People want better jobs. But "better" means something different to everyone.
Maybe it means more money. Different duties. An ability to learn new skills. A new career entirely. Figuring out what "better" means is as much up to employees telling organizations where they want to grow and as it is up to organizations supporting that growth and aligning it with their organizational goals.
HR leaders are feeling a lot of pressure from both sides to make "better" happen now: Pressure on the employee front and pressure from senior management.
We're in the midst of "The Great Resignation," and 47% of office workers are worried their current skill set will soon be outdated, according to survey data from UiPath. And a McKinsey report released last year revealed 87% of senior leadership are either experiencing skills gaps within their organization now or expect them in the coming years, with fewer than half of executives having a clear sense of how to address the problem.
Aligning employee wants with organizational needs
To fight employee disengagement, organizations need to help their people improve their skills while simultaneously ensuring those skills fill critical gaps. At Cornerstone, we started a new initiative called "Cornerstone Gigs." And it has proven to be a successful endeavor for us.
This past year, we introduced Cornerstone Gigs — an internal talent marketplace where employees can expand their skills and explore new ones during short-term "gig" assignments outside their usual department.
Each Cornerstone gig is posted by other employees seeking fresh input and hands-on support to enhance or accelerate a particular initiative. Employees apply to the gig through an internal portal and participate following a successful application.
So far, the initiative has garnered a tremendous amount of interest from Cornerstone employees, 250 of which applied to take part resulting in 75 gig placements throughout the company.
Because this initiative has been so successful for us, we wanted to share a few examples of engaged employees who participated in the first year of Cornerstone Gigs.
Caitlin Hobson found her perfect role at Cornerstone
Caitlin Hobson was an internal auditor who wanted to add to her skills toolbox with a new opportunity before applying to a gig. Hobson found that a singular "job" was not taking full advantage of her diverse and unique skill set, so she decided to explore other opportunities searching for a new career. Energizing networking experiences encouraged Hobson to initially apply for a gig with the Content Customer Experience (CCX) team to capture different Cornerstone stories. She found so much success in this gig that she started a formal role in the CCX team and is embracing learning new skills and networking with department colleagues in her brilliant new role.
Kumara Naika expanded his knowledge and network
Kumara Naika, a senior QA engineer, decided to post a gig on the Cornerstone Marketplace to build networking, add value to his team, and discover and share more about the CTF automation framework he uses every day selecting a gig team in Canada. For Naika, it was a golden opportunity to work with people across the globe and learn from each other.
Neal Duggleby and Saurabh Ajmera connected across the globe
Neal Duggleby, a senior manager in systems and analytics who lives in California, also found deeper insights and recognized potential skill gaps in his team. He created a gig project with the initial goal of providing greater knowledge of Google Analytics to anyone at Cornerstone who wanted to learn. And Duggleby found the perfect candidate in Saurabh Ajmera. Ajmera, a senior product manager in Mumbai, was eager to connect and share his experience and familiarity with the software. Together, they both grew their skills.
Tracy Best ensures people are represented
Tracy Best, a federal project manager, is currently participating in the diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) Content Review Committee Gig that ensures the content published by NonProfitReady.org and DisasterReady.org is diverse, inclusive and accessible. In this gig role, Tracy has learned about DEI challenges and concepts that she can now apply to her day-to-day role in client communications, presentations, and personal interactions. A huge goal of Tracy's in her career is to be DEI compliant and inclusive.
Amy Haggarty discovered the right people for the job
Amy Haggarty, director of partnership strategy and engagement at the Cornerstone Foundation, posted a gig to expand and improve her team's content offerings, specifically to try a new course format. The department's goal for the gig was to harness feedback for this content, particularly from people who had experience in online course development, course writing and an interest in collaboration. Of course, it was also important to create an experimental, new gig and an excellent learning experience. Three internal people were selected for the gig, and one was hired full-time at the end of the gig. For both sides, it was a successful and interesting initiative with brilliant results.
Amar Shah developed his skills and a new app
Amar Shah, a senior software engineer, began his gig experience by integrating two vital internal systems. He applied for a gig that needed him to integrate AskCSOD, a portal initially created via a hackathon, into the Slack messenger app for efficient communication. Amar had some of the skills needed for the project but was also very keen to learn more, including the coding for the Slack app. Amar found the gig experience enriching personal growth while also creating a valuable integration for Cornerstone employees.
More gig success is on the horizon
The gig program has been brilliantly successful. 250 applicants and counting are working to create a better job for themself and their coworkers. They're enhancing skills, growing their careers and bringing different colleagues together for projects.
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Taking A Company-Wide Approach to Learning & Development
There’s a lot of coordination that goes into a company’s learning and development programming, from identifying skills gaps and creating engaging content to scaling initiatives company-wide. And because there’s so much complex planning involved, organizations can sometimes get caught up in the details, and overlook how L&D fits into broader organizational goals. A recent survey—titled "The Revolution is Now: New-Skill Your Workforce to Catalyze Change"—from Cornerstone People Research Lab (CPRL) and the Human Capital Institute (HCI) found that only 55% of organizations believe their L&D programs are well-aligned with their company’s overarching strategy. But CPRL and HCI’s survey reveals two logical ways to overcome this challenge. First, there’s a need for L&D executives to participate in strategic conversations around organizational goals to ensure that L&D planning aligns with broader business plans. And second, it’s important to share responsibility for learning effectiveness. If facilitating continuous learning is a part of everyone’s role, it becomes easier to integrate it organization-wide. Promote Cross-Departmental Collaboration and Responsibility To better align L&D efforts with overarching business goals, learning executives have to participate in strategic conversations about organizational direction. For instance, when business leaders gather to discuss goals and KPIs for the coming year or quarter, HR and L&D leaders should be involved in those conversations. And the opposite is also true: Business leaders need to help direct the learning outcomes framed against those goals. According to the "Revolution is Now: New-Skill Your Workforce to Catalyze Change" survey from CPRL and HCI, only about half (51%) of learning leaders report being involved in these discussions. During these business planning discussions, it’s important to establish accountability, especially among people managers. CPRL and HCI found 67% of people managers report being involved in the creation of content, but only 47% are involved in the accountability for the results. By holding more people accountable to the success of L&D programs, it can be easier for a company to spot pitfalls or opportunities for improvement. It creates shared goals for measuring effectiveness, and establishes a process for making changes. For example, by getting people managers involved in L&D initiatives, L&D leaders can work with them to get a better understanding of a specific team’s skill gaps or what reskilling or new skilling solutions will work best for them. All leaders in an organization, in fact, should be eager to participate and own their team’s newskilling, reskilling or upskilling efforts. Ask a people manager in the IT department to reiterate the importance of learning to their team, and track the amount of time their employees spend on learning content. This approach will not only create a shared commitment to continuous learning, but can also help leaders outside of L&D and HR get a better idea of what content or formats work best for their teams and recommend adjustments accordingly. Continuous Learning Is Everyone’s Responsibility Aligning overarching business plans and strategy with learning and development efforts can improve each’s efficacy. The more cross-departmental collaboration that exists, the more information that HR and L&D leaders have about their workforce and its needs, strengths and weaknesses. And with more accountability, all stakeholders in an organization can become more involved in ensuring the successful partnership between L&D and a company’s overall strategy. To learn more about the findings from Cornerstone’s "The Revolution is Now: New-Skill Your Workforce to Catalyze Change" survey and its recommendations for using cross-departmental collaboration and accountability to help with L&D efforts, click here to download and read the full report.
Why supporting neurodiversity is essential for any successful workforce today
When we think of diversity in the workforce, we typically think of it along the lines of race, religion, sexual orientation or gender. But focusing only on those four is its own sort of constraint. To truly create a successful and diverse workplace, you need to ensure you're also embracing neurodiversity too. Understanding neurodiversity In the late 1990s, a single mother in Australia named Judy Singer began studying Disability Studies at University of Technology Sydney. Her daughter had recently been diagnosed with what was then known as “Asperger’s Syndrome,” a form of autism spectrum disorder. As she read more and more about autism as part of her studies, Singer also suspected that her mother, and she herself, may have had some form of autism spectrum disorder. Singer describes crying as she realized that her mother, with whom she'd had a tumultuous relationship throughout her childhood, wasn’t purposefully cold or neurotic as she had thought. She just had a different kind of mind. In her honors thesis, Singer coined the term “neurodiversity.” For Singer, people with neurological differences like autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or dyslexia were a social class of their own and should be treated as such. If we are going to embrace diversity of race, gender, religion, sexuality, etc., then we must embrace a diversity of the mind. The following video is an excerpt from the "Neurodiversity" Grovo program, which is available in the Cornerstone Content Anytime Professional Skills subscription. Neurodiversity in today's workplace Recently, neurodiversity has become a trendy term in diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging spaces. And many organizations are working to hire more neurodivergent people, as well as give them opportunities to thrive at work. That’s why, at Cornerstone, we recently produced a series of lessons on neurodiversity. If your organization hasn’t prioritized neurodiverse inclusion yet, here are some reasons why it both supports your people and organization. 1) Neurodivergent people are underemployed Neurodivergent people, especially people with autism, are widely under-employed, regardless of their competence. In the United States, 85% of college graduates with autism are unemployed. According to a 2006 study, individuals with ADHD have higher rates of unemployment than individuals without. However, there is no evidence that neurodivergent people are less competent or less intelligent than neurotypical people. Organizations are missing out on talented people. 2) Neurodivergent people are more common than you may think Neurodiversity manifests in many different ways. It can encompass autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, Tourette syndrome, and many other conditions. And as scientists have learned more about what makes someone neurodivergent, they're identifying more and more people. According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 160 children have some form of autism spectrum disorder. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 1 in every 162 children have Tourette Syndrome, and roughly 8 percent of children under 18 have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD. And that's just children. How many adults, like Judy Singer's mother, have struggled their whole lives without a diagnosis? People who are neurodivergent are everywhere. Diverse organizations are stronger Diverse organizations and teams not only have better financial returns than less-diverse ones, but they also perform better. Having the different perspectives presented by people who are neurodivergent can help your team solve more difficult problems. Different perspectives and different ways of thinking lead to creativity and innovation.
Why Selecting a Leadership Development Program Is Way Too Complicated
Many organizations face a leadership gap and cannot find the talent needed to grow. We could blame the retiring baby boomer phenomenon, the free agent nation, or the lack of investment made in developing leaders. But since blame is a lazy man’s wage, I will not entertain that debate because there are too many options out there for developing leaders. There are many leadership development programs in the market. In minutes, with a simple Internet search or over coffee with your head of human resources, you can discover myriad high-quality leadership development programs that you could use in your organization to develop leaders. The problem is not finding a good program, but in choosing one. Answer the Right Questions So how does one choose? The problem we face in evaluating leadership development programs is that we get caught up in evaluating the content rather than asking a simple question, "What do we want our leaders to be able to do?" Each organization is unique in how it answers this question. And that is where the secret lies. If an organization can select a program that matches the answer to the question above, the selected program will likely be the right one. After all, each leadership development program is very good in some way. It is not so important which one you select. It is important that you use the one you select. In other words, the key is to not let it become another un-opened binder on the bookshelves of your management team. Be An Effective Leader Let me give you an example: If an organization’s answer to the question above is, "We want our leaders to be proactive and focused on the things that drive results," your choices are narrowed down to only a few programs that would deliver on that answer. And if I had to pick one program that would deliver on that answer, without hesitation, I would choose, "The Effective Executive" by Peter F. Drucker. It is a classic, and all five of the behaviors of effective executives taught in the book remain vital skills that any leader should practice if he or she wants to be effective in his or her organization. In the book, Drucker teaches that effective executives: Know where their time goes Focus on contribution and results Build on strengths Concentrate on first things first Make effective decisions This is not a book review or a plug for "The Effective Executive," though I do believe if you had to choose one set of skills to teach your leadership, it would be the five from Drucker’s book. This is a challenge for every organization to simplify the selection of leadership development programs, and ask, "What do we want our leaders to be able to do?" Answering this question clearly will help you choose the right program. After all, many programs are excellent. The secret to success is not in which program you choose, but that you get people to apply the program you choose. Photo: Can Stock