How Chicago Leaders Are Tackling the Skills Mismatch

November 16, 2016

My husband recently introduced me to Jerry Seinfeld’s “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee”. I adore this show. What could be better than Jerry Seinfeld who is joined by friends for a cup of coffee and a drive in a classic car, sharing stories all along the way?

And thus the idea of was born… minus the comedians (my husband lovingly tells me since I am German I am inherently not funny – sorry!) and minus the classic cars (turns out the HR Consulting profession is not quite as lucrative as being a wildly successful celebrity comedian).

So, what is™ is a breakfast workshop held every other month that aims to engage HR and business leaders in the discussion around talent.imperative’s ten talent.trends.™ provides the opportunity to collaborate with peers on solving some of the most pressing talent challenges of our time. Participants walk away with real ideas and solutions.

Each of the™ meetings are dedicated to one of the ten talent.trends. The workshop is facilitated in collaboration with an innovative Chicago enterprise that serves as a solution or case study to the key challenge implied in each trend.

In order to foster robust discussions, we have a maximum of 20 invite-only participants join us for each™.

Ultimately, I want the findings from the group discussion to benefit a broader audience. In the meantime, here are some takeaways and resources from our first™ #1: Solving the Skills Mismatch Riddle

talent.coffeeeOur first™ on November 09, 2016 was dedicated to the “Solving the Skills Mismatch Riddle” trend. I was excited to partner with i.c.stars on this inaugural event. I have known the organization and its President and Co-Founder Sandee Kastrul for several years since I worked with them as a pro-Bono consultant during my Accenture days. Sandee is one of the most inspiring leaders I know and the mission of i.c.stars fits perfectly as a solution to the skills mismatch trend.

Twelve business and HR leaders from various industries and company sizes joined us for the event at the inspiring i.c.stars Chicago office.

How does the skills mismatch very practically manifest in organizations? This is what the workshop participants shared:

“We just can’t find the skills we need in the marketplace.”

“There seems to be a gap in soft skills such as perseverance, self-starting, and communication.”

“We have a seasoned workforce and a need to infuse fresh ideas.”

“We need to get better at on-boarding and training entry-level talent.”

“Our managers need to be more fluent in providing actionable feedback to a millennial workforce.”

These were the three organizational paint points participants wanted to start solving during the workshop along with some of their initial ideas for how to address them:

Pain Point #1 – Requirements: How can we re-frame the perception around degree and minimum qualification requirements within our organizations?

  • Design talent strategies based on scenario-planning and talent market mapping (note: if you don’t know how to get started with this, we can help)
  • Bring right stakeholders to the table to change requirements
  • Supplement with contractors (note: “Talent-as-a-Service: How to navigate the new workforce paradigm” is a good read to get you started)
  • Be flexible where and how people can work to access a broader talent pool
  • Develop and qualify people internally by increasing investment in training effort

Pain Point #2 – Assessments: How can we improve identification of right skills and culture fit for organizations?

  • Articulate an authentic organizational culture and vision (note: if you don’t know how to get started with this, we can help)
  • Identify leadership resistance that impacts organizational change (note: “How to build talent.driven leadership capability” is a good read to get you started)
  • Clearly define a job’s performance objectives
  • Determine how to get resumes to the right person
  • Train managers on how to minimize bias when evaluating resumes (note: we can help you re-design your hiring manager interview training)

Pain Point #3 – Process: How does our hiring process need to be optimized to help bring in talent with a diversity of backgrounds?

  • The interview process should reflect the unique company culture (note: we can help re-design your recruiting strategy incl. your interview process)
  • Involve candidates in the re-design of your hiring process (note: “Why Recruiting Relationships are Underrated” provides ideas for optimizing the relationship with each stakeholder in the recruiting process)
  • Design a strength-based hiring process
  • Create a more real-life, experiential, assessment experience
  • Assemble a diverse hiring team across disciplines
  • Provide training for anyone involved in hiring

The following are a few resources that were shared as part of the event and that can benefit anyone who is interested in tackling the skills mismatch inside their organization:

  • Skills Mismatch Playbook: Our comprehensive do-it-yourself guide that you can use to get you started on tackling the skills mismatch inside your organization. The guide provides practical solutions to the ideas that were brainstormed per above.
  • talent.trends LinkedIn Discussion Group: Receive, share, and discuss our latest research, case studies, and tips on all ten talent.trends including the skills mismatch.
  • List of Non-Profits: We have compiled a list of non-profits that tackle the skills mismatch and that operate nationally and internationally.
  • i.c.stars Talent Pool: Connect with CEO Sandee Kastrul to learn about ways you can leverage the i.c.stars talent pool to address your company’s tech skills mismatch.
  • i.c.stars Career Coaching: Connect with Arlene Chandler if you are interested in supporting i.c.stars interns with career coaching.
  • i.c.stars High Tea: Sign up for i.c.stars’ high tea and share your insights and inspiration with the current i.c.stars cohort.
  • Illinois Technology Association: Supports tech organizations in finding and retaining tech talent.
  • Department of Labor Registered Apprenticeships: Apprenticeships are a way to fill your skilled labor skill gaps. The DOL provides incentives and support for employers who want to create an apprenticeship program in their organization.

Interested in learning more about™?  Follow me on Twitter where I will report out with #talentcoffee  as things evolve.



Nicole Dessain is a talent management and HR “nerd”. She loves to blow up long-held believes that stop us from preparing our organizations for the future of work. Nicole feels lucky to have had an amazing corporate HR and consulting career that she recently has turned into her own business, talent.imperative inc. What can be better than helping clients build talent.driven organizations? Her second non-profit business, DisruptHR Chicago, was launched in 2016 and has inspired more than 500 HR professionals in the Chicago area. And this is just the beginning…

adminHow Chicago Leaders Are Tackling the Skills Mismatch