Wednesday May 19th, 2021 | Webinar Recap: Faster Talent-Building in Practice

I recently had the opportunity to discuss talent-building at scale with Beth Davies, former Director of L&D @Tesla, and host of Career Curves podcast during the webinar “Faster Talent-Building in Practice: Powerful Actions to Drive Results in 2021”. Beth’s journey has involved her pushing forward workforce development practices at once-in-a-generation brands like Apple, Microsoft, and Gap.

There is no doubt that with the increasing skills gap, and the shortening life of skills, driven by technology, has created a necessity for all companies to invest in learning opportunities for every employee. After several conversations with Beth, I realized that to implement a perpetual learning advantage inside of organizations, we need to go beyond the talk of “upskilling” and move towards a discussion about how we actually do it?

So Beth and I decided to share our conversation and what we discovered with the wider HCI audience. Here’s a recap.

Creating a “Perpetual Learning Advantage”.

We kicked off the conversation with a quick poll question where we asked: “Is learning contributing to your competitive advantage?” The majority of attendees (89%) responded yes.

Both Beth and I were really encouraged by this response. As Beth discussed, L&D leaders often think of themselves as a support function. Unfortunately, thinking like that means that many L&D leaders aren’t necessarily seeing themselves as contributing to the organization’s competitive advantage. It’s exciting to see this perspective shifting.

Upskilling is the “means to the end”, so why aren’t we doing it?

The term “upskilling” was originally about addressing two major future-of-work challenges (oh, and by the way, the future has become the reality of today in a post-COVID world):

  • The need for new skills that don’t currently exist in our talent pool

We’ve all heard about the urgent need to upskill, and recognition for the importance of it was evident in the results of our second poll. We asked attendees “How much does not having the right skills keep your leadership up at night?”. The majority (57%) of attendees responded “A lot”, followed by “A little” (43%).

So why aren’t more organizations succeeding with “upskilling”? The simple answer is because it’s really, really difficult! However, it’s critical work. It is not enough to rely on schools to build skills anymore. Organizations need to take the initiative to upskill at all levels across the entire population, otherwise they will not survive.

Achieving competitive advantage and skill readiness.

Beth discussed what she sees as the five most powerful steps that HR and L&D leaders need to do to get to skill readiness:

  • Gain buy-in. Start today by talking to your leaders. Share the data that shows the need for upskilling.

Fewer constraints today mean a different way of thinking.

In the past, access to learning was limited by how many learners could fit in a classroom. With the virtual learning options today, there’s an opportunity to think about things differently.

Beth shared a new way of thinking about upskilling, by comparing it to a traditional sales funnel, where we know that in order to close a sale, we need to generate interest from x number of prospects, and engage with them at various points along the sales cycle.

Similar to a sales funnel, we can think about learning in terms of how many employees we need to have skills ready. We can start broadly by sharing the learning goals and inviting all employees to participate, understanding there will be some fallout along the way. This can effectively help to get to the needed number of upskilled employees, and can serve as a dashboard to track.

Upskilling requires intentional effort

More actions mean more or different responsibilities. Who gets involved? Whose responsibility is it? You can’t just add more things to someone’s already-more-than-full workload. Roles that are needed to support upskilling at scale:

  • Perpetual Learning Strategist — Partners with the line of business and recruiting to identify top skills, determine build vs. buy strategy, and to secure the resources

Upskilling is difficult work — and it’s important work

Getting your organization skill ready with a perpetual learning advantage will take leadership buy-in, collaboration across lines of business, dedicated resources, and new ways of thinking. At Learn In, we’re here to help on your upskilling journey. For more insights, watch the full webinar recording, follow us on LinkedIn, or subscribe to our newsletter to stay in touch.

By Deeps Ramanathan

CMO, Learn In

About Learn In

Learn In’s is a new talent-building platform to inclusively uplevel your workforce for tomorrow’s needs. Unlike on-the-fly microlearning, misaligned 4-year degrees, or the revolving door of hiring and firing, organizations use Learn In to identify talent-building goals, manage learning time, access flexible financing, and select skill-based programs, generating measurable outcomes for every dollar spent on upskilling the workforce. Co-founded by the founders of Degreed, Learn In is backed by leading edtech & future-of-work investors, including GSV, Album, Firework Ventures, and Village Global, and has been covered in CNBC, USA Today, EdTechReview, EdSurge, and Techcrunch.



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