Could ‘hidden workers’ help Tallahassee workforce woes? Chamber forum explores upside, challenges

From the Tallahassee Democrat

One way to tackle ongoing workforce challenges may be more consideration toward what experts call the “hidden workers.”

On Thursday, a talent forum hosted by the Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce highlighted three populations: refugees, people with disabilities and previously incarcerated residents. Hidden workers are potential candidates for open positions who lack traditional job-market qualifications.

The annual Chamber event aims to address ongoing issues in the capital city and present potential solutions to workforce challenges.

A 74-page report titled “Hidden Workers: Untapped Talent” by the Harvard Business School said companies that hire hidden workers are 36% less likely to face talent skills shortages compared to companies that do not.

“Removing barriers will require overhauling many aspects of the hiring system — from where companies seek talent, how they write their job descriptions, the role played by managers and supervisors versus human resources in setting specifications, the technologies used for sorting applications and ranking candidates, the process of bringing candidates onboard, the provision of supportive training and coaching, and even the care benefits provided,” the report said.

Eddie Gonzalez Loumiet, CEO at Ruvos, an IT service company that securely handles data from laboratories, hospitals and healthcare facilities, said he’s working with Future Pathways regarding a potential job candidate interested in cyber security. Future Pathways is charged with “helping teens and adults with disabilities achieve job readiness, independent living, and social skills in the Tallahassee area.”

“It’s a very in-demand job, but we just don’t have enough cyber security experts. We’re going to try and give it a shot,” said Loumiet. “It’s going to be a learning experience for our company, just like it’s a learning experience for many companies here today.”

Gonzalez-Loumiet said widespread challenges embedded in the search for employees has forced employers to be creative and consider populations that may have been previously bypassed.

He said organizations like Future Pathways help employers identify what they can do to create small to moderate adjustments to help people with disabilities perform and excel in the workplace.

“They work with you to help you understand what to do as an employer and they train the folks,” Loumiet said. “It can honestly fill gaps.”

Sachs Media Partner and President Michelle Ubben urged employers at the forum to consider refugees as a potential talent pool. Ubben volunteers with Tallahassee Refuge Connection, a newly formed, grassroots organization that serves as networking tool for refugees and residents with resources and goods that can be donated to refugees.

“There are many people in our community who aren’t even aware we have refugee families and more coming,” Ubben said.

During her presentation, she addressed some hiring challenges, including language barriers, transportation and proper documentation to prove education and certification.

Ubben said tragic scenes of refugees fleeing war-torn countries have helped to foster more sensitivity toward their plight for freedom and a better way of life. She talked about a highly skilled Afghan mechanic who hasn’t been able to find a job in the capital city.

“I hope that stigma is reduced, but there absolutely are some,” Ubben said. “He’s had a hard time finding acceptance here because other mechanics can’t speak to him and here comes the language barrier.”

Contact TaMaryn Waters at or follow @TaMarynWaters on Twitter.