- Executives see learning as a competitive advantage and a key differentiator in winning and retaining customers.
- Learning is a strategic enabler. Business drives the agenda and learning supports the business agenda to enable success.
- Learning leads are essential in executive strategy meetings. They listen and contribute to business strategy and tease out the behaviors and the learnings necessary for business success.
- Businesses are hiring based on a candidate’s portfolio of experiences rather than the past positions held and college degrees.
Many companies realize that the skills employees possess today do not match the skills that are needed tomorrow and that significant shifts must take place to close the gaps. Beginning in 2014 when I still worked for AT&T I had the privilege of kicking off and leading the company’s massive skills transformation initiative then called, “Workforce 2020.” Now in its sixth year of maturity, many employees have successfully transitioned from traditional roles that the company is phasing out into new and emerging roles required due to strategic business and technological changes. While this is no small undertaking, it is critical to the survival of the business.
In order to assist the company in this challenging initiative, the L&D organization must significantly change how they think about talent development. The L&D team cannot possibly design and develop all the training that is required to reskill even a medium sized workforce, nor would you want to recreate training that already exists, or where there are other means of skills attainment outside formal learning events. Here are four resources to consider for your reskilling portfolio:
- Content Curation. A proper mix between off-the-shelf and company-specific content is needed. Think outside the OTS content box and consider partnering with firms such as Udacity, Coursera, Udemy, Degreed, Kahn Academy, etc. Some of these content providers not only provide learning on new roles and skills Via MOOCs, Videos and other engaging content, they partner with corporations to create custom content when needed.
- Nanodegrees and Certifications. It goes without saying now, but it’s long past the time when college degrees were required to obtain a position within most companies. With today’s fast-paced change it is far more cost-effective to obtain stackable skill certifications such as Udacity’s Nanodegrees or Degreed’s Skill Certifications.
- Learning Leaders and User-generated Content. If your company has subject matter experts in new and emerging fields you’ll want to take advantage of Collaborative Learning. Consider promoting SMEs to “learning leaders” and enabling them to provide their expertise via content they create and share, coaching they conduct via forums or social learning portals, or short-format videos posted as performance support. 360Learning has cracked the nut when it comes to helping companies decentralize their learning strategy so that they can directly connect their experts to the rest of the company. They call this, Connecting Leaders to Learners. This is a major trend, worthy of significant venture capital investment (see sidebar).
- Informal Learning Resources. Formal training doesn’t always mean better learning. Consider replacing boring Web-based training and expensive classroom curricula with engaging micro-learning resources such as video, mixed reality, gaming, and self-directed learning. Provide learners with a variety of learning media and allow xAPI to track completions in your Learning Record Store (LRS). It’s not how an employee obtained the skill, it is that they obtained the skill.
Implementing a robust and effective skills transformation program is not a quick and easy endeavor, but it is well worth it. There are best practices to consider and pitfalls to avoid. Here are a few of both.
Best Practices to Consider
- Form solid relationships with key partners on the project. IT, Procurement, Stakeholders, SMEs, HR Business Partners, anyone who is required to successfully execute the project should be represented from the formation of the business plan and during all milestones and decision-making points. Establish roles and responsibilities early on and revisit those as necessary.
- Communicate, communicate, communicate! Robust change management practices are strongly recommended. A third-party expert is well worth the cost when taking on a large, enterprise-wide skills transformation initiative. Leave no stone unturned at any level in the corporation when it comes to the “5-w’s” and gaining buy-in.
- Clearly understand the expected outcomes. A solidly crafted roadmap serves as the backbone of your entire project plan. You must know what future roles will be needed, how best to map current jobs and roles to future ones, what skills are needed in these new roles, what are the competencies mapped to those skills, and how those competencies will be best obtained. Doing the upfront work to create an accurate matrix will save you from massive migraines down the road!
Pitfalls to Avoid
- Underestimating time and cost. The scope of your reskilling initiative depends on the size of your company, the employee population that must be reskilled, the number of emerging jobs to map to skills, competencies and learning resources, the number of people dedicated to the project, and the state of your current learning architecture. Do not be a “glass half full” person when drafting your business plan!
- Ignoring sequence and priorities. There is a logical progression when implementing a skills transformation program. It is tempting to put the cart before the horse when considering new technology to support the initiative. There are plenty of shiny new toys in the learning technology space and it’s best to clearly understand the business need and how a new tool or technology will meet that need. It’s also imperative that a firm foundation be built before working on the bling. Documenting clear priorities and a logical progression of phased work in your business plan will keep the train from veering off the tracks.
- Waiting for all the answers. Recognize that in this type of project not everything is a known quantity, and that’s OK. You may not know all the jobs that the company may need in the future, or all the skills needed to be competent in a particular job. Don’t worry, you can tighten that up later. Establishing a solid mapping framework will enable you to add to the mix as you go along. Eat the elephant one bite at a time and as the project progresses you’ll find things more manageable than initially envisioned.
There are obviously many additional considerations when implementing a large project of this nature, but a host of resources are available to assist in the effort, from tools and technologies that support curated or peer-directed skills-based learning, to experts like myself who can help guide the process. Some companies need a little help and some need to engage a whole team. No matter where your company falls in this spectrum, be confident that with a willingness to learn, an openness to change, and a commitment to success at all levels, your skills transformation program can be well-planned and well-executed!