  • Another study found that almost 40 percent of U.S. employers can’t find people with the skills they need, even for entry-level jobs.
  • In that same study, 60 percent of employers said that job candidates show a lack of preparation for the roles they seek.
  • In a study by LinkedIn, 59% of hiring managers said soft skills were difficult to find, and this gap was impacting productivity.
  • The 2018 LinkedIn Emerging Jobs Report found that oral communication, leadership, and time management were the biggest skills gaps for entry-level business roles.
  • Another recent survey found that 90% of hiring managers said it was difficult to find the right technology talent.
  • In that same study, 83% of hiring managers said the lack of technology talent was slowing their revenue growth
  • 41% of employers say entry-level roles are the hardest to fill.

What Kind of Skills Are Involved? Hard Skills vs. Soft Skills

When employers talk about a skills gap, they’re concerned about skills that fall into two areas: hard skills and soft skills. Hard skills get most of the attention. Scan the morning headlines and it won’t be long before you see a news story about the need for more STEM (Science, Technology, Mathematics, Engineering) education or the lack of workers with coding skills.  But many employers say the need for soft skills is just as great, particularly for entry-level roles.

Hard Skills

Hard skills are abilities in specific areas. They’re tangible, measurable, and observable. Workers build hard skills through training or education, or through work experience. They can demonstrate objectively that they have these skills, and workers might even be able to earn certifications or other credentials for them. Examples include:

  • Software proficiency
  • Computer programming languages
  • Mathematics
  • Engineering
  • Applied sciences
  • Proficiency in more than one language
  • Mobile development
  • Digital marketing
  • Information technology security
  • The ability to use certain software or manufacturing technologies

Soft Skills

Soft skills, on the other hand, are a bit fuzzier—but they may be more valuable. Soft skills are the personal habits or traits that enable someone to work well with others. They are much more difficult to quantify and teach. But soft skills will serve workers well in any role. And they’re adaptable to new technologies. These include:

  • Communication, whether oral or written
  • Collaboration and teamwork
  • Critical Thinking
  • Problem Solving
  • Time Management
  • Leadership
  • Creativity
  • Integrity
  • Professionalism
  • Customer Focus
  • Initiative

THE SKILLS GAP: CAUSES

What’s Causing the Skills Gap?

As with any large economic trend, the causes of the skills gap are complex—and there’s disagreement about them. It’s impossible to pinpoint any one cause. But here are some commonly cited contributors.

The Explosion of Technology in the Workplace and Beyond

In every industry, technological change—particularly digital technology—has transformed the way work gets done. Communicating with coworkers, managing inventory, selling products, marketing, gathering and interpreting data, accessing financial information, tracking work hours—all these tasks are now accomplished through digital technologies that didn’t exist just a couple of decades ago. The U.S. education system hasn’t kept up with the rate of change, and many workers start their careers without key digital skills. And even though today’s new workers are “digital natives,” they don’t necessarily have skills in specific applications that businesses use.

Demographic Shifts in the Workplace

Another potential contributor to the skills gap is a confluence of broad demographic forces that, together, have made it harder for employers to find qualified workers.

  • Boomer Retirements. Every day, more than 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65—a phenomenon that will continue over the next decade. These workers are more experienced, and when they leave, they create a skills-loss double-whammy: they take their skills out of the workforce, and by leaving they also prevent those skills from being passed on to younger workers.
  • Falling Labor Force Participation. The labor force participation rate—that is, the percentage of eligible workers who are working or seeking employment—has dropped over the past several decades, and particularly since 2000. For men of prime working age, it has been falling for more than half a century. The causes of this are extremely complicated and much debated, but the outcome is not: fewer workers in the labor pool. Most of those dropping out of the workforce are older workers, but their absence has an impact on entry-level roles: fewer workers available to mentor and train new employees.
  • Fewer Teens Work. With their eyes firmly fixed on college applications, anxious teens (or more accurately, their parents) are increasingly devaluing the type of paid work that teens have done for decades—in food service, retail, seasonal labor, and more—in favor of excelling at school, participating in sports programs, and pursuing academic enrichment activities. The result? Many more young people graduate college without ever having held a job—so they have no demonstrable experience in some of the basic skills (customer service, communication, teamwork) that employers look for.

Decreased Federal Funding for Job Training

Over the last 40 years, federal government spending on jobs and skills training has declined—from a high of $24 billion in the late 1970s (adjusted for inflation as of 2017) to about $5 billion today. Much of that funding is targeted at low-income or mid-career people, but the overall trend is undeniable: fewer resources for skills training in the workforce.

Skills “Inflation” in Job Descriptions

A fascinating study recently showed that during the Great Recession of 2007 – 2009, job postings saw an 18% increase in education requirements and a 25% in experience requirements. Why? Because unemployment was high, and employers could be choosy. So they packed more and more required skills into job descriptions, hoping to find near-perfect candidates. But even though unemployment rates have fallen below 4%, employers are still asking for the moon. The result? Today job descriptions are crammed full of experience and skill requirements, even at the entry level. This screens out many job seekers who would be successful employees.

SKILLS GAP: POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

There Is No Silver Bullet

We highlight several skills-gap solutions below, but it’s important to recognize that addressing the skills gap will require action on multiple fronts. No single solution will significantly reduce the skills gap on its own. It’s also important to recognize that no single group can solve the problem either. It’s not enough to simply tell workers, “You should go back to school and learn new skills,” or to tell universities, “you need to update your curricula immediately.” Effective solutions will require joint efforts from multiple stakeholders.

Employer Training Programs.

Alarmed by their inability to find workers with the skills they need, many some companies—particularly those with deep financial resources—are taking matters into their own hands. AT&T has committed more than $1 billion to retrain workers over the next several years. Amazon has announced a $700 million investment in upskilling its workforce—training more than 100,000 employees to move into new roles. In Amazon’s case, they’ve built their own in-house tech academy to teach skills in machine learning, robotic systems, and cloud computing. JPMorgan Chase has announced a $350 million initiative to prepare for the future of work and meet the growing demand for skilled workers, including those from underserved populations.

Partnerships Between Business and Education

In an Inside Higher Ed survey of university chief academic officers, 56% felt their institutions were “very effective” in preparing their students for the workplace. But in a Gallup survey that asked the same question of business leaders, only 11% agreed. Clearly there’s a disconnect. That’s why business-academic partnerships hold such promise to address the skills gap. Examples include a collaboration between Adobe and New York University to create a center for the Future of Work, where students apply their learning by using Adobe technologies on real-world business issues. The open-source solutions provider Red Hat launched an “open innovation lab” with Boston University, where students and entrepreneurs explore emerging technology like machine learning. Because the skills gap is often localized—that is, different areas in the U.S. see different types of skill shortages—partnerships between businesses and their local education institutions can be particularly powerful.

Third-Party Credentials

Employers today are learning to focus most on job skills and less on education experience. But how can job seekers demonstrate that they have the skills employers want? Third-party credentials are one intriguing answer. Many professional organizations already do this, by conferring credentials that are recognized throughout certain fields (the SHRM-CP for human resources professionals; PMP for project management; CISSP for IT security). And many organizations are at work in this area, attempting to create a framework whereby skilled workers could receive independent validation of their abilities from a credentialing agency—validation that would be recognized by employers across industries. There are many challenges ahead, including the not-insignificant task of getting businesses to agree on which credentialing bodies to trust, but the potential is huge: rather than spending tens of thousands on university degrees, workers could gain skills in whatever way works best for them, and then pay a small fee to have those skills certified.

Upskilling

According to recent research, today’s graduates with technical, job-specific skills will find those skills outdated in only six years. A report from the World Economic Forum found that 54 percent of all employees will require significant re- and upskilling by 2022. Put simply, upskilling means adding new skills to a worker’s capabilities. It could involve traditional learning methods like university courses, mentoring, or apprenticeship programs. Or it could take a newer form, like technology boot camps. Or “microlearning” (targeted training delivered in short bursts), augmented-reality-enabled learning, gamification, or mobile apps. The methods vary, but effective upskilling is specific, based in real-world examples (no theoretical noodling here), and immediately applicable. Unlike the traditional university degrees, upskilling is never “one and done”—and it demands a much smaller investment of time and money.

Outsourcing

Where there’s a problem, there’s an opportunity. And multiple innovative firms are stepping in to offer solutions to businesses who struggle with entry-level hiring. In some cases these are traditional staffing agencies, who leverage their experience in candidate screening and placement. But there are also many new players applying new approaches and new technologies to this issue. Author and education-technology investor Ryan Craig (full disclosure: he is a member of Avenica’s board of directors) has said, “Entry-level hiring in America is the next function to be outsourced, where we see large employers looking to their relationships with service providers and staffing companies to bring in talent on a try before you buy basis to eliminate that hiring friction.”

Re-Think Entry-Level Hiring

When technology is changing constantly, hiring for specific skills isn’t the best strategy. It makes more sense to hire for the right person—and then upskill them with the skills you need. Fortunately, more companies today are realizing this: in a recent survey by Robert Half, 84 percent of employers said their company is open to hiring an employee who can grow into their role. Especially at the entry level, you want someone who will connect with your company’s values and culture—and has key characteristics like integrity, initiative, adaptability, and a hunger to learn. Further, employers should shun the “skills inflation” we mentioned earlier. Especially at the entry level, does it make sense to require 3+ years of industry experience? Do new hires really need to know 7 different programming languages? Get rid of the nice-to-haves and focus on the skills it actually takes to do the job.

Final Thoughts

The skills gap is real. It’s large. And it’s complicated. But there are things your company can do to increase your chances of making good entry-level hires—particularly if you’re willing to use different approaches and open to partnering with education institutions and other organizations that can help.

As a positive final thought, it’s worth considering this: imagine what our economy would look like if employee skills didn’t need to change frequently. How vibrant would our society be if everybody could learn everything they needed to know when they were young, and never have to learn anything new? While the skills gap is painful for hiring managers and companies, the alternative—a stagnant economy, without mobility or innovation—would be much, much worse.

About Avenica

Through conversation, high-impact coaching, and best-in-class support, we translate and meet the needs of our client partners by identifying and transforming potential into high-performing professionals. At Avenica, we are working from the inside out to embrace diverse thought and perspectives while actively working to dismantle systems of oppression and implicit bias. With a deeply-held belief in human potential, we transform lives and enable organizations to achieve new heights.

If you’re interested in partnering with us to develop or hire your workforce, let’s talk. If you’re a job seeker, please join our network to connect with an Avenica Account Manager.

Related Articles

What You Need to Know About Today’s Entry-Level Workforce

Insights

What You Need to Know About Today’s Entry-Level Workforce

Avenica

Biography

Hiring for any role is complicated. But hiring at the entry level brings special challenges—so many that 41% of employers say entry-level roles are the hardest to fill. Why? Candidates don’t have track records. They don’t have work references you can check. They don’t have previous work accomplishments to show you. Plus, most of today’s college graduates (55%, in fact) will leave their first job within a year—up to 20% of new hires may quit within their first 45 days.

A New Generation (GenZ) Enters the Workforce. But They’re Not Alone.

On top of those daunting figures, employers today are anxious about welcoming a new cohort (hello, GenZ!)—who may have very different ideas and expectations about what a first job should be—into a workforce where different demographic groups (Boomers, Millennials, GenX) sometimes struggle to get along. GenZ is by far the biggest group in this category—they will soon make up 20% of the workforce. But entry-level roles may be filled by other groups, too: career changers, parents returning to work after raising families, or workers transitioning from the military to the private sector.

Whoever your new hires are, there are some important things you can do to help them be successful—during the hiring process, once they are employees, and beyond.

What You Need to Know About Today’s Entry-Level Workers

  • Most of Them Are True Digital Natives. While Millennials can tell you what a VHS tape is, the newest crop of young adults (Generation Z, born after 1996) have always lived in a world with email, the Internet, and phones that could do lots more than just make calls.
    • Guard your reputation. Entry-level job seekers will carefully research your company, including on review sites, where you can’t control the message. Your reputation is everything, so develop a strategy for assessing and responding to online reviews.
    • Power up your social media presence. More than 54% of GenZ job seekers expect to find their next gig through social media, and they favor channels like SnapChat and Instagram. Will they find you there? And how will you keep them engaged after they’re hired?
    • Enable personal connections. Although this is the most tech-connected generation of workers, 74% actually prefer connecting with colleagues face to face.
    • Don’t assume they know your tech. Yes, most entry-level workers today have been surrounded by technology all their lives. But that doesn’t mean they know how to use your office systems—benefits portals, video-conferencing systems, or your inventory-management tools.
  • They Were Shaped by the Great Recession. GenZ watched their parents struggle with layoffs, foreclosures, and shrinking wealth. Older entry-level workers (returning moms and dads, military veterans) experienced those scary times firsthand, too. And they learned some valuable lessons about security, stability, and planning for the future. Only 56% of GenZ thinks they’ll enjoy a higher standard of living than their parents. And 35% say they plan to start saving for retirement in their 20s.
    • Help them grow their skills. Skills mean employability, and today’s entry level workers know it. According to one recent survey, 2019 college graduates ranked professional development as the most important factor in choosing a job. A survey from a few years ago found that while 80% of entry-level hires expected their new employer to offer formal training, less than half of those companies did so. You can use training to set your company apart and improve your retention rates.
    • Show them there’s a path forward. Entry level hires want to see that they have opportunities to advance—and that you’ll help them do it. Earn their loyalty by taking time to learn about their individual strengths, setting clear goals for growth, and following through. This could also mean setting up internal mentoring or networking programs.
  • They value transparency. As a group, GenZ wants authenticity and accountability. They’ve grown up with unprecedented access to information, and they don’t want their employers to keep things from them. This holds true for older entry-level workers, too. They want to be in the loop, and they don’t want spin.
    • Show them why they matter. Today’s entry-level workers don’t want to be cogs in a machine. Help them see how the work they’re doing impacts your company’s business.
    • Provide regular feedback. Especially as they transition—from school, the military, or being at home with kids—they are likely to be unsure of their performance. Conduct regular, informal feedback through check-ins, conversations, project debriefings, and more.
    • Give them clear goals they can achieve. At the entry level, workers are hungry for the sense of accomplishment that comes with a job well done. That’s why it’s important to provide a combination of short- and long-term goals that are challenging but reachable—like managing a small project or delivering a presentation by themselves.

Don’t Rely on Stereotypes. And Be Patient.

There are broad characteristics that may hold true across groups, but no generation is a monolith. GenZ is the most diverse cohort to ever enter the workforce—in fact, the most diverse generation in U.S. history. Don’t assume that your fresh-out-of-college hires will adhere to all the stereotypes you may have read about.

And whatever age your entry-level hires, patience is key. Entry level workers make mistakes. They won’t understand every aspect of your business right away. And they may take time to adapt their behavior, expectations, and attitudes as they transition into the world of work. But you’ll need to adapt, too.

About Avenica

Through conversation, high-impact coaching, and best-in-class support, we translate and meet the needs of our client partners by identifying and transforming potential into high-performing professionals. At Avenica, we are working from the inside out to embrace diverse thought and perspectives while actively working to dismantle systems of oppression and implicit bias. With a deeply-held belief in human potential, we transform lives and enable organizations to achieve new heights.

If you’re interested in partnering with us to develop or hire your workforce, let’s talk. If you’re a job seeker, please join our network to connect with an Avenica Account Manager.

Related Articles

Upskilling: What Is It—And How Can It Change your View of Hiring?

Insights

The Underemployment Trap: Why Your First Job Is Critical

Avenica

LinkedIn

Employment rates in the U.S. have risen every year since the Great Recession of 2008–2009. And today unemployment is at near-historic lows. While that’s great news for many job seekers, hiding behind those gaudy numbers is a phenomenon that’s far less positive—one that impacts young job seekers most of all.

It’s underemployment.

Underemployment happens when someone is in a job for which they are overqualified—the typical situation is a bachelor’s graduate in a role that doesn’t require a degree. Consider the cliché of the Art History major working as a barista. Or a “foot-in-the-door” job, such as an IT grad working the help desk or a sports performance major folding towels at a health club. Underemployment also happens when someone would prefer to work full time but can only secure part-time employment.

First-job underemployment has lasting effects

Where you start has a big impact on where you end up. A 2018 study found that 43% of new college grads were underemployed in their first job—earning an average of $10,000 less than grads who find employment appropriate for their qualifications. And this wage gap compounds year after year, so workers who are underemployed at the start of their careers are more likely to remain that way, even decades later—stuck in a rut of lower-paying, lower-prestige jobs.

Underemployment obviously has negative consequences for individual workers, but there are big ripple effects as well. Underemployed workers will have less income overall, which means they may be less likely to pay off their student loans, buy a home, go on vacation, or go out to dinner—all of which impacts the health of the broader economy.

Underemployment seems to be growing

A certain amount of underemployment will always be with us. Some new grads take more time to find their career path. Others may choose careers that don’t fit their area of study. Still others may lack the motivation or interest in pursuing roles appropriate for their credentials.

Although researchers and experts differ on the exact numbers around underemployment, most agree that it’s growing. Why?

Multiple factors are at work. College enrollment has grown since 2000—which means more new graduates are pursuing a finite pool of jobs. Older generations of workers are holding onto their jobs longer, further reducing the number of higher-skill positions. The trend toward contract, gig, or part-time roles means many recent graduates find themselves with less than a full-time work. And the skills required for today’s jobs are more complex and changing rapidly, which means many graduates are leaving school without the abilities employers need.

Safeguarding your career against underemployment

The rise of underemployment is definitely cause for concern. But there are things you can do to protect yourself and your career. Here are just a few:

  • Select the right major. When it comes to underemployment, your field of study makes a big difference. The fields least likely to be underemployed include engineering, computer science, nursing, and education. The areas of highest underemployment? General liberal arts, performing arts, security and law enforcement, leisure and hospitality, and fitness. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York keeps fascinating stats on underemployment by major.
  • Get real about what employers need. Whatever your area of study, students or recent grads shouldn’t assume their degree will guarantee a job in their field. Do your research on specific jobs, salaries, skills, and employer needs in your profession of interest.
  • Seize opportunities to upskill. Employers still value the communication, analytical, and critical thinking skills that college graduates have. But hiring managers often look for specific, technical abilities as well. Building these “last mile” skills—whether through online tools, volunteering, or technical classes—can make all the difference.
  • Explore Avenica. We don’t like to toot our own horn, but preventing underemployment is kind of a big thing for us. Avenica specifically works with college graduates to help them identify their career goals, interests, and skills and then match them to opportunities that are the right fit.

Whether you’re still in college, mere months away from graduation, or already out in the working world, underemployment may be lurking. But there are steps you can take to keep it at bay. Educate yourself about this trend and you’ve taken a big step toward building a successful career for the long term.

About Avenica

Through conversation, high-impact coaching, and best-in-class support, we translate and meet the needs of our client partners by identifying and transforming potential into high-performing professionals. At Avenica, we are working from the inside out to embrace diverse thought and perspectives while actively working to dismantle systems of oppression and implicit bias. With a deeply-held belief in human potential, we transform lives and enable organizations to achieve new heights.

If you’re interested in partnering with us to develop or hire your workforce, let’s talk. If you’re a job seeker, please join our network to connect with an Avenica Account Manager.

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Scott Dettman Interview with Authority Mag on Creating a More Equitable Society

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Scott Dettman Interview with Authority Magazine on Creating a More Equitable Society

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Biography

Alexandra Spirer of Medium’s publication Authority Magazine interviewed Avenica CEO Scott Dettman to discuss the steps business leaders can take to create an inclusive, representative, and equitable society.

Dettman talks about his philosophy on leadership and shares his thoughts on the importance of equity at all levels of business and what Avenica is doing to help close the opportunity gap.

“One thing we know is there isn’t enough diversity and equity in just about every level of business, from the entry-level to executive leadership. Being in an industry so heavily focused on workforce development and hiring, we are uniquely positioned and feel an obligation to help solve this problem.”

Read the full interview on Authority Magazine site.

About Avenica

Through conversation, high-impact coaching, and best-in-class support, we translate and meet the needs of our client partners by identifying and transforming potential into high-performing professionals. At Avenica, we are working from the inside out to embrace diverse thought and perspectives while actively working to dismantle systems of oppression and implicit bias. With a deeply-held belief in human potential, we transform lives and enable organizations to achieve new heights.

If you’re interested in partnering with us to develop or hire your workforce, let’s talk. If you’re a job seeker, please join our network to connect with an Avenica Account Manager.

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KARE11 interview with Scott Dettman on professional development during the pandemic

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KARE11 interview with Scott Dettman on professional development during the pandemic

Avenica

Biography

Avenica CEO Scott Dettman joined Lauren Lemancyk on KARE11 to share advice for people seeking professional advancement during the time of COVID.

“Mentorship is another way to think about support and sponsorship,” Dettman said. “The people who persevere through difficult times are those who turn to their networks. For those just entering the workforce, mentors can help you navigate the first steps of finding a job. Mentors help you think outside the box. It gives you the chance to bounce ideas off another person and ask questions.”

Watch the full interview for more insights.

About Avenica

Through conversation, high-impact coaching, and best-in-class support, we translate and meet the needs of our client partners by identifying and transforming potential into high-performing professionals. At Avenica, we are working from the inside out to embrace diverse thought and perspectives while actively working to dismantle systems of oppression and implicit bias. With a deeply-held belief in human potential, we transform lives and enable organizations to achieve new heights.

If you’re interested in partnering with us to develop or hire your workforce, let’s talk. If you’re a job seeker, please join our network to connect with an Avenica Account Manager.

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9 Keys for Avoiding a Bad Hire

We’ve pretty much all been there. Your new hire is struggling. You’ve done all the right training and onboarding, followed up with coaching and constructive feedback, but the work isn’t good, and the rest of your team knows it. Not only is your new hire getting dirty looks from coworkers, but a few of those are now aimed at you. But you don’t want to admit your mistake, and you definitely don’t want to go through the hiring process again. They’re going to catch on eventually. Right?

Probably not.

Made a Bad Hire? Act fast.

Bad hires, no matter the position or level, can negatively affect your team’s productivity in so many ways:

  • Poor work quality
  • Missing project deadlines
  • Poor work attendance
  • Don’t work well with others
  • Abilities don’t match what they represented during hiring  process
  • Negative attitude
  • Unprofessional behavior including bullying or harassment
  • Criminal or unethical activity including theft or fraud

A bad hire can do a lot of damage (keep reading to see how much). The sooner you act, the better—for you and your entire organization. Start documenting the situation, having difficult conversations about performance, and laying the groundwork for termination.

How Big is the Problem?

Really big. A Career Builder survey reported that 74% of companies have made a bad hire.  And that’s probably low. Anyone who’s ever worked anywhere can tell you a story about a disastrous hire in their organization. Even the most successful companies aren’t immune: Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh has said that bad hires have cost his company, “well over $100 million.”

Which brings us to…

Bad hires are expensive. Here’s why.

In a Career Builder survey, employers reported losing an average of $14,900 for each bad hire. The U.S Department of Labor estimated that a bad hire can cost up to 30% of that employee’s first-year salary. Other estimates say that figure is more like 50%. And some have gone as high as $240,000 for higher-level roles.

Where’s all that money going?

Measurable costs. These are the hard dollars you can easily see: recruitment and advertising fees for job posting, relocation fees, and training fees. Staff time, including the hours put in by HR and hiring managers. There could be costs for a severance package or outplacement services. And in the worst cases, there might be legal expenses.

Hidden costs. These are hard to measure, but they’re much more serious. A bad hire can infect morale, hinder team performance, and harm workplace culture. It can derail important projects, alienate key customers, weaken your company’s brand image, and cause you to miss out on big opportunities. There are also emotional costs like stress, resentment, and burnout.

And then you add in the cost of replacing a bad hire—now you’re talking serious money.

Why so many bad hires?

Employers spend more time than ever in hiring (research from Glassdoor shows that the time employers spend on interviews has almost doubled since 2009), but bad hires are as common as ever—maybe even more common. Why? Low unemployment has made it a job-seeker’s market, so employers often feel rushed to land a candidate. Another reason, as The Harvard Business Review points out, is that workers change jobs much more often than in previous generations (therefore internal promotions aren’t as common) and companies today are constantly having to hire outside talent; they’re in scramble mode.

And an unexpected result: they’re not as good at hiring for entry-level jobs.

How to Avoid Making a Bad Hire

This is a tough situation, but you can improve your odds. Here’s how

  • Hire for the person and their potential, not the resume. Too often, employers hire according to a checklist of technical skills rather than looking at core values and so-called soft skills—things like integrity, professionalism, collaboration, and communication. These things are often essential, you can always train for the rest.
  • Build a standardized hiring process. If you don’t have one, you’re five times more likely to make a bad hire, according to a study by Brandon Hall Group and Glassdoor. A good process includes powerful tools for both HR and hiring managers—including standard interview questions, peer-to-peer evaluations, and more.
  • Design a welcoming and robust onboarding program. If you have a consistent showing-the-ropes program, you can improve retention by 82%, according to the same research cited above.
  • Do a thorough background check. This service isn’t free, but it’ll save you money and heartache in the long run.
  • Get an objective perspective. Involve third parties in the hiring process—this could be a full service partner that screens and matches candidates for you (hey, Avenica does that!). Or even another employee from an unrelated department. You need somebody who can give you unbiased feedback.
  • Be clear and honest about your company and culture. Many times, it’s not that the employee is a poor worker, just that they’re not the right fit for the role or your company.
  • Let your candidates see what the job is like. Again, sometimes a bad hire is just a mismatch. Give candidates an unvarnished view of what the role is like. Some companies (Google, Marriot) have turned to gamification, letting candidates play a game that simulates the skills and challenges involved in the job.
  • Trust in your recruiting professionals. Not everyone is great at interviewing and identifying potential, especially in entry-level candidates. This is the time to let your HR professionals and partners do their jobs.
  • Measure your hiring success. No company would spend millions on an ad campaign without measuring how effective it was. But according to the Harvard Business Review, only about a third of U.S. companies monitor whether their hiring practices lead to good employees.

Hiring will never be a perfect process. But there are two key things to remember. You don’t have to be stuck with a bad hire—act quickly and you can minimize the damage. Secondly, there are clear steps you can take to avoid future disasters.

About Avenica

Through conversation, high-impact coaching, and best-in-class support, we translate and meet the needs of our client partners by identifying and transforming potential into high-performing professionals. At Avenica, we are working from the inside out to embrace diverse thought and perspectives while actively working to dismantle systems of oppression and implicit bias. With a deeply-held belief in human potential, we transform lives and enable organizations to achieve new heights.

If you’re interested in partnering with us to develop or hire your workforce, let’s talk. If you’re a job seeker, please join our network to connect with an Avenica Account Manager.

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Scott Dettman joined Jeff Wagner of WCCO | CBS to discuss TheDream.US partnership

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Scott Dettman joined Jeff Wagner of WCCO | CBS to discuss TheDream.US partnership

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Avenica CEO Scott Dettman joined Jeff Wagner of WCCO | CBS to discuss the newly-announced partnership with TheDream.US and the goal to help prepare DREAMers for careers after college through one-on-one coaching and mentorship, high-impact training and upskilling, and personalized career planning designed to support DREAMers connect to meaningful, right-fit career paths.

Watch the full interview HERE.

About Avenica

Through conversation, high-impact coaching, and best-in-class support, we translate and meet the needs of our client partners by identifying and transforming potential into high-performing professionals. At Avenica, we are working from the inside out to embrace diverse thought and perspectives while actively working to dismantle systems of oppression and implicit bias. With a deeply-held belief in human potential, we transform lives and enable organizations to achieve new heights.

If you’re interested in partnering with us to develop or hire your workforce, let’s talk. If you’re a job seeker, please join our network to connect with an Avenica Account Manager.

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Avenica and TheDream.US Announce Strategic Partnership

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Scott Dettman joined Jeff Wagner of WCCO | CBS to discuss TheDream.US partnership

Avenica

Biography

Avenica CEO Scott Dettman joined Jeff Wagner of WCCO | CBS to discuss the newly-announced partnership with TheDream.US and the goal to help prepare DREAMers for careers after college through one-on-one coaching and mentorship, high-impact training and upskilling, and personalized career planning designed to support DREAMers connect to meaningful, right-fit career paths.

Watch the full interview HERE.

About Avenica

Through conversation, high-impact coaching, and best-in-class support, we translate and meet the needs of our client partners by identifying and transforming potential into high-performing professionals. At Avenica, we are working from the inside out to embrace diverse thought and perspectives while actively working to dismantle systems of oppression and implicit bias. With a deeply-held belief in human potential, we transform lives and enable organizations to achieve new heights.

If you’re interested in partnering with us to develop or hire your workforce, let’s talk. If you’re a job seeker, please join our network to connect with an Avenica Account Manager.

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