From Upskilling to Changing Lives

<p>In a time when talent pools are shrinking, the market is growing more competitive and companies are seeking new avenues to getting work done, CareerCircle Managing Director Kim Sneeder is building an upskilling and reskilling network that puts more workers into the shifting workforce market.</p>

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Episode Summary:

In a time when talent pools are shrinking, the market is growing more competitive and companies are seeking new avenues to getting work done, CareerCircle Managing Director Kim Sneeder is building an upskilling and reskilling network that puts more workers into the shifting workforce market. In this episode, Sneeder returns to share how CareerCircle has evolved from upskilling to job placement, as well as how companies can build a workforce that better reflects the communities they serve.


Bruce Morton: Allegis Global Solutions (AGS) presents the Subject to Talent Podcast, a hub for global workforce leaders to unleash the power of human enterprise. Listen in as we explore the most innovative and transformational topics impacting business today.

Hi, I'm Bruce Morton, the host of this Subject to Talent podcast. Today I'm super excited to be joined by Kim Sneeder. Kim is the managing director of CareerCircle, an organization that upskills and reskills people to close the opportunity divide and change the way the industry views talent. Kim has truly transformed CareerCircle into a beacon for equity by bridging the skills gap in underserved communities. Her efforts in moving the needle for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) have recently been recognized with Kim being named as a Staffing Industry Analyst (SIA) DEI influencer, as well as a Global Power 150 Women in Staffing. Welcome to the podcast again, Kim. It's great to be here with you.

Kim Sneeder: Thank you so much, Bruce. So nice to be here and thank you for the invitation.

Bruce Morton: Absolutely. Before we start, a little birdie tells me that you just received some very exciting news, so I'm going to put you on the spot and say, can you share?

Kim Sneeder: Oh my gosh, absolutely, yes. It was just announced that CareerCircle was named by Fast Company as one of the most innovative companies of 2024.

Bruce Morton: Yay!

Kim Sneeder: Yes, I know. We're so excited. And specifically number five in the social good category. So, incredible achievement and I'm just so grateful for every team member at CareerCircle and all the work they've done to make that happen.

Bruce Morton: Wow, that is fantastic. I'm a big, big fan of Fast Company, and that is an honor indeed, congratulations.

Kim Sneeder: Thank you so much.

Bruce Morton: Let's dive in. At the podcast here, we usually ask our guests about their path to where they got to today in the workforce industry. However, Kim has been on the podcast before, so we'll skip past that. And actually, I think what I'm really interested in, and I'm sure our listeners will be as well is, you were on back in 2020. Just talk us through the differences that you've seen in the industry and your organization since 2020 and the part you're playing in influencing the industry. I mean, it's a completely different world here in 2024, so I'd love you just talk about that four year journey?

Kim Sneeder: Absolutely. I mean, when you think back to 2020, it feels like a lifetime ago. I think CareerCircle specifically, a lot of what we were doing at that time, it was in concept or theory. We were in what I would call a testing mechanism where we were testing a lot of it. And so as you look at 2024, the ecosystem is a reality now. When I think about at-large upskilling CareerCircle's journey, all of it together, some of the biggest changes I would say is that we're moving from performative type work to truly results oriented. And I'm really passionate about that. Because think about 2020, number one, you saw a lot of campaigns and you saw and heard a lot about upskilling, and for lack of a better word, a lot of promises being made. And one of the things that was always in the back of my mind is, are promises truly being upheld?

And they're not until a life has changed. And so, one of the things I'm really excited about, looking at 2024, is you're starting to see a lot of accountability around results. And I think that's really, really important in this space. And I think the second dimension of change that I've seen is originally in 2020 you heard a lot about upskilling within entry-level talent. And if you add four years, and then you add a lot of our technology partners adding in additional certifications, what you're seeing is in addition to the entry-level talent, you're also seeing that more mid- and senior-level talent. Because I know from a CareerCircle perspective with high engagement individuals really looked at this as lifelong learning, and so they've come back. And our technology partners are adding certificates like project management, cybersecurity, data analyst. Really excited to see that evolution. And then lastly, I would say, as I mentioned, we originally in 2020, a lot of it was a testing mechanism.

Well, now in the ecosystem you're seeing those 150 nonprofits, to that top of funnel really being addressed. You're seeing the additional upskilling with Grow with Google, Salesforce and IBM. And you're seeing those organizations in place putting into practice what we believed in 2020 could be a reality.

Bruce Morton: And then I know when we spoke, as you're saying, it was early days, so the membership was relatively small. Where are we up to now with numbers of members, and what you're saying this is beyond first jobs, so what sort of experience do people have on the platform now?

Kim Sneeder: Yeah, we're up to 140,000 members.

Bruce Morton: Wow, that's awesome.

Kim Sneeder: And it's interesting. Because if we go back to those first formative years, I mean, if 20 people join the website every week, I was the happiest woman on the East Coast. And that is not an exaggeration, you know me.

Bruce Morton: Absolutely.

Kim Sneeder: And we celebrated that deeply. And so, now looking at 140,000 people are coming to the website, and they're not just coming once and then leaving. I mean, our engagement even on a 30-day mark is 58%. So, 58% of our members are coming back every 30 days. And that's important to me, because again, moving from campaign to results, it's important that we're building something that people find useful, simply said. And so are we giving them not only the upskilling, but all of the wraparound services they need to then to secure a role?

Bruce Morton: You mentioned that about adding that value and really, I guess closing the circle to use CareerCircle’s analogy. In terms of from where you were four years ago now, how we've been able to close that loop in terms of moving past getting them trained, but actually getting people jobs?

Kim Sneeder: Yeah, great question. I looked back on the end of 2020 and how many people had secured a role, that was probably our first full year of the components in place. 29 people secured a role that year. Now, I'm not devaluing that number, because for those 29 people it was life changing. And again, for me, I was celebrating them deeply.

If I look at how we closed last year, 1,071 people secured a role. And so what you're seeing is, I'll often describe it as we want to build a digital model that never forgets the beauty of a handwritten thank you note. And what I mean by that is, we're always going to insert people at the right time, but how are we using technology to scale, so we can continue to do more for more people?

And when we looked at it, okay, how do we honor that promise? Because that's really what it is when you think about getting someone a job. We sat down that year, and I'll never forget it was, we need to have a full-court press. We need to have every opportunity, every resource to find these individuals jobs. And so we always have the employers that are on the CareerCircle platform. But I think two other critical things happened, Bruce, that allowed for that growth. I think the first one was really harnessing the power of the Allegis operating companies. There are 508 operating company offices across the U.S., and we wanted to make sure that individuals also had access to the contingent opportunities. And so, we used technology and we automated that process so individuals could be considered for those roles.

And then that third-prong approach was, at the end of 2022, really launching in ‘23, Grow with Google selected CareerCircle as their main platform for all of their graduates and where their employer consortium came to access graduates. In that program there were 150 employers that joined to gain access to graduates. Again, really looking at across the entire ecosystem, could we make sure that we were giving people every access to secure a role?

Bruce Morton: Out of those 1,000 plus hires, is anyone top of mind that will really bring this home for our listeners today, just an example or two of individuals that you've helped change their life?

Kim Sneeder: Oh gosh, what a great question. This piece is personal to me. When we started CareerCircle, I made sure that I spent time with members, and even call it five years later, I still do that. Because hearing the story of impact directly from the member, it's just so powerful. Picking one is tough. I would say most recently we had an individual who was a barista, and this member took the Google Project Management Certificate and later secured a role within a comp reporting manager type role, supporting four groups. A couple key pieces of this, that individual previously had been making about $16 an hour. The role that they secured took their salary up to $70,000 a year. Again, more than doubling income and doubling opportunity.

But the other piece is the generational impact it has to that person's family. And the story is so powerful. And as I was talking to the member, I started thinking, "Gosh, transferable skills, barista to the project manager." I did a simple Google search and I said, ‘top traits of a barista.’ And do you know what came up? It was customer service, communication, attention to detail and teamwork. Doesn't that resonate? You take those skills and then you add in the education with project management. That is the definition of a transferable skill, skill-based hiring. And fast-forward in the last month, the feedback has been, that individual is one of the top producers on the team, largest impact.

Bruce Morton: Well, they're most grateful for being in that role as well, right?

Kim Sneeder: Absolutely. And so then think about for that organization, not only bottom line as far as technical aptitude and the role that they play, but the impact on culture.

Bruce Morton: Yeah, that's fantastic.

Kim Sneeder: It's just so powerful.

Bruce Morton: Yeah, that's a great story. Thank you for sharing that. And I know there are over 1,000 of them, so really appreciate it. And I know you've been, I've chatted about this, been enhancing your platform to be, let's call it more user-friendly or consumer grade. And you mentioned earlier that people are coming back every 30 days. You've got something right there. You're not just attracting, but you are engaging the folks, the members in that platform. Can you just chat through some of the things that you've been doing to enhance the platform?

Kim Sneeder: Yeah, I think when we look at the concept of making it user-friendly and keeping the consumer in mind, there's certainly some things we've done. I will give a blanket statement to say, it is always on our mind and it's a journey and how do we continue to perfect. A couple of things that we started to do. Number one, building in some gamification, so that the member had some wins along the way. Because the journey to secure a role can be difficult, it can be time-consuming, and listen, it's not always inspiring if you're not hearing back. And so we wanted to create many wins along the way so that we're also building confidence in that, so there's gamification in there.

The next piece was we would hear that for members, if you are having to do long application after long application, that becomes both time-consuming ,and again, just not incredibly inspiring. Doing things like when a member signs on, as soon as they input their certificate, some of that information is pre-populated, skills, et cetera, based on what we know about that program. Even things with as they upload the resume, certain components of their profile being pre-populated so that we're serving the member. The other piece is, one of the lessons we had learned early on is that members would say, "Gosh, when I see things about my experience summary, how do I even start with that? What does it mean to you and how do I craft that?" And so, we've done a lot of work to help give people a starting point and things to think about. And really excited about how we can use AI there in the future. But early signs are that it's working.

Even if you look at amongst the platform right now, 81% of our members have reported a certificate, which is really powerful. 77% have listed their skills. And 67% have job alerts. Why are those things important? Well, number one, we can't advocate for people if we don't know enough about them. The more we learn about them, the better we can take them to market. And then those job alerts allow the technology to work. Again, you always want to build that handwritten thank you note that have the power of technology behind it. Really inspiring to see some of the data coming in, and then also committed to continue to make it better.

Bruce Morton:And that's a good point, thinking about these folks as consumers. Because in their consumer life, a lot of this stuff is easier. You don't have to fill a three-page application for them to buy something of Amazon, and they can tell you what else you should buy at the same time.

Kim Sneeder: That's right.

Bruce Morton: My pet peeves when I get an email from, I booked a flight, you get an email saying, "Yeah, you're check in tomorrow, check in now it's ready." You go to check in and say, "What's your confirmation number?" You know that.

Kim Sneeder: That's right. Give it to me.

Bruce Morton: Now I'm going to go and find that email to put it ... It drives me crazy. I'm glad you're self pre-populating. That's a big step forward.

Kim Sneeder: And Bruce, you bring up such a great point because part of it is the intake pre-populating. But to me that's almost sort of your rite of passage of a strong platform. I think as we continue to enhance the logic to say, based on what you told us, these are the suggested job matches. Because see, that's another missing link. Oftentimes, especially with what I would say your entry- to mid-level talent that we see a lot, is that they take the certificate, but then the question is, so what jobs does that qualify me for? Because remember, in skill-based hiring, if we say project management or data analyst, every organization might title that job or that particular role slightly different. And so you're looking for, what does the skill align me with? And so, it's really important that the logic on the backend starts to make the appropriate recommendations to then bridge that gap.

Bruce Morton: And you make a fantastic point there, and let me, big shout out and kudos to you for talking about skills-based hiring five years ago, it is now impossible in 2024 to go through a day when an email doesn't pop up, somebody talking about skills-based hiring. And I remember the early days, and let's give a shout-out to Neil Grayson when he was in the mix as well with this. I think we saw on the corner, and you were definitely pushing that this is the way organizations should hire. And here we are. Now that organizations are actually realizing that you can hire on skills, and the example you gave was great. We just had an example of one of our clients where they were struggling to find project managers and we put a wedding planner in there. Guess what? Wedding planners have great project management skills, so we know that that's where we're at now. But from your perspective, as companies are embracing that approach, how do you see this being an opportunity for upskilling and perhaps organizations being more open to the concept of upskilling?

Kim Sneeder: Yeah, I think that there's so many different levels of this that I think are important. Number one, I think we need to support clients. I think oftentimes if you look at the infrastructure, think about having access to all of these organizations. You need people to build that transfer of trust with the nonprofits. And then you have to think about, how do we get all of these people upskilled? And then that requires learning and development. And then how do you bridge it all together? If an organization has a passion for skill-based hiring and a commitment to performance and results, it's a big investment. And so, one of the things that I believe we can help organizations with is bringing all of those parts into one ecosystem and delivering it to them so they don't have to necessarily make the investment. We also need to be aware of what skills are in demand so we're building the right workforce.

If you look at the pace of technology, where we were working five years ago, it might look dramatically different now. It does and it will continue to. I think as a partner to organizations we need to have a really strong strategy to build out the right workforce. For the organization, the power of it, my gosh. I mean, number one, your time to fill is just dramatically lower. And we continue to see that. Because you're giving individuals access, you're building the talent for them proactively. We've also seen a huge impact for customers on the culture side. I think you mentioned it earlier, you give someone that chance when everyone else told them they weren't qualified, you're talking about loyalty, commitment. You're really tapping into what I call discretionary effort, so far beyond the required job description. And then it's really interesting too, because if done well, you're also getting the focus on diversity.

You look at take technology right now, 17% of the workforce is represented by African Americans and 8% by Latinx. In order to focus on diversity, we need to make sure that the talent pipelines that we're building, mirror that. And then we also need to make sure that organizations have a way to bring on the talent and then have a truly inclusive culture to then retain and promote the talent.

Bruce Morton: That's a really nice segue, because I was wanting to get to the diversity question here. And I think that, so I'm glad you brought it up in that way. And you've obviously always been an excellent resource for diverse talent, providing companies with these and helping them achieve their diversity goals. And obviously along with that equity and inclusion. And with the recent addition of Getting Hired into your emerging and ever-growing world that you're building here. How does Getting Hired, and the program… can you just explain to the listeners what Getting Hired is? Just put it in context and then talk about why that partnership is so powerful.

Kim Sneeder: Absolutely. Getting Hired is an organization that supports people with disabilities to gain meaningful employment. Getting Hired supported and supports clients with both gaining access to this community and these members, but also the training and everything they would need in that space. And so what I'm really excited about, Getting Hired has multiple different evolutions. Number one, starting with the fact that we can give more features and serve those members and give them everything that is in the CareerCircle ecosystem, which I'm really excited about. But I'm also excited to add to CareerCircle everything that I'm learning from them with the trainings that they offer, the webinars that they create that bring communities together, which is so powerful, and that embedded education.

I personally have been going through all of their trainings, and I am learning so much. I think prior to, call it November, I would’ve thought that I was educated or at least well versed in this space, and I’ve realized just how much I had to learn. I know the impact that it's had on me personally, and I'm just so excited to help them scale that and to serve more, which has always been our primary mission.

Bruce Morton: Well, fantastic. And I'd say that's a very recent happening, so I know there's a ton of great stuff to come from there. I can't wait to talk to you about that in the future, about the impact that Getting Hired has had on CareerCircle and vice versa. Exciting stuff. So, it's 2024, this is a podcast. The law is we have to talk about AI. It's a thing. What role do you think AI will play in upskilling at least getting talent – as well as actually placing the talent – in the very near and more distant future?

Kim Sneeder: Okay. What a great question, Bruce. I think that could be a podcast in its own. I was at Techonomy back in November and I left inspired. I left with so many questions. I mean, the impact on AI is just tremendous. I'll answer it in a couple of ways. I think first, this concept of upskilling becomes really important in AI. Because again, with the pace of technology, we're going to need skills in the marketplace that may or may not exist. And so, how do we start to develop those and upskill people and create those resources? I think the other piece is to your point, there could be a tremendous impact on how we access talent and efficiencies and our matching mechanisms. But pausing, throwing caution to say, we need those teams to represent a diverse makeup of individuals.

Because here's the risk, the inherent bias that can be embedded in those models if we aren't careful, is tremendous. And so I really look at, "Okay, let's pause and say let's look at the teams that are building it. How do we protect against that inherent bias and make sure that we're being really thoughtful about our approach?"

Bruce Morton: I guess it's about, in my mind it's about using AI in the right places. We don't have to use it everywhere. You and I, we're in the people business and it's the human enterprise and we never forget that. But obviously there are opportunities for enhancing the service we're giving to our consumers and our clients through AI. It doesn't have to be purely in the matching. I think that's where the bias can come in, as you say. But the efficiency of, we're looking at it from a skills-based perspective, taking those job titles and inferring certain skills, so it shortens the process of people having to fill out an application form.

Kim Sneeder: Absolutely.

Bruce Morton: Some of that enhancing the experience is where AI can have and will have a massive impact going forward.

Kim Sneeder: Absolutely. Even in our onboarding, we're looking at where to embed it and we've been testing some different things. And it's truly powerful, for lack of a better word, giving people a voice and helping guide them into the representation of themselves.

Bruce Morton: Yeah. Yeah. Well, this has been really, I knew it was going to be exciting times for you, and I'm just so glad we have the opportunity to catch up on in 20 minutes, or four years. But I think that I'm going to ask you the crystal ball question, because you really are a pioneer and a change-maker in the space. Four or five years ago, people weren't talking about skills-based hiring. They would just talk about upskilling, but people didn't really know what it meant and there was a lot of resistance, or that sounds like a great idea for somebody else. And the fact that you're placing those people in the organizations that you mentioned, like a Microsoft, like a Google, like a Salesforce, it really is, it's great to see. What do the next five years look like? If you had a crystal ball, what do you think will happen and what would you love to happen?

Kim Sneeder: Yeah, if you look around my office you would see notes everywhere. We have dream sessions all the time. And when I think about the next five years, a couple of thoughts come to mind. I think first, I do believe you will move from performative to results-oriented programs. I think that not only do the clients expect it, but our members expect it. And I think it's important. I think the second piece is that we will move from this sort of one-step approach, where you see each component trying to solve the problem, and I think you'll start to evolve into, ‘how do we do this together’ and bring the power of all of it together, to then start to drive change? Because that's what's really important.

And then I think we're going to evolve that it's less from a consideration and it's more of a business imperative. I think you will see that deeply embedded. But I think the piece that I'm most excited about is that I truly believe, and I'm passionate about the fact that as we look five years plus out, we will start to look at our organizations. And I believe that if we really focus on this and we get it right, our organizations are going to match our community. They're going to mirror. And in that you start to solve talent acquisition problems, but you're also supporting your communities in a really powerful way. And I believe we can get there. I believe we will get there.

Bruce Morton: Yeah, that's such a powerful statement. And as you're saying that, I was visualizing that barista that is now the other side of the canteen, Starbucks actually doing their work from a Starbucks.

Kim Sneeder: That's right. That's right. It's all full circle, isn't it?

Bruce Morton: Yeah, that's right. But mirroring the community is, yeah, it's everything we should strive for, so really appreciate you sharing that. Kim, this has been great, whirlwind tour. We could talk about this all day. We'd like to keep these things for 20-25 minutes, so thank you for sharing everything. Congratulations again on the Fast Company Award, super excited about that, and look forward to seeing you soon.

Kim Sneeder: Thank you so much, appreciate it.

Bruce Morton: Thanks, Kim.

Kim Sneeder: Take care.

Bruce Morton: If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe, rate and review us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. And if you have questions, send them to Follow us on LinkedIn with the #SubjectToTalent and learn more about AGS at, where you can find additional workforce insights and past episodes. Until next time, cheers.