Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Moneyballing employee hiring

This is a follow-up to my last post trying to create competition for the college degree, but framed from the perspective of the employer.  Think about the Moneyball concept in baseball -- using statistics to find value where nobody else can see it, allowing you to build a team of undervalued players that can compete with teams with huge payrolls.  Now apply it to hiring talent in any field.  I am positive that there are characteristics that can be measured and analyzed to recruit a team of lower cost employees that do as good or better work than high-paid employees hired through traditional processes.

Who are the undervalued employees?  I think that people with strong communication and teamwork skills offer huge dividends but don't have a way to show off their talent.  I think people who self-educate through MOOCs and books are driven self-learners with a depth of knowledge that rarely gets credited to them in the hiring process.  For some jobs, I would look for people who are the equivalent of Harvard MBAs who skip the Harvard.  I still want people with the critical thinking skill, the social network, and the experience, but I would seek out the non-credentialed people who can get paid less for equivalent performance.

The benefit to employers is clear: pay lower salaries for better people.  Since the employer is saving money, the company who finds the undervalued talent can take a bonus cut for their efforts, leading to a sustaining business model.  Most importantly is the benefit to society: people without overpriced credentials now have a pathway into good jobs, even if it comes at lower pay than traditionally-credentialed coworkers receive.  If employers find that these new talent-finders are giving them better employees than they used to get, salaries will eventually rise closer to the traditionally-credentialed employees' salaries, effectively eliminating the need for the credentialing agency at all.  Then boom, the college degree is dead in most fields (except fields like medicine where education and credentials are deeply tied).  And teachers like me can stop worrying about having to decide between college prep and career relevance.

[A note on the "other" benefits of college: if you want kids to experience the multicultural aspects of college, send them backpacking in Central America.  If you want kids to get hands-on training with the best in their field, they should get an internship.  If you want kids to become critical thinkers and deep reflectors, tell them to start blogging and engaging in an online community related to something they're passionate about.  Volunteer, join a community group, start contributing to open source software projects, start a business, get connected with a local maker space.  I am confident that I could help a kid build a better four year experience full of learning, personal growth, community, and career preparation than a traditional college at a fraction of the cost.  It is the lack of a strong pathway into getting hired at the desired job that makes my ultimate four year experience plan a very risky proposition for a high school graduate.  If these Moneyball-esqe talent-finders were common, I don't think this would be an issue.]

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