Is 2024 the year when new collar workers will rip through the paper ceiling?

By February 2, 2024For Talent

The workplace loves a ceiling: there is the famous glass ceiling, coined in 1978 by writer and consultant Marilyn Loden at a panel discussion about women in the workplace. It aptly describes the invisible, yet very real, barrier women and minorities can experience at work. 

There is also the corporate ceiling, where you’ll only rise so far in an organisation before stagnating, and a more recent lid on workers’ progress has been identified in what is being called the “paper ceiling”. 

Coined in 2022 by ad agency Ogilvy, it’s the result of a marketing campaign designed to raise awareness around the more than 70 million workers in the U.S. who are skilled through alternative routes (STARs), but who don’t have a Bachelor’s degree––aka that crucial piece of paper.

the glass ceilingGiving a name to a problem makes it tangible, but employers had actually already begun to rip up the rule book when it came to qualifications anyway.

Skills-based hiring is on the rise

Many are now adopting what’s known as a skills-based approach to hiring “new collar” staff. 

This approach works because it recognises that the blanket requirement for a degree (or even further study) omits all those people with the necessary experience and who can do the job perfectly well. They don’t happen to have an academic background, but they do have the necessary skills and experience.

Additionally, the degree requirement only targets a niche segment of the wider job hunting population, and precludes huge numbers of potentially qualified people from applying for jobs. 

For example, according to U.S. Census data from 2021, a majority (65%) of Americans who are 25 or older don’t have a Bachelor’s degree. The figures are worse again for Black Americans (72%), indigenous populations (80%), and Hispanic or Latinx (79%). 

For diversity reasons alone, skills-based hiring matters, and making a strategic move to enable it benefits companies as well as employees. Recent survey data from TestGorilla found that 70% of respondents agreed that all forms of skills-based hiring are more effective than resumes.

And according to jobs site Indeed, which recently launched a new Tech Network to help match companies with in-demand developers, engineers, analysts, and more, companies who want the best talent should replace degree requirements with skills and experiences.

Additionally, Indeed says that job ads should list the top five to seven skills needed to do the job, breaking them into “required” and “preferred”, and remove any mention of a set number of years of experience they require.

We can expect to see more of this approach this year. In 2022, 56% of organisations had already adopted skills-based hiring, according to TestGorilla, and this increased to 73% last year. 

Sure, organisations may adopt this practice because it makes the lives of their HR teams easier–– but it works for job applicants too, with 86% of employees saying a skills-based approach means that they are “more likely to secure their dream job”.

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Author Kirstie McDermott

More posts by Kirstie McDermott

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