March 11, 2024 – Future of Work

In case you missed it: CKF’s Ryan Stowers offers five principles to guide employers’ talent strategies


A survey released last fall found 40 percent of business leaders believe recent college graduates are not prepared for the workforce. 

Stalled graduation rates — around 60 percent in recent years — has deepened the challenge. Postsecondary education institutions like Western Governors University are rethinking how they prepare learners for a job, but it has become increasingly clear that employers must create their own talent solutions.

In an article for Stand Together’s BrandVoice platform, Charles Koch Foundation (CKF) Executive Director Ryan Stowers offers five principles business leaders can follow to create a culture in which learning and work are connected and each employee’s growth and development are paramount. 

Hire for strengths, not a job description

First, Stowers says the employers who adopt the mindset that work needs to benefit both parties — employers and employees — will be the ones who succeed. That means understanding Americans want to do work that is meaningful to them, and they want to continually find new ways to contribute. Stowers points business leaders toward the American Opportunity Index, which demonstrates how organizations are responding to employees’ demands for a new culture of contribution and mutual benefit.

Second, employers who focus less on educational pedigree and instead examine each individual’s strengths and potential can address job gaps. Stowers says, “Employers who customize their hiring practices to consider the knowledge, skills, and mindset needed for a given position will have a competitive advantage because they will more easily find talent that others overlook.” The Cara Collective and Opportunity@Workhave opened many employers’ eyes to new sources of talent. 

Once an employee is hired, the question is how to retain that talent. Managers can emulate the University of Chicago Medicine’s talent team and help employees understand how they uniquely contribute to the organization’s mission. This step benefits the individual worker, and it helps organizations address disengagement. “[People] are typically more likely to act when we can we see how efforts make difference in the world,” Stowers points out. 

Be open to innovative programs and partnerships

The fourth principle is that employers who take matters into their own hands will find talent solutions. Hundreds of organizations have partnered with SkillUp, for example, which provides a free platform for individuals to build new talents suited for in-demand jobs. (Read more from Stowers and SkillUp in this BrandVoice article.) 

Partnerships like those with SkillUp are essential to solving talent challenges and employers like Barclaysand many tech leaders have been radically open to them, Stowers says. Employers also can offer input to organizations like Catalyze and Future State, a venture capital fund that makes early-stage investments in companies whose mission is to create new tools to help businesses rethink their talent practices.

“The workplace and the workforce will continue to evolve,” Stowers concludes. “By applying these five principles in ways that make sense for their companies, business leaders can improve outcomes for their organizations and the people who work for them.”

Click here to read the full Forbes’ BrandVoice column. Stowers also opened the BrandVoice platform back in August. Read that piece here.