The future of work is now: Q&A with talent management expert Dr. Edie Goldberg

Cornerstone Editors

Cornerstone recently hosted a webinar with nationally recognized talent management expert Edie Goldberg, Ph.D., to discuss the secrets to developing an organizational culture that creatively conquers the future of work by nurturing talent from within. Subsequently, Dr. Goldberg shared even more internal talent mobility knowledge in a series of follow-up questions and answers.

Catch the on-demand webinar and read the Q&A.

1) What’s a common misconception about internal gig work?

When people hear “gig,” they think of the external gig economy. Many people think they will get paid for working on a gig. Rather than getting paid (as you would in the external gig market), employees get opportunities to explore other parts of the company, opportunities to make an impact by leveraging skills they have that they don’t use in their day-to-day role or the ability to work on a project that exposes them to new skills that help them to learn and grow professionally. It is more about being professionally challenged, using your expertise and learning. Historically, many employees have been asked to participate in special task forces at work. This is really not that dissimilar.

2) When it comes to employees taking on new gigs inside the company, some organizations say the employee should do the project on their own time. In contrast, others want employees/managers to incorporate the gig into their everyday workload. What’s the approach you recommend?

Ninety percent of companies offering gigs say it is to be done on top of their regular work responsibilities. I have often joked that Google’s 20% time allotted for innovation is 120% time because it is on top of someone’s core job responsibilities.

While there is nothing wrong with this approach, companies can optimize their talent by moving workaround. Rather than asking you to take on a job in addition to your day job, why don’t you examine the work you do today? What work optimizes your skills and lets you operate at your highest value to the organization? Is there work you do where you add no value?

Let’s take the classic example of meetings. How often have you thought, “That meeting could have been a memo.” Often, we participate in meetings to hear what is being said, but we don’t play a key role in the meeting. In those cases, maybe that hour or two you spend in meetings could be better used by working on a project where you can add value. Then you can just read the meeting notes to get updated on what happened. Voila — more time!

What parts of your job drain you because you do not enjoy them? What parts do you struggle with because it’s not really your skill set? Is it better to offer those parts of your job to someone better equipped for or energized by that work?

My recommendation is that managers work with their employees to review how they spend their time, which tasks bring them joy and which tasks drain them. Then figure out how to move work around to let employees work at their optimum value to the organization. Make time for learning and growth, and better leverage your employees’ skills and expertise to address your company’s most important business problems.

3) Can you give an example of how managers can break down traditional FTE roles into projects or work based on skills?

I like to use the example of a Project Manager. It’s a job most people can relate to. It is easy to break down the core components of a Project Manager’s role.

The role of a Project Manager can be broken down into five key areas of responsibility:

  • Initiate the project: Outline the objectives, project scope, resources and timeline
  • Assemble the team: Identify and recruit qualified team members and oversee their work
  • Execute the project: Monitor project progress, manage project risks and ensure effective communication channels are established
  • Manage project budget: Develop and manage the project budget, track expenses and prepare financial reports
  • Assess project outcomes: Conduct a comprehensive evaluation of project outcomes to determine if they met the project objectives, were delivered on schedule, within budget and with the expected level of quality. Additionally, document key learnings for future projects.

A particular project manager may be great at all aspects of this work except for budgeting. If the job is deconstructed, this work could be an opportunity for another individual whose expertise and passion is financial analysis. Perhaps someone from the finance department, who excels in this area, wants to learn project management. Wouldn’t this be a great opportunity for them to learn what the role is all about?

4) We know that front-line managers are the lynchpin to any successful culture change. What are some tactical arguments that HR can present to a manager who is resistant to the idea of letting their employees participate in gig assignments?

Most managers are resistant to the idea because they are being held accountable for certain results and they need all of their resources (and then some) to achieve these objectives. That is reasonable. There are a few things that HR needs to ensure to overcome manager resistance.

  • If an employee wants to use an internal gig to explore a potential new job opportunity, HR needs to ensure that the current manager won’t lose a headcount if an existing employee takes a new role elsewhere in the company.
  • In my book, The Inside Gig, one of our core principles is “You Get What You Give.” When managers share (or give) their existing talent with other teams, the idea is that they then get talent from elsewhere in the company to help them to achieve their current goals. It is the principle of talent sharing which goes in both directions. So if you help your employee make room for a new project, you can also post a project for someone else to help you meet your business objectives.
  • Help managers realize that when they share their employees across the organization, that employee builds new relationships that will facilitate getting work done in the future. They also build new skills and bring renewed energy and enthusiasm back to their core job.

5) What is your overall advice to HR leaders who are contemplating if they can really implement this type of internal career mobility strategy compared to traditional career pathing or succession planning?

Traditional career pathing assumes progression is linear (up the career ladder). With new technologies requiring new skills, new roles are emerging at lightning speed. Employees need to be encouraged to look for new opportunities that help them to build a portfolio of skills that will advance their careers.

Furthermore, companies have had an overreliance on a handful of high performers who got all the special opportunities to help them grow and advance. These AI-driven internal talent mobility platforms can provide visibility to all of the company’s existing talent and can make opportunities visible to everyone. By leveraging technology to connect employees’ skills and interests with the opportunities available, we democratize opportunities within the company. This will greatly facilitate the DEI strategies companies have to diversify their workforce.

6) Do you find those who seek opportunities to work on projects outside of their normal role to find mentors is mostly a response from millennials and Gen Z employees?

While I think this is of great advantage to younger workers, in my experience, people at all stages of their careers want the opportunity to work on projects that they are personally interested in. Whether that is to tap into an area they are passionate about, something they are interested in learning, working on a project that will have a significant impact on the company or its customers, or leveraging a skill they have but don’t use in their day-to-day role. Employees at all career stages are very interested in this idea.

With respect to the ability to connect with mentors, of course, people earlier in their careers are most interested in this benefit of internal talent mobility. This is not generation day-to-day specific, but rather people earlier in their career benefit greatly from learning from others. With that said, mid-career individuals, who tend to be older, also benefit from opportunities that connect them with mentors that can teach them a specific skill or expertise that they need to advance their career. So no, I do not think this is specific to millennials or Gen Z employees. However, whenever I do speak with employees from these generations, they are very excited about working for a company that provides them with diversity and choice in their work and the ability to connect with mentors.

7) What do you recommend as the best resource to utilize to get a skills inventory of your workforce?

While I know of companies that have leveraged their existing technology (e.g., HRIS) to get started, the new talent/opportunity marketplace technologies are designed for this. You want to ensure the system is backed with a skills ontology that was built on a large database. The complexity and effectiveness of a skills ontology often depend on the scope and size of your organization, as well as the diversity of roles and functions.

A skills ontology should be thorough and detailed enough to cover all the skills relevant to your organization's operation. This might mean including hundreds or even thousands of different skills, each of which could be considered a data point. In addition, related information like proficiency levels, the context of the skill usage, related skills, etc., should also be considered.

Moreover, the ontology should be regularly updated and refined to reflect the changing skill requirements of the organization and the industry in which it operates. The more robust and detailed the skills ontology, the more effectively it can support workforce planning, talent development and other HR processes.

It's also important to remember that the usefulness of a skills ontology isn't just about the quantity of data points, but also about how well it reflects the needs of the organization and how effectively it can be applied to make meaningful decisions.

8) How have companies navigated the question of pay for additional/stretch assignments in the name of learning?

By and large, companies are not paying people to work on stretch assignments. Rather than getting paid (as you would in the external gig market), employees get opportunities to explore other parts of the company, opportunities to make an impact by leveraging skills they have that they don’t use in their day-to-day role or the ability to work on a project that exposes them to new skills that help them to learn and grow professionally. It is more about being professionally challenged, using your expertise and learning. Historically, many employees have been asked to participate in special task forces at work. This is really not that dissimilar.

9) How can managers highlight their team members’ talents throughout different departments?

This is the exact problem that I have been trying to solve for years. By using a talent/opportunity marketplace and having your employees share their skills, experiences and interests, you can get visibility into how everyone in the company can contribute to the most important business priorities. It is literally about making talent visible to the rest of the company. Employees have lots to offer — beyond what they do in their day-to-day roles. By adopting new technology that helps build and share employee skills, the company can gain visibility into everyone’s skills.

Get more expert-backed methods to cultivate a culture that fosters internal employee growth. Read the new eBook co-authored by Dr. Goldberg and Cornerstone.









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