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How did the Golden State Warriors win 4 championships? They focused on aptitudes, not credentials

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How did the Golden State Warriors win 4 championships? They focused on aptitudes, not credentials

Companies and employees benefit when there’s robust job mobility that focuses on employees’ aptitudes, not credentials.

Three people sit together collaborating with notebooks.

Tia Bradley-Davis was a college dropout making hoagies at a local Wawa convenience store in Fredericksburg, Virginia, when she heard Intuit was hiring seasonal customer service reps. She knew nothing about the company except that it paid a good hourly wage and could offer respite from the tedium of making sandwiches. 

“Honestly,” she said, “I didn’t know what my aspirations were.” 

Her managers at Intuit saw potential, however. Within three years, she entered an Intuit leadership development program that led to a management role leading a team of 10. It was the first of many moves Bradley-Davis would make within the company as she discovered talents and a purpose she didn’t know she had. Each major transition – from customer service to vendor management to human resources – required different skills, keeping her challenged and engaged. 

Today, Bradley-Davis has been with the company for 18 years and still sees no limit to her potential for growth. 

Internal mobility helps employees evolve while improving the bottom line

Across corporate America, firms have discovered creating a learning culture has powerful ripple effects. Studies show high internal mobility leads to greater employee satisfaction, productivity, and engagement. Employees stay 41% longer at companies with significant internal hiring, according to LinkedIn data, saving the company the considerable cost of replacing departing workers. 

 

Two women working together at a laptop.

 

Robust internal training programs also aid the hiring process. When companies can’t find skilled workers in a particular area, they can teach new hires what they need to know. The workplace becomes a viable alternative to a traditional postsecondary education system that is not producing enough graduates with the expertise employers need 

Koch Industries places a high priority on hiring candidates who demonstrate capability, curiosity, and a willingness to discover how they can best add to the organization.  

“Anyone who is motivated to contribute can have a pathway to a meaningful career with us to realize their potential,” said Laura Hands, the company’s senior director of talent engagement and strategy. 

Corporate leaders understand what is at stake. A recent LinkedIn/YouGov survey found C-suite executives’ second highest priority after “keeping employees motivated and engaged” was “giving employees opportunities to move into different roles within the business.” 

Translating that goal into action has proven elusive, however. Only 15% of surveyed employees said their company had encouraged them to move into a new role. 

How can employers bridge this gap? Let’s take a look at three companies – Intuit, Koch Industries, and the tech start-up Super.com – that have enjoyed success by encouraging employees to think of their jobs not as a final destination, but as a step in a lifelong journey. 

Most of our employees are not interested in sitting in one seat for years and years. They want to build their skill set and look for the chance to grow and develop.”

Laura Hands

Senior Director, Talent Engagement & Strategy
Koch Industries

Intuit’s learning culture keeps the company at the forefront of a rapidly changing industry 

An organization doesn’t reinvent itself as many times as Intuit has by allowing employees to tread water. Launched in 1983, Intuit made its name with the financial software applications Quicken and QuickBooks and expanded into tax prep with TurboTax. The company recently acquired Credit Karma and MailChimp and now, under CEO Sasan Goodarzi, it is moving full speed into artificial intelligence. 

With each iteration, the company knew it could not keep up with rapid changes in the market without retraining its workforce and moving employees into new positions. 

“The company started out saying, ‘How do we make Intuit a place where you can do the best work of your life?’” said Humera Shahid, head of talent development and chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer. “We still say that, but how we do it has changed over time. It’s always about what’s happening in the market. Where’s our business going? What talent do we need and how do we invest in our people to get there? That’s the common thread.” 

Today, the company offers “Intuit Again,” a 16-week program for employees who have taken career breaks, including for caregiving. Even a short hiatus can devastate a career since technology evolves at warp speed. This program helps employees learn new tools and programming languages while working with a dedicated mentor. Nearly 70% of participants have been hired full-time. 

 

Four seated students clapping for each other.

 

Another initiative, the Global Tech Women @ Intuit Mentorship Program, supports one-on-one mentoring for more than 1,300 tech employees who are women, non-binary, or members of marginalized racial groups.  

“A lot of our training programs are targeted to groups of people that may be underserved or underrepresented in our workforce,” said Shahid. 

Intuit also offers a seven-month software development program for prospective employees who don’t have a computer science degree and have never worked as a technologist. Its Apprenticeship Pathway Program recognizes graduates from four-year universities may not have the skills demanded by the job market. Apprentices are paid to spend nine months taking programming courses, working directly on company projects, and being mentored by Intuit developers. More than 80% of apprentices have been hired full-time. 

For Bradley-Davis, programs like these were crucial. She reached her first management position after participating in a three-month leadership development program. Her second major shift was to vendor manager. Handling contracts and building relationships with vendors required new skills she acquired by shadowing colleagues already in that role and connecting with other mentors. Five years later, Bradley-Davis became interested in diversity, equity, and inclusion while leading a Black employee resource group. Another three-month leadership development program helped launch her into her current role as staff program manager in human resources. 

These moves gave Bradley-Davis opportunities she never dreamed of, like going to the Philippines for weeks at a time to onboard customer service agents and work with vendors. “When I tell friends about some of the experiences I’ve had, they’re like, ‘Okay, now I understand why you’ve been there so long!’” 

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Koch Industries focuses on aptitudes and eagerness to contribute, not college degrees 

As the second largest privately held company in the United States, Koch Industries has a massive talent demand. But finding skilled workers can be a challenge. In a recent Cengage survey, half of Americans who graduated from a two-year or four-year college felt so underqualified they didn’t even bother to apply for many entry-level jobs. One in five (21%) said their college didn’t provide them with needed job skills and nearly two in five (38%) only occasionally or rarely use the skills they did learn. 

Given that reality, Koch has adjusted its hiring processes to focus on whether candidates have the aptitude and eagerness to learn new skills. “It depends on the role, of course,” said Koch’s Laura Hands. “A lawyer certainly needs credentials to practice law. But for many jobs, we’ve had some success taking a different approach.” 

That approach includes the company’s Skill Development Program, which offers training in two areas, accounting and software development, as a pathway to full-time jobs. 

The 18-month Koch Accounting Apprenticeship, in partnership with Wichita State University and WSU Tech, pairs candidates with accounting and tax professionals for free classroom instruction and paid, on-the-job training as they work toward a Technical Certificate in Accounting recognized by the Kansas Board of Regents. 

The second component, the Koch IT Upskilling program, is a collaboration with Catalyte, a company that identifies and trains overlooked talent. No prior experience in software development is necessary to enroll, and there is no charge for the training. It does require a 40-hour-a-week commitment over 26 weeks, during which time trainees learn the skills necessary to become full-stack developers. 

Both programs are designed for people who may not have traditional credentials or job experience but have natural aptitude, display curiosity and creativity, and love solving problems. To find these candidates, Koch uses an online screening process and Catalyte’s proprietary artificial intelligence algorithm to assess innate talent. 

Koch also places a strong emphasis on internal mobility. Hands, for example, was initially hired as an accountant, then transferred to human resources, moved on to community affairs, and is now back in human resources.  

“Most of our employees are not interested in sitting in one seat for years and years,” she said. “They want to build their skill set and look for the chance to grow and develop.” 

Steph Curry-backed Super.com focuses on employee mobility to compete with tech powerhouses 

Attracting top talent can be a challenge for a startup competing against established companies. Super.com, a fintech firm launched in 2016, has found focusing on employee growth helps the company draw applicants. 

And for co-founder Henry Shi, it all starts with the hiring process. 

During their first years, Shi and co-founder Hussein Fazal were just trying to get the company off the ground. But as the company grew – today it has 250 employees and $1 billion in sales – they realized they needed a more rigorous approach to hiring. They found it in “Who: The A Method for Hiring” by Geoff Smart and Randy Street. 

According to the Who system, it doesn’t matter where a candidate went to college or what their degree is in. It matters whether they have done the work before and can hit specific goals and outcomes. At Super.com, candidates are given real-life problems to solve. They are asked about their values to make sure they align with the company’s values, which include thinking big, moving fast with intention, being data driven, and taking strong ownership. 

If the hiring process is done right, internal mobility happens naturally and retention rates are high. Shi calls it, “Having the right people on the bus.” 

Shi recalled hiring one employee to work in business operations because that is what she had done previously. But this individual also had excellent data skills that she wanted to develop, so she moved to product marketing, where she excelled. That position got her interested in brand marketing, so she made yet another move. Each time, she found fresh challenges and developed new skills. These transitions not only kept her engaged but saved Shi the considerable expense of hiring an outsider — a process that would have taken months each time, an eternity for a fast-growing startup that needs to get work done immediately. 

Super.com’s philosophy is embodied by one of the firm’s investors, Stephen Curry. Curry didn’t attend a basketball powerhouse like Duke and pro scouts dismissed him as too short and too skinny. But the Golden State Warriors saw something in Curry. They drafted him in the first round and were rewarded: Curry went on to become the best shooter in the history of the game and led the Warriors to four NBA championships. 

The lesson for Super.com? “It’s not the credentialing,” said Shi, “But the actual talent of the person.” 

Learn more about Stand Together’s efforts to transform the future of work, and explore ways you can partner with us. 

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This article originally appeared on Forbes BrandVoice. 

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