Three’s Company: How Education, HR, and Businesses Should Coexist to Support the Workforce of Tomorrow

At the end of the 1970s, Americans were introduced to the sitcom “Three’s Company”, a show that revolved around three roommates living together in a Santa Monica apartment. The hit show provided a comedic glimpse into the ups and downs between three roommates, Chrissy, Jack, and Janet – the misunderstandings, relationship building, struggles, and successes. Over the course of seven years, the country watched as these characters moved from individuals to a group of friends, from independence to coexistence.  

Fast forward to 2020, and three areas — education, human resources (HR), and business — are learning to coexist in order to keep up with today’s constantly evolving workforce needs.

COVID-19 could heighten these disconnects, as many workers and students will be forced to educate themselves in new ways outside of the traditional classroom setting, through online certification programs or remote 

COVID-19 is forcing workers and learners to find new pathways to educate themselves and now, more than ever, the education sector is tasked with equipping people with knowledge and skills that will help them find a new jobreskill for a change in career, or prepare for emerging workforce trends. Over the past seven months, millions of jobs have been lost, however, some businesses have been lucky enough to continue hiring, albeit for remote positions. This means HR departments are still being tasked with informing the public of job openings and trying to find ways to properly signal the skills necessary for these positions. Simultaneously, businesses are requiring employees to possess a host of competencies, especially those that allow them to succeed in a virtual environment.  

However, providing people with the knowledge to thrive in a workforce with constantly evolving needs, finding qualified talent to fill open jobs, and executing work to progress businesses into the future is much easier said than done. 

At the beginning of this year, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation published the Hiring in the Modern Talent Marketplace, a report highlighting the difficulties facing HR and businesses, and how education factors into the equation. From a pool of 500 hiring managers, representing a variety of employers, important findings included: 

  • 59 percent of respondents say the search to find a qualified candidate has been more difficult than it was over the last three years. 

  • 78 percent of respondents believe employers will have to re-evaluate their hiring requirements to find candidates for vacant positions. 

  • The greatest challenges facing the hiring process are candidates lacking the appropriate skills, lacking previous work experience, and a low number of applicants. 

These results are representative of the disconnect between education, HR, and business, and illustrate the need for real-time signaling of workforce needs. While businesses require ever-changing skills to fulfill positions, hiring managers are not provided the tools, data, and resources to properly convey up-to-date job requirements. The education sector is also not being informed of skills needs quickly enough in order to align curriculum, credentials, assessments, and career services with workforce needs and empower students with applicable knowledge and skills.  


COVID-19 could heighten these disconnects, as many workers and students will be forced to educate themselves in new ways outside of the traditional classroom setting, through online certification programs or remote classrooms. HR departments will search for ways to evaluate a job market where online learning is more commonplace on resumes, and businesses will need workers who can not only adjust to virtual work environments, but also re-adjust and thrive whenever they can return to the workplace safely.  

A way to avoid these disconnects is through coexistence. 

The Hiring in the Modern Talent Marketplace report also surveyed hiring managers about how to circumvent these obstacles, and the feedback mirrored the workforce initiatives that the Foundation has been, and is currently, pursuing.  

Respondents’ solutions to skills gaps included building talent pipelines through education and workforce partnerships that can be effectively and efficiently strengthened with the Foundation’s Talent Pipeline Management® (TPM). Nearly half of respondents said that changing their organization’s hiring process is a priority, a change that will be made much easier with the help of the Job Data Exchange (JDX). Finally, respondents mentioned using labor market data in their hiring practices, data that will become more representative of an individual’s competencies once education and employment systems can securely share data and ensure privacy across systems and education and career pathways. The T3 Innovation Network is in the process of developing these systems. 

These initiatives provide solutions to the problems facing education, hiring managers, and employers. They also present opportunities for representatives from each sector to convene in hopes of creating an environment where education, HR, and business efficiently and effectively support and empower workers and learners for the workforce of tomorrow. 

Beyond these strategies and initiatives, are cases that exemplify the true potential of coexistence. From Phoenix to Houston to Detroit to Charleston, stakeholders have been coming together to improve the alignment between skills acquisition and workforce development. These cities provide examples for others to replicate across the country.  

Communication and cooperation between these three groups are a work in progress. However, these examples are proof that institutions and organizations are willing to put in the time and effort it takes to keep up with our evolving workforce needs. These are the first steps of a long process towards creating an engaging ecosystem where all three entities interact with one another. COVID-19 has put even more emphasis on the need for education, HR, and business to not only adapt, but coexist.  

As many remember, the beginning of the theme song to “Three’s Company” starts by saying, “Come and knock on our door, we’ve been waiting for you.” America’s workforce has waited long enough. The time for education, HR, and business to coexist is now.