By now we’ve all heard about the country’s challenging labor market. Open jobs outnumber unemployed Americans by more than three million, and still employers are struggling to find qualified candidates to fill positions that have been languishing for months. Many workers need further education or occupational training to meet the need for highly-skilled workers in industries like technology. But we’re also seeing a disconnect on the hiring side— one that is only perpetuating recent labor shortages and preventing companies from moving into the future.
Companies reluctant to hire junior talent
At Tech Talent South, where we place qualified tech employees from entry- to senior-level positions with companies of all sizes, we’re seeing an almost-ubiquitous reluctance to hire junior tech talent. By junior talent, we’re referring to everyone with less than two years of tech experience. Junior tech talent may include:
- Candidates with a background in the humanities or social sciences
- Folks who have gone through a mid-life career change into tech
- Candidates who have graduated from coding bootcamps or similar training programs
- People with diverse employment and personal backgrounds that can bring something unique and valuable to any team
- Candidates with work experience in technology as well as in other industries
As you can tell, we think junior tech talent has a lot to offer any corporate team! Just because someone has a little less experience on paper, doesn’t mean they don’t have valuable skills. Any team that thoughtlessly passes over those with slightly less experience, especially in this tough labor market, is making a significant mistake.
Let’s get into some theories as to why employers are currently hesitant to hire junior talent.
Some managers hesitate to hire junior talent because of the prevalence of remote work. As the COVID-19 pandemic has normalized remote work, many tech workers have come to prefer working remotely and/or on a flexible schedule. Although studies show there are many benefits to working remotely, including more happiness and time saved from commuting, it doesn’t work for everyone. 19% of people say that loneliness is one of the worst parts about working remotely.
There can also be disadvantages for team efficiency and training. Some managers hesitate to hire junior staff members because inexperienced employees require more oversight and training, which can be difficult to coordinate remotely.
But much of this resistance is simply resistance to the inevitable changes that are happening in the workplace as we speak. The transition to widespread remote work was challenging in its scope, but over a year later, companies and individuals are developing ways to manage hiccups without disrupting workflow. Junior team members themselves actually tend to prefer to work in the office more for productivity or mentorship reasons.
How do you resolve this when your company policy is to remain remote? Work on building out support and training. For junior staff, training can help them develop better at-home workflows and give them support; for managers, training can teach them how to guide and mentor junior staff while working remotely. Mentorship, training, and development are also vital for employee retention— yet another reason to prioritize improving your employee support services.
Invest in growth
It’s clear that the current work situation is more than just a temporary result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Remote work trends were already gathering steam before the pandemic accelerated them. Millennials, well-known for being the generation that changes jobs frequently, make up the largest share of the labor force at 31%. With job-hopping becoming more common than remaining with the same company for long periods over one’s career, some are concerned about developing leadership skills and institutional knowledge in the younger generations.
There’s also Gen Z to consider. With large numbers of this generation entering the workforce now or in the next few years, their presence will continue to shape corporate work and leadership. Gen Z’ers have different expectations of work than previous generations and will require the corporate culture to adapt.
As the demographics of the labor force continue to change, corporate work styles will change with them or become obsolete. All the more reason for companies to lean into training and mentoring of junior staff while they can.
After all, you can’t solve tomorrow’s problems with today’s skills. Hiring those who excel or have experience in some areas but lack the ability and curiosity to learn new skills is myopic at best and actively harmful at worst. When you consider just how much our attitudes about work have changed over the last several years, even prior to the pandemic, it seems foolish to make hiring decisions based only on current need, rather than by anticipating the future evolution of work.
Junior talent and the pandemic
Investing in junior talent offers benefits outside of being good for long-term leadership development and company strategy. In this difficult labor market, it saves time and money to hire those others are willfully overlooking. While hiring someone with slightly less experience may require more training or development on the job, those resources will be put to good use in developing someone who will return that investment to the company in the form of work.
It’s also worth remembering that many candidates who would be considered ‘junior talent’ are members of Gen Z or Millennials, generations that were hit particularly hard during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly one in four members of Gen Z lost their job during the early months of the pandemic, making for a generational unemployment rate of 24.4%. This makes sense for a number of reasons. Young people make up a large percentage of workers in the industries hardest hit during the pandemic, such as service and hospitality. When they are employed in other sectors, they are vulnerable to job loss due to having fewer years of experience.
This recent experience of widespread pandemic-induced unemployment and instability has left many junior candidates unemployed or searching for better jobs. Companies willing to invest in the growth of candidates with less experience can benefit from their unique experiences and backgrounds. If you’re looking to hire and struggling to find qualified candidates to fill your open roles, consider evaluating candidates with less experience or nontraditional qualifications. You could find a perfect fit for your organization!