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Internal Mobility, The Talent Marketplace, and Why to Embrace It

The world of work is rapidly evolving, and so are the career aspirations of the people. Compared to what we saw decades ago, people don’t want to embrace the same position for years till they retire. Instead, they are looking for opportunities to try new duties, get new skills, and stay flexible and agile.

On the flip side, today’s labor market is highly competitive, and there is a scarcity of skilled workforce. The PwC CEO survey reveals that a whopping 74 percent of CEOs are concerned about the shortage of critical skills and talent.

As a response to those challenges and today’s look at the future of work, internal mobility comes into play very actively.

The ‘secret sauce’ of internal mobility

The modern internal mobility concept evolved as the next logical step after the traditional career management model. The problem with career management was the idea of “waiting until someone is ready.” This resulted in losing top talent who took career opportunities elsewhere. Even if mobility was facilitated—or rather forced by management—it looked more like “assigning” new roles to employees.

Internal mobility today is agility built into the company’s talent processes. This model allows companies to get the most out of the talent and skills their employees obtain. Employees, in turn, get multiple opportunities like taking new and adjacent roles, upskilling, and keeping up with the company without having to leave it.

Internal talent evolution, however, wouldn’t be possible without technology. Today, the HR tech landscape contributes to internal mobility by providing what are called talent marketplace solutions. Simply put, a talent marketplace is a platform that connects employees with career opportunities inside the organization.

From recruiting to employee upskilling: What the talent marketplace brings in

The talent marketplace helps companies improve their employee engagement, development, and retention. Other challenges the talent marketplace helps address are:

  • Accelerating time-to-hire and optimizing hiring costs: Many organizations still pay big bucks to recruit people from outside. With a talent marketplace platform and insights into the company’s skills and talents, organizations can save recruiting expenses and instead connect their internal employees with the internal job openings.
  • Improving productivity of new hires: Employees who joined a new project or stepped into a new area of responsibilities within the company demonstrate better productivity. The reason follows. Internal talents have already spent some time with the company and can bring their valuable insights and skills to the new role. Besides, the opportunity to shift to a new role within a company contributes to employee motivation, engagement, and development.
  • Addressing skill gaps and future-proofing: The talent marketplace also helps the company coordinate all its available talents and see if they match current and future job roles. This way, companies can spot the skill gaps and align their employee development activities with their strategy and market trends.
  • Building a more agile workforce: In the long run, by embracing internal mobility powered by technology, companies can foster transition to a more agile workforce.

Talent insights as a fuel for internal mobility

One more component that makes internal mobility sufficient is data. The lion’s share of it, apparently, comes from within the company. Employee CVs, job profiles, training programs, and other assets containing information about skills are filling the internal mobility machine. Data about internal skills loaded into the talent marketplace platform transform into insights. Some of them allow companies to:

  • Basically, match employees to existing job openings, projects, and tasks
  • Personalize reskilling and upskilling journeys to help employees grow into new roles
  • Benchmarks future skills and future jobs

Another source of insights fueling internal mobility is the external market. Market trends that have run through the talent marketplace provide companies with insights into emerging roles, skill developments, and future business trends awaiting the particular industry.

With intelligence like this, companies can fill existing job openings with existing employees and take internal mobility to a whole strategic level. Specifically, they can make skills in their company transparent. Also, they can know what skills are still missing in their company, and plan strategies to address these deficits. They can plan, personalize, and predict the effort of employee development initiatives aimed to fill in the skill gaps.

Of course, embracing internal mobility doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time, investment, data, and the right technology. But most importantly, it requires the right future-oriented mindset. American Express, IBM, Nestle, P&G, Unilever, and Google are just a few examples of brilliantly performed internal mobility strategies set on the future and employees’ development. Hopefully, more prominent companies will join these ranks.

Immersive Training Solutions for a Hybrid Work World

Remote workforce training has come of age. Forced to get creative during lockdowns, many companies moved beyond their traditional learning and development initiatives, exploring other education options. Those that reported excellent results usually had one thing in common: They embraced immersive technologies.

What does immersive technology look like? Think virtual reality or augmented reality. Both VR and AR training options allow people to feel like they’re in the midst of a situation without physically being in the room. And these educational experiences are not as untested as you might assume.

Though COVID ramped up the reliance on immersive education, immersive VR and AR solutions didn’t start in early 2020. They’ve evolved over the past decade. That’s why Mercedes-Benz began using Microsoft’s HoloLens to scale up widespread corporate training a few years ago, following in the footsteps of competitors like Ford and Volvo.

Advantages to VR and AR Training Solutions

You don’t have to be in the automotive field to get the benefits of immersive technologies to train your personnel, though. VR and AR training can be useful for organizations across a wide range of sectors, from engineering to oil to industrial operations.

For instance, some businesses opt for immersive training to help their employees understand how to approach complex situations. Others use immersive modalities for self-driven “practice,” as workers can run through scenarios countless times to perfect their abilities. But corporations don’t have to limit AR and VR to “hard skills.” Leadership, problem-solving, and other soft skills can come to life in a virtual format, too.

That doesn’t mean that you want to just jump into immersive training without a plan. It’s important to be prepared so you can successfully upskill a cross-section of your team cost-effectively and reliably. With those considerations in mind, you can move forward by paying attention to the following strategies:

1. Budget correctly for your immersive training program.

One of the biggest obstacles leaders face when trying to get executives to champion VR or AR training is the perceived costs. As with most technologies, the direct cost for software, equipment, and setup of VR and AR training has dropped over the years. Even VR headsets have become surprisingly affordable, not to mention much more comfortable than before. Nevertheless, the upfront price might seem too high—at first. However, you have to factor in all the ways that AR and VR can cut down on traditional expenses associated with training.

For instance, immersive training allows you to give the same message to all your people without transporting them anywhere. You don’t have to rent a conference room or pay for travel. Instead, you can put all your dollars toward scaling your training solution in a reliable, consistent way where efficiency nets greater ROI.

2. Take your immersive training on test runs.

During the pandemic, countless companies embraced immersive training out of necessity. Unless you’re under a time constraint, you can likely start smaller. Invest in some AR and VR technology programs, but don’t change everything you do regarding onboarding, upskilling, or reskilling.

What’s the simplest way to begin in a limited way? Find a partner who works in the immersive technology industry. Most providers will be able to help you develop VR and AR simulations that you can test on specific teams or employees. That way, you’ll be able to see how immersive technologies can be used across the rest of your business. You’ll also have an easier time getting higher-level champions to support more comprehensive VR and AR training due to your proof-of-concept information.

3. Collect data from every immersive training.

A huge boon to VR and AR training is the ability to collect scores of data. You can use the information you gather to better measure and even monetize your training sessions. An example might be to collect information on how many times your newest employees need to run through a certain simulation. If you notice that one simulation seems more challenging and takes longer to learn than others, you might want to consider ways to break it down into bite-size parts.

The more data you bring into the fold, the better you can make your VR and AR modules. This will help improve the learning across your workforce no matter where your employees plug in. And when you test different modules, you can see how they’re affecting other ones by examining the data.

Immersive training is set to become a norm at many firms and organizations, particularly with the uptick in telecommuting. Even if you’ve never considered adding VR or AR technology to your learning and development initiatives, take a second look at the possibilities. Classic in-person and e-learning models work, but they have limitations. Immersive training solutions can optimize education for all employees and corporate goals, making them excellent companions to your current lineup of training.

Employee Education: How to Avoid the ‘Forgetting Curve’

You’ve spent the day at a leadership conference learning all sorts of great things: how to coach your team, how to build engagement, how to run effective meetings, how to encourage career development, and more. You go back to work the next day with good intentions—but quickly lapse into your old habits.

Within a few weeks, you try to recall what you learned, but even with your notes, you have a hard time. What on Earth happened? If he were still alive, 19th-century psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus would have the answer: You just experienced the “forgetting curve.”

We’ve known for 126 years that the human brain doesn’t retain a lot in terms of memory, and Ebbinghaus’ forgetting curve shows just how rapidly new information is lost if we don’t have the opportunity to put it into practice quickly. But just 12 percent of professionals use their newfound skills right away.

This means taking people out of work and putting them through a formal, structured class (where they might even be tested with the accompanying assumption they know what to do if they pass) and then putting them back in the workplace doesn’t actually influence the performance.

Being expected to retain large volumes of information all in one go is like trying to drink from a firehose—sure, you absorb a little bit, but the majority washes over you without sinking in. Fortunately, though, there are employee education tactics to make knowledge “stickier” and avoid the forgetting curve.

1. Give workers access to bite-sized learning.

When it comes to employee education, it’s common to bombard employees with large amounts of information. But most people, especially your high performers, are time-poor and constantly pulled in competing directions.

The way around time constraints is to give workers access to quick information that can be ingested in small bursts. For instance, a self-directed program of 15-minute modules allows employees to tap into knowledge at their point of need. So rather than spending a week learning about agile management, they get a distilled understanding of the principle that they can apply immediately.

Microlearning is also an effective way to improve uptake and engagement. Eighty-five percent of all educational content is either forgotten or rendered useless within six weeks of learning it, which indicates that traditional training might not be the most effective way for people to learn. Pandora is one example of a company that turned to microlearning for its workforce and saw training completion rates go from 15 percent to 90 percent. Busy people who might not be able to commit fully to an all-day event can usually find small nuggets of time to devote to a little education.

2. Encourage managers to follow up after training to help reinforce learning.

Having team members share how they’ve applied what they learned is one of the most effective ways to overcome the forgetting curve and to ensure behavior change (which is usually the goal of employee education). These informal interactions can be brief; think of them more as a huddle than a formal check-in, as discussing what has been learned in conversation can help make knowledge stick.

This is especially important after bringing new employees into the fold. Onboarding typically involves a large volume of information: “Here’s our tech system. Here’s how we do stuff.” Once onboarding is over, employees frequently experience the forgetting curve. Meeting with their team leaders to go over digestible chunks of the material they learned while onboarding helps with retention.

3. Stack new knowledge on top of prior knowledge.

Another way to bypass the effects of the forgetting curve in employee education is to build learning experiences. For example, an employee would need to be able to demonstrate and apply specific behaviors before learning something else. This type of information “stacking” creates a strong foundation and avoids learning loss. Over time, the lower levels of the “stack” become more and more ingrained.

Be careful, though: Not all knowledge “belongs” on top of other knowledge. Learning has to make sense for your employee. Take the idea of a public speaking course for a performer who doesn’t have a speaking engagement planned. The material may seem unnecessary, making it more likely to be forgotten before it can be applied.

To ensure that you’re stacking knowledge efficiently, request feedback from your team members. You can always fix something that’s not working.

4. Create training opportunities that are easily accessible and device-agnostic.

People in need of information don’t always want to read about the topic. Many people are visual or auditory learners. Or they may want to interact kinesthetically with curricula if possible. Be certain that you’re offering training that meets people’s learning needs and preferences.

Similarly, be sure that all employee education content is accessible on any device. Use laptops, tablets, smartphones and desktops for learning purposes. The more user-centric your learning content is, the more it will become a reliable resource.

Calculate which types of devices or learning styles are being used most often by your team. Maybe the majority of employees seem to tune into podcast-style micro-content on their smartphones, in which case you might like to add more audio formats to your learning toolkit.

5. Go for a blended learning approach that still includes formal learning.

Formal learning has a place in corporate training, as long as it’s equally as engaging and effective as other types of education. Intersperse formal learning with other types of employee education, such as microlearning, feedback loops, and self-directed learning.

When designing your learning processes, go for a blended approach with multiple touchpoints. Don’t just have a lecture-style marathon. Instead, add a post-workshop task and follow-up sessions to round out the learning and reinforce the transfer of knowledge.

The forgetting curve may be a proven phenomenon, but there are certainly ways to overcome it! Just put a few measures in place, and you’ll have far less forgetting—and far more employees eager to show off their mettle.

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.

Hiring for Soft Skills: Benefits and Tips

Today, hiring for soft skills is critical for your organization’s success. By looking beyond a job’s requisite hard skills, such as those needed for cloud computing or customer service, you can attract and retain top talent by focusing on soft skill recruitment.

According to a recent LinkedIn Global Talent Trends survey, 92 percent of hiring and talent professionals stated that it’s “increasingly important” to hire candidates with well-developed soft skills, especially in today’s changing workplace. In the same survey, 89 percent stated that bad hires “typically have poor soft skills.”

Unlike hard skills, however, soft skills are often trickier to assess during the hiring process. It’s hard to tell from a resume what soft skills someone possesses. And traditional interview questions don’t typically focus on these competencies.

In this article, we’ll explore some benefits of hiring for soft skills for organizations. And we will offer tips for switching to a soft skills-focused hiring process.

Benefits of Hiring for Soft Skills

Broaden and diversify your hiring pipeline

Increased workplace productivity, employee retention, and improved customer service experiences aren’t the only benefits of hiring for soft skills. Additionally, hiring for soft skills allows you to broaden and diversify your hiring pipeline since you’re shifting your focus away from credentials.

According to Harvard Business Review, companies with robust talent pipelines focus on “potential, not credentials.” For example, instead of focusing on technical skills, which have a shelf life of a couple of years, soft skills can last a lifetime. Notably, those employers all valued soft skills as much as they did hard ones.

Increase workplace productivity and retention

In a frequently cited study by Harvard University, University of Michigan, and Boston University, researchers found that soft skills training increases productivity and retention by 12 percent, overall netting a 256 percent return on investment. That would make any CFO happy.

Further, as the workplace quickly evolves, upskilling and reskilling are at the top of everyone’s to-do list. Training for soft skills is no different. In a 2019 Consumer Technology Association study, 66 percent of tech industry leaders stated that “professional development programs to hone soft skills” are important or very important to retaining qualified employees over the next five years.

Improve customer satisfaction and experience

Soft skills are also essential when delivering superior customer experiences. After all, most customer service skills are soft skills, such as active listening, communication, and empathy.

And, of course, when customers have better experiences, this leads to increased sales. Forrester recently reported that companies focused on customer experience increased revenue 1.4 times faster while increasing customer lifetime value 1.6 times more than companies without a customer experience focus.

Ease upskilling

Additionally, soft skills are more challenging to teach than hard skills. Why are soft skills harder to learn? For one, they are rooted in personality, unlike hard skills. For example, empathy may be rooted in one’s life experience.

Because soft skills are tied to an employee’s personality, improvement of these skills requires continual learning and self-reflection. It’s just not the same for hard skills like accounting. When you hire for soft skills first, you’ll find it easier to upskill employees. This is because you’ll be focused on easier-to-train hard skills.

Tips for Switching to a Soft Skills Focused Recruiting Process

Focus on your job descriptions

Review your current job descriptions. Do they focus on soft skills such as communication or teamwork? If not, it’s time to step back. Review the competencies needed for the job opening and refine your job ad accordingly. Refocusing your job requirements with soft skills in mind not only helps you find the best candidate but also strengthens your talent pipeline by broadening your pool of qualified applicants.

Structure your interviews

You’ve probably heard the phrase, “hard skills can be trained; soft skills can’t.” Because of this, it’s critical to structure your job interviews in a way to solicit insight into soft skills competencies. However, when refining your interviewing process, be sure to standardize your questions, helping to keep potential bias in check.

Screen for soft skills efficacy

Pre-hire assessment tools allow you to pinpoint soft skills at the top of the funnel. By incorporating these tools into your hiring process, you can hire up to 10 times more accurately. This saves money, time, and, yes, frustration, while creating a better recruitment experience for candidates.

With AI-driven tools such as Cangrade’s pre-hire assessments and job description decoder, you can start narrowing your talent pool quickly, making the right hire the first time. You can learn more about how these tools help you identify the specific soft skills required for success in your organization with this demo.

The 360-Degree Feedback Tool and How It Benefits Leadership

To appreciate the recent rise of 360-degree feedback in today’s workplaces, we must first understand the factors that led to the decline in its reputation. With roots in the industrial era and often referred to as a multi-rater assessment, 360-degree feedback rose in popularity and became mainstream. It became so mainstream that organizations slowly lost sight of its purpose. Frequently used to evaluate an individual’s professional performance, organizations often missed developmental opportunities for business growth. They also missed an alignment of key leadership behaviors that cultivate a strong organizational culture.

Several factors contribute to the decline in the perceived value of 360-degree feedback, including the impression that the 360s are:

  • Focused on individual performance evaluations rather than ongoing development. Mixing individual performance management with development in a single 360 assessment created distrust and undermined employees’ willingness to respond truthfully.
  • A one-off measurement tool with no monitoring of the development of progress over time
  • A complex and time-consuming process that made data collection and analysis harder to complete promptly
  • Inconsistent and riddled with subjective bias as poorly written questions, lack of benchmarking, and some skewed data undermine efforts to reach objective results
  • “Read-only” – A lack of action in response to data resulted in employee frustration since the process didn’t yield tangible effects beyond a performance evaluation.

Consequently, traditional 360 assessments often suffered reputational damage from misapplication and participant frustration. However, when used correctly, a well-calibrated 360-degree feedback measurement provides a high-definition feedback mirror. Also, it provides an opportunity for continual learning and development. The key is leveraging a well-validated measure of leadership success that predicts real behavior change. And it needs to be supported by a holistic development plan for achieving meaningful insights on individual strengths, overall business performance, and career growth.

Skill Gaps and the Art of Upskilling

In collaboration with the Boston Consulting Group, The World Economic Forum (WEF) highlights that technological changes affect almost all jobs. This makes digital literacy and human-centric skills indispensable. There is a need for company-wide investments in employee upskilling, engagement, and retention to overcome technological disruption. The McKinsey Global Survey on the future of workforce needs shows that 87 percent of executives and managers believe their organizations already face skill gaps. Or that they expect such gaps to develop by 2025. Also, less than 50 percent of these leaders know how to address the problem and build their future leadership pipeline.

The sense of urgency to strengthen leadership pipelines across the world is supported by Gallup’s research findings. They conclude that managers account for 70 percent of the variance in their team’s employee engagement. This makes them the linchpin for team effectiveness and retention. Moreover, Gallup found that when managers can drive high employee engagement during times of economic disruption, their teams respond with resilience. Business performance is also strengthened and outpaces their competition.

Despite today’s uncertain business climate, leaders have taken steps to identify vulnerable areas and offer their staff stability and direction to move forward. Thus, developing leaders who are trained to navigate change, difficult circumstances, and continuously build stronger teams is imperative for cultivating future-ready leadership.

The Business Case for Alignment Between Manager and Employees

Leadership development is never easy and never a destination. Recognizing your strengths and opportunities for improvement is a difficult task for individuals. Most of us have heavily biased opinions of ourselves, making it difficult to constructively self-reflect and receive feedback. We struggle to cut through all the “noise” around us that provides clues to our performance and potential.

Proven 360 feedback tools are powerful means for helping leaders reflect on their behavioral tendencies. They also provide insight into leaders’ performance from the lens of their colleagues. The very best feedback tools don’t simply provide insights into leadership behaviors. They also help leaders explore how to use their unique talents and strengths to act on feedback.

A global meta-analysis of 49,495 business units and teams, 1.2 million employees, and 45 countries empirically demonstrates that a strengths-based approach to development leads to substantially better performance and business outcomes, including:

  • 10 to 19 percent greater sales
  • 14 to 29 percent higher profitability
  • 9 to 15 percent higher employee engagement
  • 26 to 72 percent lower turnover in high turnover teams

Simply put, a strengths-based approach to 360-degree feedback is an accelerator for development. It helps participants take an individualized approach to how they can achieve their desired outcomes. In addition, it helps them embrace and maximize their natural talents and apply them to tackle new goals.

This approach is very different from a traditional 360 assessment, designed solely to evaluate employee scores, usually with spectacularly little detail and advice on how to improve. With over 50 years of research, Locke and Latham conclude that significant performance progress is much more likely to transpire when goals and feedback are specific, appropriately challenging, and routinely discussed.

A note on the authors:

This piece was co-written by Ben Wigert, Director of Research and Strategy, Workplace Management at Gallup, and Jennifer Balcom, Director of Consulting at Explorance.

Photo by Viesinsh

Conquer the Skills Gap: How to Quickly Upgrade Your Reskilling Strategy

The pandemic has only accelerated our ever-growing skills gap. However, there’s a silver lining to the chaos we’ve experienced this year. People have proved to be remarkably resilient. People are still the best resources to take on the disruption and close the skills gap. This is especially true when you consider the volatility of the external talent pool.

Yes, technology is outpacing human skills. Simultaneously, educational systems struggle to keep up with the urgency of new skills needed. Higher education is both too slow and too costly for reskilling to be effective in the near term. That said, if history has taught us anything, it’s that technology adoption may cause short-term labor displacement – but in the long run.

To effectively reskill in this rapidly changing environment, organizations must harness their greatest resource for skills potential by looking internally. The challenge then becomes how companies approach a reskilling strategy. We often see a top-down process, where leaders throw content or training at employees and expect them to get to work. This approach to talent development has never been effective. Even worse, it will undoubtedly fail when applied to the unique circumstances employees face today.

Instead, talent leaders need to design a holistic people development strategy. One that utilizes integrated technology to find the delicate balance between fulfilling the needs of their employees personally while giving them the tools to be successful at an organizational level. Only then will employees truly be enabled to reskill effectively and execute the business strategy.

Anticipate Skills Needs

In a recent study, McKinsey states that 87% of companies say they are experiencing a skills gap – or will in the next few years. Of those respondents, only a few have an understanding of how to prepare for the skills they’ll need most in the future.

As we can tell from this data point, companies are well aware of the looming skills gap issue. But they are lost at sea when it comes to understanding what to do about it. From that same study, 3 in 10 respondents say at least one-quarter of their organization’s roles are at risk of disruption in the next five years by these trends.

If you don’t know how to meet the skills needed, your first reaction will be to look outside the organization. But that’s a concern when you consider the cost of hiring. According to a  SHRM article, research suggests that a new hire can cost as much as 50% to 60% of an employee’s annual salary, with total costs associated with turnover ranging from 90% to 200% of annual salary. Further, finding new talent that fits into your culture is a feat in itself. Efficiency is what matters most now. So what companies need to do is rally around upskilling their current employees.

Leaders must tap into their own network to understand industry trends. They must decipher the needs required now (or those that will be soon) to develop their staff. To gain insight into the skills employees currently have and the skills required to do their job, start with a skills gap analysis. From there, providing performance management technology and tools that integrate to support holistic employee development is key.

Integrate Effectively

Companies are working hard to accommodate dispersed employees by keeping them connected and collaborating. Rather than adding an assortment of tools that don’t talk to each other, organizations must create a comprehensive strategy that includes mentoring, engagement, learning, and performance.

Mentoring

Most companies have created or adopted some kind of mentorship program to improve job satisfaction, provide personal and professional development, and retain their top employees. However, most of these mentorship programs have become stale and bureaucratic. As many organizations have learned, these programs aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Access to coaching and mentorship should be a continuous process and suited to an employee’s personal needs.

Engagement

The pandemic shook up our work-life balance, and the flexible work environment took its toll on engagement. Finding a tool that provides constant communication to employees and leadership is critical — especially for those working remotely. Continuous engagement shouldn’t mean micromanaging, however. Instead, support the employee’s personal needs and provide them with a positive work experience.

Learning

After leaders have identified all essential skills, leaders can provide the resources and content that cater to individual needs. An integrated Learning Module System (LMS) can equip employees with a database of information that promotes a culture of knowledge and learning.

Performance

In a survey, Forrester reports 74% of firms say they want to be “data-driven,” but only 29% are successful at connecting analytics to action. For an organization and its leaders to see the big picture, performance management technology must have detailed analytics. After all, reskilling efforts wouldn’t be relevant if you couldn’t track back to the original development strategy. Only then can you ensure each individual has made progress.

Technology shouldn’t be a hindrance to employees wanting to upskill. By consolidating tools, you’re saving time from going back and forth between systems, simplifying the work for managers, and allowing quicker decision-making.

Assess and Invest in Your People

Not everyone is facing the same challenges right now, but managers are responsible for providing the tools and resources for each employee that enable them to be efficient and productive. Moreover, LinkedIn’s 2019 Workplace Learning Report shows that 94% of employees say that they would stay at a company longer if it simply invested in helping them learn.

Closing the skills gap is an unmistakable need right now. Clearing the obstacles for employees to fill those gaps is an action that leaders must take. Finding the right fit with an integrated performance management solution can enable employees to reskill effectively and efficiently.

Photo by VivilWeb

Futurecasting: 7 World of Work Trends We’ll See in 2021

Futurecasting is sometimes akin to looking into the sky and trying to connect the stars. As we look ahead to the future this time, though, we know the direction we’re going. We know where the prominent work trends are taking us.

The pressures and complexities of 2020 and the pandemic forced an awakening. The innovation developed, creativity demonstrated, and momentum generated since that global reckoning has been so strong, there’s no turning around now; we’ll never go back to the way it was. So the tools and strategies we’ve leaned on throughout the pandemic will continue to redefine how we work in 2021.

With that in mind, here are seven key work trends that will continue to make their mark this coming year…

1. Remote Working

As an option, a necessity, a perk, and an official policy, remote working is here to stay. It’s a classic example of “if you build it, they will come.” And the many employees (and their managers) who have now experienced the ability to function remotely and now know the advantages remote work brings won’t want to go back.

As companies scale back on real estate spends (sorry realtors), remote working is a way to maintain a large workforce on a tighter budget. So we’ll see countless organizations following the path of big tech firms who have pledged to keep their employees remote for the time being — if, of course, they can accomplish the job and responsibilities without the need for a shared physical workspace. Once again, big tech is leading the way and disrupting the status quo. Only this time, it’s not transformative leadership creating the change; it’s the technology itself.

2. New Hires, New Experiences

For new hires (and particularly for Generation Z), that traditional rite of passage of joining a workplace and learning a whole new set of behavioral and social norms isn’t going to be as prevalent. This wholly digital generation has already changed the way we experience technology. Now, they’ll help us usher in a whole new way to enter the workplace. Soon, we’ll come to know this new wave of hires as the “remote generation” (or “hybrid generation”).

The brand-new job experience will not have the same impact as it did past generations. We don’t yet know how younger hires will feel about the value of that experience or workplace culture. But we will — and soon. The difference here: The 2021 work culture will be digital in nature. So the experience will not be as sharp a contrast as going from the classroom to the world of work.

3. Video Conferencing

Video conferencing has become the de facto way we meet. It has become so ubiquitous in the workplace that “to Zoom” is now a verb.

Zoom may have been the frontrunner. But there are plenty of existing competitors and new visual collaboration platforms that will help how we work together evolve. After all, this is a very hot aspect of HR technology and will undoubtedly continue to be one of the most dominant work trends.  So I predict increasing capabilities to communicate just as effectively over mobile as we once did face-to-face. I also see better ways to archive and transcribe our video-based conversations and more ways to extend the work done via videoconference to teams and stakeholders.

4. Upskilling

In 2021, we will see a big shift from hiring being the primary driver of increasing an organization’s capabilities to upskilling existing talent. Organizations that had to tighten their hiring budgets after sustained buffeting from 2020 and the pandemic will shift resources into training and development. Those that did just fine despite economic turbulence — in industries that actually grew during 2020 — will be adding a robust reskilling and upskilling program to their HR strategy.

The bottom line for everyone is that institutional knowledge is critical for maintaining continuity and weathering a crisis. Upskilling existing employees will become known as a smart way to hold onto that intelligence while evolving skills to meet new challenges. Upskilling will become a business imperative.

5. Mental Health

Without question, our mental health has become an enormous issue. A recent report by Monster revealed a whopping 69% of employees working from home experience severe burnout. It’s not that working from home is particularly hard on everyone by itself. But the rush to remote without an underlying culture and infrastructure — and without an end-game being defined — has caused some stress.

Because one of the key triggers of burnout is mistreatment by supervisors and managers, we’re learning about the importance of setting boundaries and doing frequent check-ins. Many of us are also making sure our people have access to the mental health benefits they need. To help us continue this critical work trend, we’ll soon see even more apps that help with emotional and mental well-being (such as a meditation app and a mindfulness training tool). And we’ll see more forward-thinking companies providing these practical and widely-available tools as part of their overall well-being programs.

6. Inclusive Cultures

Diversity is critical to every aspect of the workplace — and organizations need to do better. So we’ll see a lot more leaders focusing on how to improve a sense of belonging in their organizations, as well as some authentic soul-searching as we dive into legacies such as systemic racism.

Our timing couldn’t be better. Currently, 70% of job seekers in a survey by the Manifest say they consider a company’s commitment to diversity when evaluating them as a prospective employer. But diversity in terms of hiring and promotions is only one part of the equation. Companies must pay attention to their work cultures, gauge how truly inclusive they are now, and then work to close the gap between what is and what should be. This is perhaps the mother of all work trends and will play a critical role next year. Because in 2021, organizations are not going to be able to get away with a performative statement or symbolic gestures. If you truly believe in equality — if you genuinely believe black lives matter, for example — you’re going to have to show it.

7. Empathetic People Management

Let me add a few words to the phrase above: “empathetic people management… for the right reasons.”

The pre-pandemic talent crunch triggered many reflective moments around how to better conduct HR and talent management. The goal for many companies is to be perceived as a better employer brand and to successfully engage and retain your people. That’s all well and good. But we’re not in a talent crunch right now.

Yet between February and October 2020, some 2.2 million women in the U.S. left their jobs. Overwhelmed, undersupported, and stressed out, many women — particularly working mothers — reached a tipping point and gave up. That’s an incredible talent drain. When they come back to work, they’re going to look for companies that set up the structures that truly support their people through empathetic people management for all the right reasons.

Looking Ahead to 2021

2020’s silver lining is that we’d been stubbornly dancing around what was truly important in the workplace — and to the workforce. We were forced to reckon with real-time discoveries in an authentic way. So we now know exactly what lies between us and where we want to go. We’ll bring that wisdom, and these work trends, to 2021.

This welcome knowledge, together with knowing we have better tools and a clearer vision of what must come next than we’ve ever had before, brings me to my final bit of futurecasting…

2021 will be the year HR once again finds its soul. 

In 2021 and beyond, we will take better care of our people — and each other.