Input Stories

Input Stories

Finding the “Hidden” Workers

What if HR teams and recruiters simply don’t see some potential employees, even in a historically tight labor market?

It’s a provocative thought, and a 2021 study by Harvard Business School and Accenture suggests it’s true. The study identifies a large pool of people who are unemployed or underemployed and remain “hidden” from most businesses, due to blind spots in the recruiting process.

A broad labor pool: “Many hidden workers are individuals who want work and are actively seeking it,” the study’s authors write.

  • “They experience distress and discouragement when their regular efforts to seek employment fail due to hiring processes that focus on what they don’t have (such as credentials) rather than the value they can bring (such as capabilities).”
  • This pool includes “a highly diverse group of workers—ranging from those who are neither in employment nor in education, to caregivers, to veterans, to those with disabilities.”

How many? There are 27 million hidden workers in the United States, according to the study.

How to reach them: The researchers categorize hidden workers into three major groups.

  • Sixty-three percent of hidden workers are “missing hours,” or people working one or more part-time jobs but could or would like to work full time.
  • Four percent of hidden workers are “missing from work,” or people who have been unemployed for a long time but are still seeking employment.
  • Thirty-three percent of hidden workers are “missing from the workforce,” or people currently not working and are not seeking employment actively, but who could be convinced to seek work under the right circumstances.

What businesses can do: As many as 70% of hidden workers with relevant skills and work experience have applied to jobs in the past five years. So how can companies connect with them properly?

  • Reform the approach to talent acquisition: “The quest to find ‘perfect’ candidates dilutes the focus on finding workers with critical skill,” write the authors. Companies can adjust their job descriptions, shift from “negative” to “affirmative” filters in automated systems and establish new metrics for evaluating talent.
  • Develop a customized approach to hiring hidden workers: Companies can tailor different recruiting efforts to different populations like caregivers or refugees, adopt a customer experience mindset in designing the recruitment process or invest in upskilling and other remediation tactics for promising candidates.

What we’re doing: The Manufacturing Institute, the NAM’s 501(c)3 workforce development and education partner, is hosting a workshop March 29–30 in Washington, D.C., focused on recruitment.

  • Topics covered include identifying vacancies, targeting ideal candidates, crafting messaging and job postings, screening candidates and more. You can find more information and register here.
  • The MI also works to connect manufacturers to populations that often fall into these hidden worker categories, including women, veterans and individuals with criminal records.
  • An important part of integrating hidden workers into the workplace is creating a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment. Find out how the MI is helping manufacturers create such spaces here.
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