Tearing the “Paper Ceiling”: McKinsey Supports Efforts to Foster Upward Mobility for Millions of Workers

There’s a hidden talent pool that most employers overlook — the more than 70 million workers in the United States who are STARs, or “qualified through alternative pathways” workers. Whether through community college, workforce training, boot camp or certificate programs, military service or on-the-job learning , STARs have the skills for higher-paying jobs, but often find themselves stranded.

This week, nonprofit Opportunity@Work and the Ad Council launched a nationwide campaign to “rip the paper ceiling” and encourage employers to change their hiring practices. McKinsey provides pro bono support to the effort through data and analytics tools that enable recruiters to recognize STARs and their skills.

“As companies scramble to find talent amid a perceived skills gap, many of their job postings have unnecessarily excluded the half of the country’s workers who have the skills for better-paying work,” says Byron Auguste, founder of Opportunity @ Work and a former senior partner at McKinsey. “Companies like the ones we’re proud to call partners in this effort — and those we hope will join — can lead the way in tapping into skilled talent from far more diverse backgrounds.”

McKinsey has conducted extensive research on skills-based hiring and human capital, and created data-driven solutions that help employers implement new knowledge, skill and ability selection methods to learn.

“A few years ago, we looked at many talent management solutions on the market. There was a real risk of entrenching outdated notions of being a skilled worker,” says McKinsey partner Carolyn Pierce, who leads the technology team in the People and Organizational Performance practice. “These systems gave little credit, even to our own team members, for skills learned on the job.”

Carolyn and her team began collaborating with Opportunity@Work to prove the value and transferability of skills learned through work experience. “The Opportunity@Work team has done incredible research that justifies hiring STARs in today’s hottest jobs,” says Carolyn. Our pro bono support will help make this information more widely available to employers.

“We are hearing more and more employers say they want to recruit from the STAR talent pool,” says Shad Ahmed, COO of Opportunity@Work. “But they need practical, data-driven tools to replace credential screens and hire STARs. The portal we are building with support from McKinsey will help employers identify jobs that should be open to STARs and help them tap into this valuable talent pool. It’s a key part of our mission to create a vital technology infrastructure hardwired for inclusion.

McKinsey is committed to breaking the “paper ceiling” in our own hiring practices. “We have made significant investments to ensure that our own talent culture is both distinctive and inclusive, attracting and developing talent from a wide variety of backgrounds,” said Katy George, Senior Partner and CHRO at McKinsey. “We are investing in alternative ways to recruit, hire and develop STARs through a holistic approach that recognizes candidates’ skills and experience, their ability to solve problems and their intrinsic abilities. »

McKinsey’s technology organization is at the forefront of this effort, with many entry-level roles already open to STARs who have the necessary knowledge and skills.

“We already have technologists within the company, from entry-level to partner, who are STARs,” says Katy. “Our technology teams work on big and complex problems, from helping organizations reduce their carbon footprint to improving worker safety. Our best way to solve these problems is to attract talented people from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. Our recruiting teams are actively working to make more STARs aware of these opportunities and encourage them to apply.

Creating more opportunities for STARs requires more than just removing degree requirements from job descriptions. “We are expanding support for apprenticeships, bootcamps and training programs to accelerate STAR journeys in our company,” adds Katy. “The programs will help STAR talent learn all the additional skills needed to succeed at McKinsey and beyond.”

There are many reasons why someone might not start or complete a degree that have nothing to do with their intrinsic abilities or potential. We know there are better ways to screen talent and now we have the research and tools to back that up.

Carolyn Pierce, McKinsey Partner

Byron hopes having McKinsey as a sponsor of this campaign will encourage more employers to change their talent practices. “Many organizations know that McKinsey is very data-driven. It’s a strong signal that they’re helping find better ways to screen talent and create opportunities for STARs through their own hiring,” he says.

Challenging the misconceptions associated with not having a college degree is key to helping more people break through the paper ceiling. “Preselection for a degree is a way to find people with skills and the ability to learn. The problem is that you are also looking for those who have the right social and economic conditions in place to attend university,” says Carolyn.

“There are many reasons someone might not start or complete a degree that have nothing to do with their intrinsic abilities or potential,” adds Carolyn. “We know there are better ways to screen talent and now we have the research and the tools to back that up.”

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