Blog Post

Business Unbound: A Vision and New Strategies for the New World of Work

Adam Miller

President & CEO, Cornerstone

Yesterday looks nothing like today. For some companies, the COVID-19 crisis has brought business to a grinding halt—but for others, it’s kicked things into hyperdrive. The trends that were emerging before the crisis have accelerated: Digital transformation initiatives have a heightened urgency as businesses are now required to pivot on a dime. The trend toward remote work has manifested in full. The need to reskill and upskill the workforce is now an immediate concern rather than a provision for the future. Change is not optional. How to change is now the critical question.

It’s an incredible challenge to adapt in these circumstances—but companies are doing it. Think about Medtronic’s sharp turn to accelerate the production of ventilators in their factories, or Honeywell, and many other companies, now making masks. Companies are demonstrating just how quickly they can move when they eliminate the constraints that were holding them back. Some constraints were the result of yesterday’s thinking, such as outdated business models or processes, to solve today’s challenges. Other constraints, such as pervasive shelter in place orders, are truly unique to today’s historic moment and require new, creative approaches that will have lasting impact. These agile organisations have uncovered their own ability to adapt, and it’s critical that they don’t rebound to routines and outdated structures after the crisis has passed. Business volatility has been increasing for decades before the crisis and will only accelerate long after it.

At Cornerstone, we are committed to helping companies take an unbound approach to business. An unbound business is one that is not confined by conventions and is open to fresh approaches in tune with their changing environment. And, we believe that at the heart of an unbound business is continuous people development. Over the past 20 years, we’ve honed our software to help companies adapt quickly with the right people, the right skills and the right training. And with our acquisition of Saba, a global leader in talent solutions, we’re in an even stronger position to help companies lean into their change drivers: continuous learning, actionable data and workforce agility. The key? To continue to remove the constraints.

Learning Unbound: Learning is the Accelerator

Learning is the adaptability accelerator. Cornerstone People Research Lab data shows that training has skyrocketed in the last several weeks as companies help their employees adapt to this new normal, including a spike in courses about stress management and working from home. This shows that rather than use learning to only meet compliance requirements, we need to provide employees with more holistic learning to address all aspects of work life. To do that, learning must be:

  1. Ubiquitous: Available on any device, and, most importantly, delivered in their flow of work in the systems and tools where work is happening. And, when learning is offered in a variety of formats such as learning through social collaboration or learning in short form—known as Microlearning—that are quickly digestible and easily applicable. Learning retention suffers when employees learn on the company’s schedule. Instead, learning retention and effectiveness is highest when employees need it and can immediately apply it to a real-world situation.
  2. Hyper-Personalised: Remove the time and energy it takes for employees to seek out learning. Technology can help present relevant opportunities to employees that are contextualised based on their skills, experience, aspirations and preferences.
  3. A Business Enabler: For businesses to adapt quickly and at scale, they need to promote real learning – the kind that sticks with you – it requires repetition, reinforcement and nurture. And real learning is always evidenced by change. Changed mindsets. Changed behaviors. Changed outcomes.

To help advance these changes forward, Cornerstone has been focused on providing people with the most modern, relevant learning content available through Content Anytime, our subscription service offering. Curated with thousands of courses from dozens of world-class content partners, we are committed to helping organisations provide their people with the right content to help accelerate learning. We also recently invested in Talespin to ensure we stay on the cutting edge of the emerging area of virtual reality training.

By embracing these changes to learning at work, organisations will be prepared for whatever challenges lie ahead. In a truly adaptable workplace, learning is every worker’s constant companion, and people will be always learning.

Careers Unbound: AI-based Personalised Coaching to Empower Your People

The number one reason people choose to leave a company is because they don’t have the opportunity to learn and grow. In addition to career growth, people want to be seen and valued for their unique strengths. They want to feel a sense of purpose at work as detailed in a recent trend report from Mercer Consulting. They want continuous and frequent coaching sessions with their manager. They want to understand how to improve. They want to be supported on how to best challenge themselves while also maintaining a sense of well-being. They desire new experiences to help them put learning into practice and explore emergent interests. In essence, people want to be coached. 

This will require organisations to re-examine how they support their workforce. The first step will be to transform managers into coaches. What makes coaches more effective is that they guide individuals, not roles, and they truly understand who they are coaching and where that person is headed. This means organisations will provide managers with tools to better understand their individual employees – such as their deep skills profiles, interests, personal and professional aspirations and their emotional well-being - as well as tools to help them apply that holistic information into more meaningful conversations and personalised career navigation.

In addition to turning managers into coaches, organisations will find new ways to supplement employee guidance with AI-powered digital coaching tools. These types of tools will be embedded in the technology that employees are already using and will apply the employee’s personalised data to guide and make recommendations for growth and development. For example, after an employee completes a skill-building course, they will be recommended a sequence of more trainings and activities to truly bridge their skill divide. Additionally, employees will further benefit from AI-based recommendations, nudges and conversations with intelligent chatbots, which can do everything from suggesting a new training, to an upcoming project they might be interested in, to a role suited to their skills.

These tools, combined with rich conversations with managers (powered by data), provide truly personalised career navigation that’s informed by an employee’s skills, experiences and aspirations resulting in them feeling more engaged and empowered in their careers.

To help enable this vision, Cornerstone has launched Cornerstone Careers, a new product solution focused on helping employees to connect with their managers and navigate their careers. Cornerstone Careers includes Check Ins and Capabilities, and we’ll be adding more features in the coming months, including Career Center to help employees navigate their careers in a fully personalised way.

Data Unbound: More Holistic People Data for Better People Decisions

With technology has come an explosion of data and analytics. And for years, organisations have been striving to extract insights and important business value from people data. Yet, yesterday’s data sets fell short of giving organisations a holistic, meaningful understanding of their people both inside and outside of the organisation. Businesses crave more well-rounded, data-driven insights to know the whole person: their capabilities, strengths, experiences, aspirations, mood, learning preferences and well-being.

Earlier this year, we took a big step in this area by acquiring Clustree, a French technology company that developed an industry-leading, AI-powered skills engine and extensive skills ontology to help organisations match their employees’ skills with specific job roles. The benefit of this comprehensive, elastic skills data set is twofold. First, the data will allow companies to dynamically develop and deploy the right skills to projects, roles and key investments. For example, looking at data across the global enterprise will allow companies to build teams that bring together the best skills and experiences regardless of geography. With data about both internal and external talent, companies will also be able to assemble the optimal mix inclusive of employees, candidates, contractors and freelancers.

Second, and more importantly, more inclusive data will allow companies to improve their employees’ well-being, engagement and retention. Employees and their managers will be able to use this data in development conversations, for example, facilitating a hyper-personalised approach to growth instead of one-size fits all. And this data must be collected for the benefit and empowerment of the employee, rather than for productivity and efficiency tracking. Data can open up a more meaningful work-life experience that ultimately benefits both the employee and the business.

Cornerstone Is Adapting and Evolving with You

This extreme event we are currently experiencing, COVID-19, is proof that companies must be more agile than ever to succeed. And even after we move beyond this crisis, businesses can’t return to our previous state where it takes 18 months or more to pivot the workforce. When unforeseen forces arise, those businesses that are able to act quickly not only endure the change but thrive because of it. To build that agility, companies need to remove the constraints that were holding them back and embrace a new world of work that invites change and innovation.

The emergence of this new world of work comes at a pivotal time for our company as well. With our recent acquisition of Saba, we are in an even better position to help our clients transition to this new reality. Not only will we increase the speed and scale of innovation, we now have access to nearly twice as much client data, enabling us to improve A.I. within our products. As a combined company, we are committed to accelerating these strategic innovation initiatives with the intent of helping companies address these sudden new challenges, create new opportunities and transform into a resilient unbound business.

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When we talk about the quest to "have it all," it's almost always in reference to working women trying to balance a stressful 9-to-5 with the equally difficult demands of family. To be sure, women face distinct challenges in the workplace and high expectations at home. But this Father's Day, let's not forget that dads are increasingly juggling work and home life, too. Single fatherhood is becoming more common in the US—a 2013 Pew report found that a record 8 percent of families with children were headed by a single dad—and 60 percent of households with children are dual-income as of 2014, putting added pressure on both working parents. While policies in the US do not mandate paid family leave of any kind—unlike parent-topia Sweden, which offers 16 months of paid parental leave and three months specifically for paternity leave—many companies are now thinking about how they can help their workers be "Employee of the Year," without sacrificing their "Dad of the Year" trophy. 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State Street Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Boston, MA Number Of Employees: 29,530 Paid Paternity Leave: 4 weeks Industry: Finance Policy Highlight: Flexible work arrangements are a must for the busy working dad (or mom). State Street's program helps take the stress out of setting up some work-from-home time by requiring their managers to approach their employees about flexible work options. 6. Genentech Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: San Francisco, CA Number Of Employees: 14,000 Paid Paternity Leave: 6 weeks Industry: Biotech Policy Highlight: Along with dedicated paid paternity time, Genentech also offers a sabbatical program for long-term employees. Every six years, you earn six months of time off—perfect for a long summer trip with the kids. 7. 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Roche Diagnostics Photo: Creative Commons Headquarters: Indianapolis, IN (North American HQ) Number Of Employees: 4,500 Paid Paternity Leave: 6 weeks Industry: Healthcare Policy Highlight: Roche employees have plenty of opportunities to teach Junior essential life lessons like how to swing a bat or grow a juicy tomato. The company spends $35,000 annually on sponsored extracurriculars like community sports leagues, and also offers an on-site employee produce garden. 10. 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