Years ago a storm came through the town where I lived and damaged a building on my father’s property. He needed it repaired, so I volunteered for the task. I’m not very handy at building and repairs, but I wanted to give it my best shot.
So I showed up with my tools and found a way to back the truck up inside the building, put the ladder in the truck bed, and climb out onto the roof to patch the hole. Once I had finished, I was feeling incredibly proud of myself. And then I realized something I had missed.
In my haste, I had patched the hole that I climbed through to access the roof, trapping myself up there!
While I did get down eventually, the story reinforces the concept that sometimes when we try to solve one problem, we end up creating another one in the process.
When it comes to analyzing, understanding and leveraging the skills within your business, the same is true. I've talked with multiple talent and business leaders in the last few months that have attempted to create a skills hierarchy internally only to have that information sit siloed away from where day-to-day talent decisions are made.
So let's address some key considerations for tackling siloing based on our research at Lighthouse Research & Advisory and the competitive practices of the best firms we’ve seen.
To paraphrase: No tech is an island
We’ve all heard the phrase “no man is an island.” The connectedness that matters to us as humans also plays into the technologies and data we leverage to support our talent.
Consider this question: If we implement a skills solution for hiring over here, and we put together a skills ontology for career pathing over there, and we have a separate tool for identifying skill gaps for development opportunities as well, are we solving the skills problem or just segmenting it into smaller pieces?
Skill data makes so many things possible, from reducing hiring bias and offering the right development opportunities to career pathing and more. But if we’re building our skills solution in a vacuum, we’re missing out on the opportunity to make it come to life. In reality, we’ll never see the real value we hope for if this is the case.
Let’s think of an example outside of talent, like purchasing a car. If we’re selecting a car, it’s best to have all of the relevant information in one place. But if we’re going to break it down like some companies have done with organizational skills, we would have:
- One database for gas mileage
- One database for safety features
- One database for engine size
This ridiculous siloing is why having important pieces of data in multiple areas can actually make things harder, not easier, when it comes to solving the skills clarity problem.
Stepping back to see the big picture
Reducing siloing is about enabling businesses and their people to adapt and overcome the incredible changes facing every organization and industry today. Consider these data points from our research at Lighthouse:
- 97% of agile organizations say their HR technology plays a pivotal role in their change readiness
- Employees were three times more likely to say their company did a good job helping them adapt to the events of the last year if they felt like their company offered the right type and amount of development opportunities
- Companies that prioritize skills across hiring, development and mobility don’t just solve for talent and engagement challenges — they solve actual business problems as well
Let’s look at a real example to help elaborate on just how pressing this issue is.
I had an opportunity to talk with the Head of Digital Transformation for a large financial services organization with tens of thousands of employees. This person explained that the organization was attempting to stand up a series of teams to embed digital skills into business units across the enterprise. However, after tapping the first handful of people, the project stalled out. This happened because they could not pinpoint the skills they needed within their existing workforce. To put it bluntly: This lack of skill clarity was limiting the biggest transformation project the company had embarked on in over a decade.
And if that’s not enough evidence, let’s look at the Lighthouse research that explores what your workforce needs. In today’s talent-driven market, we can’t afford to skip over this critical perspective.
Listen up: What your workforce is saying
This identification of skills maps to a wide variety of capabilities, including mobility and succession. In a recent discussion with our research council made up of heads of HR and talent from enterprise organizations representing millions of workers, the biggest priority and focus was retention of the workforce.
Sure, turn on the news and you’ll see that hiring is on everyone’s lips, but if we can’t keep the people we bring in, then hiring will never solve the problem. The data prove this out.
For every employee that doesn’t really prioritize career mobility, there are two employees who have left a job sometime in their careers because of a lack of advancement. However, when we asked those employees what would have made them stay, 88% of them said they would have stuck around if there were career or development opportunities available.
Lastly, nine out of 10 workers would prefer to use a tool that shows them career paths, associated skills, and related jobs. Ten years ago, this might have been a decision that we could debate. In today’s frenzied talent market, employers that do not make this a priority will quickly realize just how much of a priority this is for the workforce.
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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