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The U.S. workforce looks dramatically different today than it did just a year ago, and more change is on the horizon.

According to a report from the World Economic Forum published in October of last year, the rapid acceleration of automation and increased economic uncertainty caused by the pandemic will lead to the displacement of 85 million jobs by 2025, along with the creation of 97 million new ones.

As employers restructure their workforces in the midst of all this upheaval, it’s critical that they think ahead and develop plans to hire and train for the skills they’ll need both now and in the future.

Related: Why You Need to Prioritize Upskilling Your Workforce

Hiring for tomorrow

LinkedIn’s 2021 Workplace Learning Report found that 84 percent of managers agree learning can help close existing skills gaps on their teams. Indeed, employee development programs will play a major role in helping companies adapt to whatever lies ahead. Employers should also keep this in mind when hiring. Although recruiting based on degrees and past professional experience might help you hire employees with credentials, those credentials don’t always mean new hires will excel when asked to learn new skills and concepts.

Unlocking employee performance starts with relaxing hiring requirements. Rather than prioritizing credentials or very specific hard skills, companies should shift their focus toward nontraditional talent pipelines — think self-taught learners, boot camps and career-changers. Especially for small businesses without the resources and fancy benefits packages to compete with larger companies, this can be a great way to find high-quality talent that others might have passed over.

Graduates from nontraditional programs or self-taught technologists have already demonstrated that they are self-starters capable of learning new skills quickly, as many of these programs are extremely accelerated and revolve around job-focused curriculums. Plus, these individuals can often bring an array of diverse experiences to a new role — experiences that their counterparts who have taken more linear career paths might lack.

Recruiting these types of employees could also help your retention numbers. The above LinkedIn report revealed that “employees at companies with high internal mobility stay almost two times longer.” If your company provides opportunities for ongoing learning, then you’ll likely be a good fit for continuous learners. If you don’t provide those opportunities, you’ll probably find it harder to recruit, especially among younger generations of talent that tend to prioritize career growth and professional development.

Related: Why Continuous Learning Is Critical for Entrepreneurs and Their Teams

Winning the race

Hard skills are certainly important when filling a critical role, and especially if it’s one that requires a new hire to jump right into demanding technical work. But for most positions, it’s just as important to evaluate candidates for soft skills such as learning aptitude and communication ability. Many of these skills can’t be taught, and they’re often impossible to convey in a traditional application. In order to identify them, hiring managers will have to rethink and reinvent hiring practices that are perhaps years or even decades old. Getting buy-in from leaders to start this process can be a challenge. However, it’s one worth undertaking.

The longer your company waits to implement a hiring process that can effectively assess soft skills, the more critical these skills will become. The world’s biggest companies already understand that adaptable employees who are eager to learn are vital to their survival.

For small-business leaders hoping to recruit employees who are able to adapt and evolve as the business environment changes, here are a few tips to keep in mind:

1. Look beyond the resumé

Give candidates the opportunity to show why they want the job or how they might approach new responsibilities. A cover letter and resumé might show what a candidate has accomplished in the past, but you need to know how they’ll deal with an increasingly uncertain future.

At LaunchCode, we’re encouraging candidates to submit videos in which they describe past projects or experiences, including how they approached them and what they learned. These video submissions add context to other aspects of the application and allow us to more accurately assess soft skills, confidence and enthusiasm. Other companies are taking a similar approach, such as Walters People, which digitalized the traditional CV by adding a video interview to the process. In fact, the company saw a 60 percent increase in those with video interviews as part of their CVs being selected for face-to-face interviews.

Early interview methods that address soft skills can help you be more confident and decisive when selecting which candidates to move along in the process, making the entire hiring process faster and more efficient.

Related: The 10 Unique Soft Skills Employers Desire in New Hires

2. Prioritize transferrable skills

The technical capabilities or expertise required to do a specific job are often universal. But what happens when that job changes? Rather than focusing only on candidates with prior work history related to a given role, pay attention to those who have a large number of transferrable skills, such as clear communication or excellent time management.

Researchers from Florida State University recently investigated the link between prior work experience and employee performance, and their findings were telling. The study revealed a weak correlation between the two across a wide range of metrics. The reality is that the amount of time spent in a particular role, or the number of jobs held, says little about the quality or significance of past experiences.

3. Look for evidence of self-directed learning or inherent curiosity

Although a candidate who’s made a career change might be viewed as inexperienced or unfocused at first glance, such a move could actually be evidence of traits that are extremely desirable in an employee. Diversity in experience is a good thing, as are qualities such as initiative and persistence. If someone has taken to online learning in the form of massive open online courses or online boot camps, it shows they want to learn new things and are capable of doing so.

According to a study by staffing firm Robert Half, 84 percent of HR managers are open to hiring employees whose skills can be developed on the job. What’s more, some of the largest companies in the world are investing significantly into continued learning and upskilling for employees. PwC, for example, announced in late 2019 that it would be investing $3 billion in workforce training over the next several years. Hiring candidates with the desire and aptitude to learn, and investing internally in employee development, is critical to long-term success.

If the last year has taught businesses anything, it’s that you must prepare for the unexpected. That means hiring candidates both for what they can do now and what they’ll be capable of doing when things change. By seeking out candidates with diverse experiences, transferrable skills and a willingness to grow and learn, you’ll set your organization up to remain adaptable and thrive through whatever the future might hold.

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