Who are hidden workers?
This is a diverse group of individuals. It spans caregivers, veterans and military spouses, immigrants, refugees and people without traditional qualifications. Also included are those with physical disabilities, mental health challenges, and from less-advantaged populations.
Our research shows how hidden workers can face enormous challenges finding work or increasing their hours. The reason? They’re often screened out early on by hiring processes that rely on recruitment management systems to automatically filter and rank candidates.
An opportunity hiding in plain sight
Hiring hidden workers is not just good for the individuals concerned, it also offers real benefits to the organizations they join. Nearly two-thirds of executives hiring hidden workers report that their new recruits perform "significantly better" than average across a range of key indicators including work ethic, productivity, work quality, attendance and innovation.
We found that organizations that hire hidden workers are less likely to face challenges hiring talent with in-demand experience and skills. They are also more likely to benefit from workers with a positive work ethic and attitude.
What keeps hidden workers hidden?
A number of hurdles on the route to employment systematically exclude hidden workers. Among them? Excessively specific job descriptions, inflexible working practices, and difficult job application processes. All these contribute to the finding that just 7% of hidden workers manage to obtain a full-time job offer.
Organizations also face barriers that prevent them from tapping into this pool of hidden talent. The three most critical are:
- Recruiting systems that automatically screen out eligible candidates. Most employers use a recruitment management system (RMS) to filter and rank candidates. Because these systems are built to maximize efficiency, the parameters they use are highly prescriptive.
- Recruitment functions that overlook the business case for hiring hidden workers. Most organizations that engage with hidden workers do so as a corporate social responsibility initiative, rather than as part of their strategic planning. It’s important to factor in the broader benefits hidden workers bring with them, notably improved performance and innovation.
- A widening training gap. Technology advances mean roles in public service agencies are changing fast. Evolving job requirements often outpace the ability of education systems and other workforce intermediaries to keep up. If they’re not already employed, this can make it very difficult for workers to obtain relevant skills.
How can public service agencies access hidden workers?
Public services agencies have much to gain from accessing hidden talent. To do so, they’ll need to address five key issues:
As the private sector begins to recognize and champion the case for hidden workers, government agencies have a responsibility not only to do the same, but also to take the lead and provide a model of how to integrate hidden workers successfully into the workforce.