HR Insights 11 min

Recruiting and Hiring Non-Traditional Employees

April 21, 2022

The upheaval of the last couple of years has changed the way we work, and now it’s changing the way we hire. Many employers and HR managers are being forced to make adjustments to how they recruit, train, and retain new people while the skilled-labor shortage continues. And as the world climbs out of the economic setback caused by the pandemic, many companies are taking a look at alternative routes to help them get back on track. One of the possible solutions is hiring non-traditional employees. 

We’ll get into the advantages of non-traditional employees and how to attract talent from this pool of more-than-ready candidates. But first, let’s discuss exactly who qualifies as a non-traditional employee and how they may be the key to your post-pandemic recovery. 

What Is a Non-traditional Employee? 

A non-traditional employee is someone that employers would usually either overlook or exclude to fill a role. While there isn’t a precise definition of what makes an employee non-traditional, some typical examples of non-traditional employees would include:

  • Workers who lack desired occupational requirements such as a related degree, direct experience, or job-specific certifications.
  • Candidates with no employment experience, gaps in their employment history, or criminal records. 

The Difference Between Non-traditional Employees and Non-traditional Occupations 

It’s also important to make a distinction between non-traditional employees and what constitutes a non-traditional occupation. The U.S. Department of Labor defines non-traditional occupations as occupations in which individuals from one gender comprise less than 25 percent of the individuals employed in that occupation. For example, women in welding, criminal justice, or engineering, and males in nursing or early childhood education. 

Why You Shouldn’t Exclude Non-Traditional Employees 

When employers add degree requirements to job descriptions that haven’t previously required degrees (and haven’t changed in responsibilities), they’re effectively shutting out a large segment of the labor force simply because these people lack a degree. Add to that the fact that an estimated 19 million Americans have felony convictions, there’s a potentially huge labor force that employers just aren’t considering. 

Also referred to as hidden workers and STARs or “skilled through alternative routes,” non-traditional employees may very well have the right skills or potential to do the job, but no way to show it. It’s up to employers to do the work of recognizing those skills and finding people with the right potential by changing the way they recruit and hire.

Employers need to find creative ways to expand the workforce by looking for workers who aren’t already participating in the labor market. Discovering hidden workers and workers who are STARs is crucial to expanding your workforce and rebounding from COVID-19-caused losses. 

Why You Should Look for STARs

But beyond the practical need for non-traditional employees in expanding your workforce, there are strategic advantages to hiring them. 

  • Problem-solving skills: Many non-traditional employees learned their skills on-the-job, online, or somewhere other than a four-year university. With that alternative education often comes alternative perspectives to solving problems. 
  • Diverse perspectives: Employees who come from a non-traditional background offer a diversity of thought, bringing different ideas and perspectives to the table, which helps their teams make better and more informed decisions. A study from Deloitte found that employees’ ability to innovate increased by 83 percent when they felt their organization was committed to diversity.
  • Soft skills: A candidate with a gap in their resume or an alternative education may still possess plenty of soft skills needed for the job. 

For example, people from industries such as nursing and teaching or service industry workers like waiters and bartenders may not have graduated in the field you’re looking for candidates in, but they may have developed excellent communication, organization, teamwork, and leadership skills in their previous line of work.

Hiring candidates with diverse backgrounds and experience opens up your talent pool to folks who can help your company be more resilient, creative, and agile. You want people that can approach a stubborn problem with a fresh perspective and who energize and complement teams in a way that others can’t. Consider several different types of long-term unemployed and discouraged workers in these economies. This could include veterans, caregivers, formerly incarcerated people, those who have recovered from substance abuse, immigrants, and refugees.

Finding and Hiring Hidden Talent 

When companies adapt their one-size-fits-all hiring practices to a more targeted, skills-based approach, they open up a path to the untapped and oft-forgotten labor pool of hidden workers. 

Here are a few suggestions on how to broaden your scope in your efforts to find and hire non-traditional employees. 

Clarify Your Employer Brand

To attract new types of employees, your company may need to adopt new values. This doesn’t mean a complete rewrite is necessary, but evaluating and being open to updating your company’s identity and being clear that non-traditional employees are welcome may help candidates feel more open to apply. 

Promote Inclusivity

It isn’t always apparent to a potential employee what your company culture will be like, especially if they are coming from a different industry, but you can put clear and well-defined statements relating to your organization’s values that will make people feel welcome—regardless of their background. It’s another way proactively crafting your employee experience pays off.  

Create Fewer Barriers

Non-traditional employees are sometimes hidden simply because employers don’t know where to find them. As we talked about with people with criminal histories and people without degrees, each type of hidden worker has a variety of barriers preventing them from matching an employer’s profile of a “viable” candidate. 

 

Think Differently About Sourcing Candidates

Recruiting and hiring non-traditional employees may force your people team and management to think differently about sourcing candidates, but the rewards can be worth the effort—especially in this difficult hiring market. 

For many companies, having a hiring strategy that includes non-traditional workers could double as a recovery plan to make up for job losses suffered due to the pandemic and the Great Resignation. It also opens up opportunities for some who desperately need it, and can expand your organization’s problem-solving capabilities with fresh perspectives. 

 

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Danielle Cronquist
Copywriter

Danielle Cronquist is a copywriter for BambooHR. Her six years as a professional writer are supported by a degree in English with a minor in editing. At BambooHR, she focuses on creating content that gives people the tools and knowledge they need to do great work and create great workplaces.