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The Value of Self-driven Skill Development [Podcast]

For many employees, a job isn’t simply the act of doing some work and collecting a paycheck anymore. For example, Millennial employees live in what some are calling an “identity economy,” where they place value on their work and want it to have meaning. They’re demanding more thorough training, and they don’t want to stop learning or become stagnant in their roles.

While it is great that employees want to deliver more value to businesses, many organizations don’t have the processes in place to empower them to do so. As workers become more invested in skill development, HR departments and managers should offer employees more opportunities to grow and adapt. They need to consider how they can offer employees collections of valuable information to make skill-building convenient, accessible, and rewarding.

Our Guest: Ike Bennion and Henry Vasquez, Cornerstone

On the latest #WorkTrends podcast, I spoke with Ike Bennion, the director of product marketing, innovation and strategy at Cornerstone, and Henry Vasquez, manager of product management for Cornerstone’s Skills & Capabilities products. Ike has written and presented on various HR functions, including AI, recruitment, learning, content, and benefit strategy. Henry has 10+ years experience in software development with a strong understanding of enterprise knowledge management, talent management, and productivity software. Cornerstone is a founding member of the Velocity Network, which puts people in control of their data by helping them accumulate a digital wallet filled with their validated experiences, skills, certifications and licenses, and more.

Why should brands care about self-driven skills development?

“They should care because there’s a lot of redeployment of skills happening in the marketplace today,” Ike says. “We aren’t necessarily seeing job roles disappear while new jobs are created in their places. But we’re seeing skills move from position to position.”

Basically, to prepare employees for these changes, employers need to develop a library of resources that empower employees to learn.

“Employees need a robust library of resources at their fingertips to adapt to whatever the day looks like,” Ike says. “So for employers considering whether to offer this to employees, the question is: Do you want a competitively skilled workforce or do you not? If the answer is yes, then think about how you’re going to offer the right resources to the right employees.”

Personalizing the Skill Development Experience

Leaders need to take on the role of driving skill development, Henry explains. In short, they need to determine where individual employees will succeed and how they can grow. Once they’ve done that, they can offer badges, points, and other incentives to fuel people’s desire for skill development.

“If you can convince your leadership team to lead by example–watch webinars, take college courses, upskill–you can build an extremely effective skill development culture,” Henry says. “You can also offer regular career development check-ins to make sure employees are doing what they want to do. If you don’t create space for those check-ins, work just becomes tactical, and you’re not really focusing on the employee.” 

Managers can inspire employees to focus on skill development by focusing on social engineering and currency. They can put skill development into the context of helping the company to succeed. This will drive people to want to engage with learning. Leaders can show their direct reports that hard work and upskilling has an impact and reward them for doing so.

“When you know everyone else is learning, it makes you want to get involved. By championing knowledge sharing, you’re motivating the people,” Henry says. “When you share knowledge and you’re being heard, your expertise is valued. And that creates a great social ecosystem of learning.” 

I hope you enjoy this episode of #WorkTrends sponsored by Cornerstone. You can learn more about the value of self-driven skill development by reaching out to Ike Bennion and Henry Vasquez on LinkedIn.

The Future of Work: AI Transforms Career Progression

What is the shelf life of your professional skills? According to research, not very long. In fact, one in three skills from an average 2017 job posting in IT, finance, or sales is obsolete due to continued digital innovation. If that stat doesn’t shock you, it should. The skills we have today are expiring fast, with some experts estimating their life expectancy at just two to three years.

While we can’t place blame solely on the global COVID-19 pandemic, it and other world events have accelerated us toward an environment of unrelenting business transformation and permanently pixelated work arrangements. Employers must now prioritize a more inclusive, purpose-driven culture through broader strategic skilling investments to retain and attract top talent.

Leveraging AI for skill proximity

As our skills become increasingly outdated, new skills will replace them. So, how can employees expect to excel in their careers when today’s business landscape is continuously evolving? It boils down to one word: visibility. A barrier many employees face in the workplace is a lack of visibility into career advancement opportunities. Employees are also largely unaware of the resources and connections available to help them achieve their career goals. This obstacle stems, in part, from a prolonged debate regarding who within a business owns career development. Difficulties aligning the needs and wants of the employee with those of the organization has also contributed to the issue.

Through skills proximity, employers can provide greater visibility. Companies should prioritize an employee’s distance between skills and identify how skills correlate to expedite development. If businesses can find a balance between where employees want to take their careers and where they might be able to take their careers within the organization, they can recognize and foster the skills needed to help them grow.

AI technology has a role to play here. For employees to proactively pursue a growth plan that accelerates career mobility, we need to leverage AI to make skills data and qualification information readily available. Resurfacing relevant learning content and development opportunities is also paramount to an employee’s future success. Done right, it can deliver a broad range of business benefits too. Improved organizational agility and workforce productivity, as well as increased transparency and DE&I, are all advantages attributed to AI.

In addition to AI technology, learning and development content is another tool necessary to ignite career development at work. However, human resources and talent leaders first need to identify a way to connect learning and development to performance results–and annual performance reviews aren’t going to cut it.

Employees and businesses each play a role

There is no one size fits all approach to employee engagement. For employers to maximize the success of their training programs, they must first personalize the content available to each employee. Lessons should be adapted according to an employee’s needs, learning style, and preferred delivery method, in turn allowing the employee to more easily navigate their own development and gauge how their skill-maturity aligns with their overall career goals.

Businesses also need to reconsider how they measure learning and development. Self-directed learning pathways require an element of unstructured exploration required for career growth. Currently, however, course completion and time in course are the metrics being utilized. While important, we need to pivot and explore other factors, including course engagement and the focus of content employees primarily seek out.

Ultimately, employee learning is the foundation of high performance and a key motivator for those wanting to stay at their current company. According to LinkedIn’s 2021 Workplace Learning report, managers are 3.3x more likely to still be with their company in two years if offered the room to learn and grow. Proof that when you invest in people, they will invest in you.

Employee experience is critical for overall company success

The bottom line is the best way to help employees achieve their full potential is to provide career growth opportunities. An AI-driven platform can provide employees with a unified view of skills. It can provide a measurement of the proximity of different skills. Also, it can provide continuous monitoring of the new skills required for continued career progression. Organizations that utilize comprehensive skills data will have a better understanding of their talent’s existing skillsets. Additionally, they’ll understand what will be required of them in the future to adapt.

Between artificial intelligence and the careful deployment of skills-oriented content, anyone with the intrinsic motivation to grow can benefit.

The Connection Between Skills And Employee Engagement

Employee Engagement: individual’s investment of wisdom, skills, energies, creativity and time in the work assigned.

We have explored wisdom. Now let’s explore employee skills and their connection to positive engagement for job, team and company.

What Skills Mean (definition)

Skills means application of knowledge, wisdom, and dexterity to specific elements of one’s work assignments. The transition from product economy to service economy has not lessened reliance on skills. Companies hire specific abilities that achieve profitable results. These include manual or intellectual, technical or social, mathematical or linguistic skills.

What Skills Bring (value)

Productivity. Refined skills generate employee productivity. Productivity combines effectiveness and efficiency. Effective skills application accomplishes results. Efficient skills application means least expenditure of resources in shortest time. Consider: a skilled employee produces more output and thus more value. Consider: that employee is more positively engaged for the company. Consider: company attention to ever-increasing those skills increases engagement value.

Pride. Human nature desires success. The resulting emotion is pride of success. When individuals approach a project proud of their skills, they engage more readily, more productively. Successful, those individuals relish another go at a bigger challenge. They want more opportunity to engage their skills. They are motivated to sharpen those skills for the next opportunity. Here is the dual value of skills engagement and skills improvement. That is a victorious cycle of greater success.

Profitability. The more skilled your employees, the more productive their output. The greater number and significance of opportunities to apply their skills, the more satisfied your employees. The more satisfied your employees, the greater your employee retention. The greater your retention, the more profitable your business. You might call this “empowerment”. The more employees are empowered to utilize and improve their skills, the greater profit a company is likely to experience.

How To Bring Skills On (actions)

How, then, does your organization focus on the skills component of your employees’ engagement? Here are three broad areas that cover many ways to boost engagement by boosting their skills. Keep in mind, by boosting an employee’s skills, you’re also boosting his or her engagement.

Recognition. Individuals take personal pride in what they do well. They experience more pride when what they do well is recognized. There are an infinite number of employee recognition tactics. The key here is recognizing specific skills, not just overall performance.

Suggestion: a recurrent chance for individuals to talk about their specific skill(s), how they developed them, what they’re doing to enhance them, what the skill means to them personally. This may be a constant agenda item at team meetings or a brief “interview” in regular newsletters.

Continuous Improvement. Does your company provide the learning chance for employees to improve their skills continuously? One sure way to show the company values employees and their individual skills is to make it easy for them to build those skills even greater. This may be with training, coaching, external education, professional/trade association membership, and subscriptions/libraries.

Suggestion: survey employees regularly, frequently. Offer formal and informal surveys, anonymous and identified surveys. Ask employees what information they want and need, and how they want it. Of course, be sure the survey results are treated with respect and that responses go to all employees quickly and clearly.

Added Opportunities. Invite employees to suggest more, better ways to use their skills. Increase their skills opportunities. This was called “out-of-the-box thinking,” and that’s a good name. Encourage employees to think out of the box in which their skills are normally applied. Give them the opportunity to follow that lead, to work from their productivity and their pride, and to generate greater profit potential.

One suggestion is an ongoing “suggestion box” inviting employees to suggest new, different ways to adapt and apply a specific skill. This should be supported with ample publicity and celebration.

We have looked at how business should focus on wisdom and skills as employee engagement elements. The next article will examine energies.

About the Author: Tim Wright is professional speaker/coach/facilitator with expertise in employee engagement and culture improvement.

photo credit: CRYROLFE via photopin cc

Busting The Burning Myths About Job Hopping

A relatively recent term, “job hopping” is now used in mainstream society as a way to describe the phenomena of hopping from one job to the next job, rather than maintaining one job or career throughout the course of a lifetime. Here’s what you need to know about job hopping, as well as some myths we will dispel about it.

Classically, as children we are taught to be loyal, hardworking, and dedicated. This carries over into our careers in school, then into the workforce. Years ago, in the Baby Boomer generation, to “job hop” carried a very negative stigma, which some still fear to this day. There are a lot of pros and cons with job hopping, but certain myths have linked a kind of social stigma with the term.

In previous generations, it was the social norm for one to graduate college, enter the workforce and then stay with the same company until retirement age. Very few dared to hop from one job to the next. These days though, we live in a very different world. Evolution of our thought process is necessary to keep up with how everything is changing. Let’s look at some myths about job hopping.

3 Common Myths about Job Hopping

  1. If you job hop, it means you aren’t loyal or dedicated.
    Many who fear job hopping worry they may come across as flaky or disloyal, or think they may be seen as too self-serving or lazy. In reality, none of these negative traits have anything to do with job hopping. In fact, according to IT staffing expert Daren Hicks, “Some of the hardest working, dedicated individuals are also job hoppers. Being dedicated to one’s work should not equate to staying in a position where growth potential is limited.”
  2. Having a resume that looks too “busy” is a bad thing.
    Most people are of the opinion that if you have too much going on with your resume, this will be seen in a negative light. While it’s important to have a concise resume, maintaining the same job for years and years may have more negative connotations these days than positive ones. Although it shows you can hold a position for a long time, what it doesn’t show is growth, versatility and a variety of experience. These days, more employers are likely to hire you if you have a wider skill set, which is generally obtained from working in more than one position in more than one company.
  3. You will lose the stability and expertise of your current position.
    While it’s true that changing jobs can be scary, the truth is that for the most part “job security” is an illusion, and is not what it used to be. Even if you work the same position all of your life, you are still at risk for being terminated for financial reasons, because there are always others who are willing to work for less pay. Just because you care about your company does not always mean it cares about you. If a position or company no longer fits you, this generally means it’s time to move on. Although no one wants to be the new person at a company, this opens you up to endless possibilities as well as career advancement. Not only will you be able to learn a number of new things, but you also will expand your network as you interact with new people in a variety of new situations.

There are pros and cons to job hopping; we’re always told that job hopping is bad for a career, but during your 20s and early 30s, it’s actually a good idea. Unfortunately, some hiring managers who are used to the old practices of hiring may be more likely to overlook someone’s resume that has job-hopped. It would benefit them greatly to keep an open mind about this though, because job hoppers have consistently been proven to be positive risk takers who can benefit a company tremendously.

Not only are many job hoppers leaders as opposed to blind followers, but they also are often the types of people who have a lot of drive and ambition, and are innovative. Job hopping is essential for this current generation particularly because of the current job market as well as technology that plays a big role. For professionals in the IT field, for example, this point is extremely important because they must keep up with current technology and systems. Since the job market is so competitive, it’s prevalent to keep up to date with your skill set. Moving from one company to the next can sometimes be the only way to expose yourself to different types of technology as well as the latest developments in your field.

For those who are looking to job hop, it’s important to keep these points in mind:

  • Do present the creative, innovative parts of yourself that adapt easily to change particularly in fast-paced environments
  • Don’t be afraid to put your career first. Job hoppers benefit from being more challenged and more fulfilled, as well as earning more money than their counterparts
  • Do follow your passion so you can figure out what you really love, while expanding your skill set
  • Do endeavor to have a variety of different experiences, to improve your versatility
  • Do take advantage of a good opportunity. You have one life to live, so you may as well do what you really want to do

The good news is, in most ways, job hopping has nowhere near the negative connotations it used to. It’s becoming easier than ever for those wanting to job hop to be able to, and to find the career and position they really want. Not only do job hoppers benefit from changing jobs, but companies benefit from choosing to hire those who have attained that variety of experience.

About the Author: Ava Collins is an online marketing associate with Hicks Professional Group as well as the IT staffing company’s HR manager.

photo credit: jkjen via photopin cc