How Business Leaders Can Navigate the New Normal with Talent Management

Janice Robinson Burns

“Business leaders must reassess their business strategies, and how this aligns with upskilling and workforce planning…Communicating the positive results and stories that come out of your talent and upskilling efforts will help to build momentum and enthusiasm with key stakeholders across all levels of your business.” – says Janice Robinson Burns, Chief Career Experience Officer at Degreed, in an exclusive interview with Enterprise Talk.

ET Bureau: How can business leaders navigate these rapidly changing times – what skills do you think are needed to be a success in this turbulent environment?

Current events have underlined the ongoing importance of agility – we’ve seen first-hand how workforces may need to adjust and respond to ensure business continuity and survival. Agility is built by your people, so business leaders must make sure their people have access to the right skills, are upskilled to new demands, and can be redeployed into new roles if needed.

Plus, many businesses are implementing hiring freezes, which means they must now make the most of every worker to keep productivity high. How does this translate to skills? Well, it means focusing on ‘power’ skills that can be used in many roles and scenarios. Skills that help people navigate their ‘new normal’ will also help. Degreed user data shows that people responded in the immediate aftermath of the global lockdown and pandemic announcement by prioritizing transferable skills over niche ones. We saw increases in searches for Microsoft Excel, Leadership, and Communication (up 4%, 5%, and 15% respectively) and even sharper decreases in searches for Python, Java (down 20% and 27%), and Machine Learning (down 37%).

ET Bureau: There will be massive demands for upskilling over the next few months. What do you see as the best way to move ahead?

Originally we saw a lot of short-term, knee-jerk decision making to keep businesses running. Now that we’re moving into the later phases of the pandemic response (and we’re experiencing global recession), business leaders must reassess their business strategies and how this aligns with upskilling and workforce planning. At the same time, there’s been a considerable acceleration in digital transformation (by 2 years in just 2 months) that leaders must get ahead of if their businesses are to thrive in the coming decade.

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The best way to move ahead, for now, is to start with your business strategy, understand how it has changed and how it impacts your skills needs. Then look at the current skills in your workforce and any gaps that need to be filled to implement your business strategy over the next five years. Having the right, available talent ranks as one of the largest threats to business – ahead of supply chain and environmental risks. By upskilling your workforce in anticipation of your business needs in 1, 3, and 5 years, you can proactively ensure you have the right skills, where you need them when you need them.

ET Bureau: How can enterprises implement talent management and development programs to drive enhanced business results?

Business leaders cite three main barriers when it comes to having the skills they need: one in four say they don’t understand the impact of digitization on skill requirements, one in four lack the tools they need to quantify their reskilling and upskilling, and a third don’t think their HR infrastructure will support their efforts. 53% of leaders say that a lack of visibility into skills is their main impediment to workforce transformation, and 31% have no way to identify market-leading skills.

To start with, therefore, there must be a clear view of the current skills in the organization and what’s needed. There should also be a skills framework that sets out how skills are named and quantified in your organization – so everyone is on the same page.

Another consideration is the cultural change needed to make future-forward talent management and development success. Many managers and department heads are in a kind of ‘hoarding’ mentality that hinders upskilling and internal mobility. They want to keep hold of their valuable team members, so moving into new roles internally or doing stretch assignments becomes impossible for individuals. Unfortunately, this is the wrong approach, as 40% of workers feel their skills are underutilized, and this leads to lower job satisfaction, lower productivity, and a higher likelihood of them leaving.

Instead of trying to keep people in one role or department, business leaders should encourage a culture where people are continuously challenged and upskilled. A positive talent cycle where someone builds skills for an internal move is mobilized into a new role, then continues to upskill ready for the next step.

ET Bureau: What advantages does the Degreed platform provide in terms of learning opportunities?

There are two clear differences that employers and employees get with Degreed. Firstly, it provides a way for individuals to align their learning efforts and career aspirations with the business goals – creating a complementary relationship where both employee and their employer benefit.

It places people at the core of the learning strategy (which is essential to gaining widespread adoption). People will want to learn because it builds their careers and aligns with their interests. Simultaneously their upskilling benefits the bottom-line because of learning’s alignment with the broader business strategy.

Degreed also gives people the ‘why’ behind learning – by offering future work and learning opportunities as something to aim for. This way, an individual can build their skills, be mobilized into a new role based on these skills, then continue to upskill ready for their next move.

ET Bureau: Lastly, how can business leaders encourage talent acquisition and focus on the future development of the company?

It’s worth looking at 2-4 years ahead as this will focus your efforts on the immediate needs of your business. Look at developing one or two skills per employee, so they don’t feel overwhelmed by the task at hand.

Set a baseline so you can clearly see the skills your business has now, what you need, and you can track progress with upskilling, development, and talent acquisition. To encourage participation, remain aligned with each individual’s goals and interests – and don’t forget to give them the ‘why’. Connect employees with new projects, stretch assignments, or even jobs through a dynamic career marketplace.

Read More: IT Leaders Driving Inside-Out Digital Transformation for Businesses

Communicating the positive results and stories that come out of your talent and upskilling efforts will help to build momentum and enthusiasm with key stakeholders across all levels of your business. This will pay-off when you plan, implement, and gain buy-in for your future plans.

As a human capital strategist, Janice Robinson Burns develops and implements talent management and development programs that drive business results. She recently joined Degreed as their first Chief Career Experience Officer. Prior to Degreed, Janice spent 27 years at Mastercard, as their Chief Learning Officer. As CLO, she led the design and implementation of employee learning experiences and development programs globally.