Remember the good old days?

The days of carbon copy employees that went to the same schools and colleges, graduated with industry-relevant degrees, stuck on in companies for a minimum of 3-4 years, and were satisfied with a gradual linear climb of that infamous corporate ladder.

The motivations of these employees were quite similar too – money, title, growth. This made it fairly straightforward to retain and hire employees, and organisations remained the ones calling the shots.

But whether it’s the change in perspectives brought about by the pandemic, or the introduction of a whole new species of employees (that we affectionately refer to as the Gen Zs) into the workforce, the cookie cutter model of employees are no longer the norm. 

Phenomena like the Great Resignation have started shedding light on the fact that the ‘traditional’ employee demographic is slowly shrinking, paving way for the non-traditionalists.

Who are the non-traditionalists?

Any professional that has shirked the limiting boundaries of the ‘traditional career path’ is now being referred to as a non-traditionalist. Some categories of the non-traditionalists include – 

This could be an engineering dropout who has made a switch to the creative field, a sales professional with 10 years’ experience who now decides she wants to be a coder, or a job-seeker looking to get back to the workforce after a career break.

Anyone that doesn’t fit the traditional path of School – Under graduation/ Post graduation – Relevant degree – Single industry, would come under this purview.

A completely new category of workers that have sprouted in the last couple of years and are now thriving, these are professionals who value autonomy and flexibility in their work. They prefer to carve out their own work hours and have a say over the kind of projects they take on, and are comfortable with the ambiguity and risk that this career choice brings them.

This section of the workforce also includes the ‘side-hustlers’. These are the extremely enterprising individuals that hold a day job for stability but also work on multiple part-time gigs to bring in extra income, or work on projects that are of interest.

These are the 45+-year-old professionals who have reached a certain level in their career and are close to retirement, but want to continue working, albeit not in the same rigorous fashion they’ve been following for the last 20 years. They could be looking for their second innings to stay relevant, maintain a steady source of income, find meaningful work etc., and are usually not concerned with the typical traditional job motivators like career advancement.

This primarily refers to the diversity section of an organization. Examples of under-represented talent include working mothers, women in sales/ manufacturing, or professionals from a certain section of society. 

Each of these non-traditional talent spheres can further be broken down into several categories with distinct skills and drivers. The unpredictable and diverse nature of this section of the workforce makes it harder for employers to hire and retain non-traditionalists.

Despite this, organisations are now keener than ever to hire non-traditional talent.

Why do organisations want to hire non-traditionalists?

1. The Great Resignation has caused a dire need

We started this article referencing the sudden drop in the availability of ‘traditional talent’. The McKinsey report threw out some interesting statistics including the fact that 48% of the ‘job-leavers’ globally joined back into different industries than the ones they left, and a whopping 60% of Indians expressed the desire to leave their current roles in the near future. The report states that there’s more demand for talent than traditional employees can supply. Meeting their hiring requirement would require organisations to deep-dive into the non-traditional pool.

2. Increasing cost of hiring new talent

With the dip in available traditional talent, there is a spike in the cost of hiring and retaining them. One of the key motivators for traditional talent is compensation, which explains why organisations must pay top dollar to their employees to ensure employee retention.

Non-traditionalists happen to be a more sustainable alternative to organisations. Hiring for skill over background allows organisations to find less expensive alternatives and non-monetary retention methods.

For example, an organization with a requirement for an experienced candidate but a low budget, will be easily able to hire a seasoned professional coming back from a break for a lesser compensation package than a traditional employee and re-skill them to ensure the same quality.

3. Building a diverse and inclusive workforce

Apart from the legal requirement to do so, organisations have multiple reasons to hire from a diverse talent pool. Opening up opportunities to accept a diverse workforce allows organisations to hire from a wider talent pool, and get new perspectives to add value to the business. It helps organisations understand different consumer segments and encourages innovation, without which no business can stay afloat. 

4. Improving Employer Value Proposition

Employees (especially the younger talent) place more value on the company culture than their older counterparts. They expect inclusivity from their employers and appreciate working with a diverse workforce. Hiring non-traditional talent allows organisations to improve their employer branding and retain good resources.

Companies are now actively hiring from sections that complements their values and culture, like professionals looking to transition into the corporate workforce from areas like sports and the armed forces. 

While there is an increased demand for non-traditional talent, organisations are often faced with certain challenges that prevent them from hiring from this pool

Challenges of hiring non-traditional talent

On a recent trip to a manufacturing plant (run by an MNC) for a training session, our Founder, Lochan Narayanan, had an interesting conversation with one of the plant managers. The manager’s superiors often ask him to hire more women in the plant, but he says it’s not easy. To begin with, barely any women apply for a position in the plant. Even if they do and are hired, they hail from a certain background and often leave the job fairly quickly citing reasons like marriage, re-location of husband, maternity etc. So, the manager’s question was simple – “Where do I find women to hire?”

Every organization faces this problem in one form or the other. Right from sourcing, hiring, to retaining, organisations face multiple challenges with non-traditional employees – 

Due to these reasons, organisations find themselves shying away from hiring non-traditional talent despite wanting to. But given the current talent landscape, there doesn’t seem to be a workaround for hiring non-traditionalists. 

Companies with the bandwidth and resources have started combating these challenges by setting up ‘return to work’ programs and relying on freelancers and consultants for projects.

OfExperiences provides support to organisations that don’t have the bandwidth, by creating cohort-based programs to build, develop, and equip the non-traditional talent pool.