There’s a fascinating article in a recent Wall St. Journal, about an interesting new hiring trend – dubbed “down-skilling”. Companies are now beginning to lower their hiring requirements – especially with regard to education, in order attract larger pool of candidates.

On the surface, it’s another by-product of a lower unemployment rate, rising stock market, and business optimism.  In a big reversal and recovery from the stock market crash of 2008/9, candidates are getting more offers and opportunities than ever before. In response, companies are dropping some of their long-standing requirements like an MBA, and even 4 year undergraduate degrees, to attract a wider range and diverse group of applicants. To balance this, innovation leaders like Intel and GitHub (recently acquired by Microsoft) are developing supplemental educational and technical training programs to help better equip the candidate for succeeding in their respective role. In essence, a build-to-spec hiring strategy.

But there is a cautionary note that comes with this opening of the job requirement aperture. Candidates with lesser years of formal education, also have lesser opportunity to develop the communication skills required for a business environment. As such, companies will need to go beyond the job specification skills, and actively supplement those foundational communication skills that align with the demands and expectations of the organization.

I’m not talking about typical company orientation training like “history of our organization”, or “organizational culture goals” or “our position and advantage in the market”.  I’m referring to the foundational skills of effective business communication that are not only expected for interacting with customers and co-workers; but often provide the tie-breakers for advancement. Presentation skills, proposing an idea up the organization, overcoming objections, communicating to vendors, customers or the trade. These are the skills that not only prepare the new employees for their hired position, but can propel them to greater responsibility as well.

According to

“Communication skills and ability is the #1 skill recruiters seek for business school graduates.”

If this is true for MBA graduates, it rings only louder for the undergraduate, or candidates without an undergraduate degree.

What to do? Train, develop, coach and repeat those best communication skills. Demonstrate and reinforce the difference between a painfully dull PowerPoint® and one that makes a memorable impression. The difference between a clean, organized project update and rambling, overly detailed one. The difference between an engaging call with a customer that presents opportunities to address a need, vs yet another dry rundown of features.

While “down-skilling” may be a new trend to acquire new employees, consider effective communication training as the “up-skilling” that retains employees, by making them more valuable, effective and appreciated, and heard.

I welcome your thoughts and opinions.


The Ganon Group offers communication coaching for executives and employees across all departments: C-Suite Leadership, Sales, Customer Experience, Technical / Product Development, to improve their communication and presentation techniques. We believe everyone can “up” their game when it comes to communicating initiatives and ideas within the organization, outside to new prospects, to existing clients, or to outside media and trade organizations.