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Skills, Learning and the Future of Work: A Look Back Our Favorite 2020 Content

Cornerstone Editors

With 2020 just about over, we won’t rehash what a year it’s been. At ReWork, we’re ready for 2021. But, despite the challenges this year has posed, however, it was an important one for learning.

We learned what it takes to make remote work work. We learned the importance of resilience in the workplace. We learned that there’s still work to do to combat racism, not only at work but also in our society at large. And we learned, above all else, that change is unpredictable and constant. To prepare for the unknown, we must continue to learn and adopt new skills to grapple with any new challenges that arise.

Join us as we look back at some of our favorite ReWork pieces from 2020, and leverage our learnings for whatever comes next.

The world of work changed virtually overnight with the global spread of COVID-19. In this personal account, one Cornerstone employee offered insight into working remotely—while taking care of two small children who could no longer go to school because of the pandemic. From asking for help to carving out "me time," this relatable advice is a must-read.

Looking for more resources to support you while you work from home? Explore Cornerstone Cares to access courses on stress management, productivity and more.

Today, more than 80% of talent development professionals report a skills gap in their organization, and 78% anticipate a future skills gap. New-skilling, reskilling and upskilling initiatives promise to help close these critical gaps, but what do these terms really mean? In this article, we highlight key differences—and explain what it takes to implement the initiatives in ways that deliver success for the long haul.

Interested to learn more? Watch our webinar, "Do You Know What New Skilling Really Means?"

Why is it so difficult to close skill gaps with reskilling or new-skilling initiatives? It’s a question our team at the Cornerstone People Research Lab (CPRL) set out to answer early this year with a global research effort. The findings revealed that while investments in L&D are helpful, they alone are not enough. In this article, our Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer Heidi Spirgi spoke with Mike Bollinger, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at Cornerstone and current manager of the CPRL to uncover what it takes to make reskilling and new-skilling stick.

Read the full report, "A License to Skill: Embracing the Reskilling Revolution," here.

Jeff Miller, our Chief Learning Officer and Vice President of Organizational Effectiveness, has dedicated most of his career to helping people learn, serving as a middle school teacher, high school teacher and university professor before pursuing a career in organizational learning in the business world. In this piece, he advocates for unlearning. To overcome racism in the workplace, Jeff urges us to "pull apart personal implicit biases, educate ourselves on why they are discriminatory and then dismantle them."

Start your own unlearning journey and download our free playlist on recognizing and mitigating bias.

Though eager to implement artificial intelligence across their business, many organizations have historically been skittish about applying AI to HR. This is a missed opportunity, writes Mark Goldin, our Chief Technology Officer. In this post, he introduces the Cornerstone Innovation Lab for AI, a new center of excellence within Cornerstone that aims to innovate practical and ethical ways to apply AI technology to the workplace.

Learn more about the Cornerstone Innovation Lab for AI and its mission here.

In the midst of the pandemic, "expecting individuals to do their jobs with the same level of concentration and performance is insane," says Jeffrey Pfeffer, the Thomas D. Dee II Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Graduate School of Business at Stanford University. More than ever, it’s critical for managers to check in with employees, help unleash their creative energy and otherwise offer support as we collectively navigate this unprecedented time.

Jeffrey Pfeffer is a regular contributor to ReWork. Follow his column here.

At the height of the pandemic, many businesses were forced to close and, as a result, let some employees go. But now as the economy recovers and they’re cleared to reopen, they have open positions to fill. The first priority? To bring back the people they had to lay off. In her monthly advice column, contributor Suzanne Lucas, author of The Evil HR Lady blog, offers her recommendations for onboarding, empowering and being honest with returning workers.

Dear ReWorker is a monthly column penned by Suzanne Lucas. Read more here.

Our annual Convergence conference looked quite a bit different this year. Our first fully-virtual event was chock full of exciting announcements and predictions for the future of work. And despite not being able to share the experience together in a booming conference hall, the sense of unity radiated through our computers and into our living rooms—or whatever we consider our office space these days!

Get a glimpse of the highlights in our recap video here.

2020 was a big year for blockchain. Early in the year, we announced the formation of an HR and education technology coalition under the umbrella of the Velocity Network. And, in this piece, we celebrated a major milestone as our industry continues to work towards actualizing that potential: the successful integration of our technology with the blockchain-based Velocity Network. Already, we’re innovating with diverse use cases that apply blockchain in groundbreaking ways.

Learn more about the promising potential of blockchain in our ongoing series, "Breaking Down Blockchain," here.

The New Year will likely bring a widely available vaccine, but even that won’t be a cure-all for COVID-19. Even if employers prepare to welcome their workers back, there will be plenty of work to do. In this post, contributor Ira Wolfe, president of Success Performance Solutions, shares his recommendations for a "return to normalcy" when it comes to the workplace. Spoiler alert: "normalcy" may not be what you expect.

Ira Wolfe is a regular contributor to ReWork. Follow his column here.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our year in review! Thank you to all of our contributors for sharing their insights and helping us collectively build a better people development experience at work. And thank you, ReWork readers, for your continued interest! We hope you’ll keep learning with us in the New Year. See you in 2021!

Continue to learn and adapt through constant change in 2021 with insights from Cornerstone delivered straight to your inbox in 2021: sign up for our weekly newsletter! Click subscribe in the right hand corner.

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Times change, and agencies cannot predict when their employees will need new skills. Triggers such as new hiring mandates can leave agencies painfully aware of the abilities their workforces lack. However, there are many strategies that exist for closing these skills gaps. GovLoop and Cornerstone OnDemand put together this worksheet to help you and your agency develop an action plan for effectively filling its skills gaps. In this worksheet, you’ll gain insights into: Best practices from the public and private sectors for addressing skills gaps. The strategies for closing skills gaps including recruitment, reskilling, and upskilling. Your agency’s triggers, biggest skills gaps, and the best approach to eliminate those gaps. Download this worksheet to create your action plan to close your agency’s skills gaps.

5 Ways to Empower Employees with Future Skills

Blog Post

5 Ways to Empower Employees with Future Skills

With the onset of artificial intelligence and automation, the demand for a highly-skilled workforce dedicated to continued learning is growing. Though these tech tools have vast capabilities, employees need specific skills in order to engage with this emerging technology effectively. But many simply do not possess the necessary knowledge: according to a new report from Deloitte Insights, there could soon be too few college graduates to fill the over six million currently vacant jobs—52 percent of employers say they consistently can't fill open positions. The skills gap is real, and it's widening. Increasingly, organizations need individuals who are able to learn quickly and who are adaptable to outside factors like emerging technology. In today's skills economy—where employees' existing knowledge and their ability to gain new skills are their biggest assets—a lifelong effort to learn new technical, social and managerial skills is a required reality. In partnership with Cornerstone OnDemand, the Institute for the Future unveiled a Future Skills Map highlighting the capabilities that modern workers will need to thrive in an ever-changing, fast-paced, tech-focused work environment. Below are five of the 15 skills outlined in the map that you can already nurture in employees today, and advice for empowering employees to attain them: 1) Get [Course] Credit for Everything To ensure career growth, employees shouldn't rely on existing skills alone. Lifelong learners never stop developing, always getting credit for every new skill they develop, and using those credits to propel themselves along their career paths. Hiring managers can identify individuals who have pursued relevant courses, certifications or made other efforts to learn, and reward them. For example, before looking outward to fill open positions, consider candidates internally who have prioritized gaining new skills. Seeing their colleagues grow will also motivate other employees who may have been complacent in the past. 2) Upgrade Your Digital Fluency Robots aren't replacing humans any time soon, but there's no denying that automation is changing employees' roles. By 2020, companies will spend $150 billion on artificial intelligence, $83 billion on robots and $70 billion on AI-based systems—lifelong learners aren't afraid of this; they embrace it as an opportunity to develop their skills. Managers should help employees more wary of automation focus on ways the technology can simplify their work lives by demonstrating how AI can help them. In the healthcare space, for example, AI now plays a growing role in digitally verifying insurance coverage information, reducing the need for manual calls and freeing up office managers' time to take on important projects, like pricing new technology for the office. 3) Connect the Dots to Make Change Thanks to increased mobility and connectivity, the modern workforce is dispersed. Because of this, insight into everyone's tasks and projects can be a challenge. Lifelong learners make a consistent effort to understand what their colleagues work on—it's the only way to gain a full picture of overall organization goals and help fill gaps that appear. Empower employees, especially leaders, to better understand how their own teams, and other teams across the company, function. This may require bringing on new technology. To connect the dots for its workforce, plumbing-product manufacturing company Kohler implemented a new talent management system across all of its business units. This solution gave leadership deeper insight into employees' roles, skills and team structures. 4) Grow Your Multicultural Dexterity Diversity today means more than different genders, races or religions—it's now about uniqueness of experience, and how these experiences shape individuals and their workforce interactions. Lifelong learners are not afraid to work in unfamiliar situations or with new people, and can quickly and appropriately shift their mindsets and approaches depending on the environment they're working. This skill doesn't come easily to all. Improve employees' multicultural dexterity by challenging them with new environments. Does your organization span multiple offices? Encourage employees to travel between them and interact with colleagues they don't see every day. 5) Grow Caring at the Core Even in the age of automation and AI, humanness is essential in the workforce because it determines how machines are programmed, and how the insight they gather is applied on the job. Empathy is an intrinsic characteristic of lifelong learners because the ability to reflect is key for growth. For others, empathy can be a learned skill. Building empathy should be an ongoing practice in every organization. Open, respectful conversations that address biases and opinions are one way to start. Self-discovery training programs that help individuals assess their own personality types and psychological needs can also help employees better understand themselves before they attempt to understand others. Creating a culture that celebrates lifelong learning and inspires employees to achieve more will only work if the organization's leaders make it a priority. When developing a learning strategy, organizations would do well to remember that just as consumers have expectations of the brands they engage with, employees also expect a great deal from the companies that employ them. The onus is on organizations to deliver the kinds of learning experiences employees now crave—personalized, on-demand and holistic. Photo: Creative Commons

Use Skill Adjacencies to Upgrade Reskilling Efforts

Blog Post

Use Skill Adjacencies to Upgrade Reskilling Efforts

In today’s job market, employers prioritize technical and specialized skills, especially when hiring junior-level employees in an effort to address ever-changing needs. But technical skill shortages in the labor market exist and are likely to continue as technology continues to evolve and rapidly permeate our working lives. As a result, organizations are developing learning and development strategies to address their urgent need for tech talent. Our team at the Cornerstone People Research Lab (CPRL), in collaboration with the Human Capital Institute (HCI), recently explored this trend, and researched viable solutions for closing the tech talent gap. The final report, titled "The Revolution is Now: New-Skill Your Workforce to Catalyze Change," found that one way that organizations can start to more proactively and quickly address skills gaps—sometimes even before they appear—is by locating skills adjacencies and leveraging them to develop new and necessary skills. This is also referred to as "new-skilling," which is defined as a proactive, data-driven approach to learning that leverages partnerships and tools to simultaneously strengthen existing skills and develop skills for new roles. What Are Skill Adjacencies? Skill adjacencies are linkages between employees’ existing abilities and those that they need to learn. By identifying these adjacencies, HR and L&D professionals can identify opportunities for upskilling or reskilling to meet emerging needs. For example, Gartner Research recently analyzed billions of job postings and found that a company in need of a natural-language processing expert can look to employees with machine learning, Python or TensorFlow experience because these skills are closely related. Similarly, employees with email marketing skills have experience that will help them more easily learn community management, while those with interface design skills can pick up the tenants of modern user research. How Do You Locate Skill Adjacencies? Our findings showed that 46% of high-performing organizations actively work to identify adjacent skill sets to better inform reskilling programs, while only 26% of other organizations do. But while using skill adjacencies to refine upskilling and reskilling efforts can bolster the success of an organization, our research also suggests the methods used to identify skills adjacencies might not be effective enough. Our survey revealed that the most common way to study skill adjacencies was by collecting information on similar employee capabilities online and saving that information into spreadsheets and databases. But these tracking techniques can be esoteric and, especially for larger or more complex organizations, collecting and analyzing the massive amounts of data necessary to identify trends is challenging without more advanced technology. As the need for more technical skills revolutionizes work roles, companies will be better served using emerging technological tools like machine learning or artificial intelligence tools to collect, analyze and identify skill adjacencies. These tools empower companies to parse more information—from not only online job postings but also internal skills surveys, competency models, certification requirements, experience metrics and more—in a faster, more automated fashion. The use of these tools will also ensure that reskilling and upskilling efforts zero in on changing skills trends as they appear and address them before they create deficiencies. Skill Adjacencies Keep Employees Confident In addition to their ability to improve a workforce’s agility, there’s another underlying benefit to skill adjacencies: increased employee confidence. Today, some 40% of employees aren’t confident that their abilities will be relevant in the future. But by directing them to skills development and training that’s aligned with their existing capabilities and their interests, employees will more easily and rapidly transition from their current roles, to emerging positions, to new needs within their organization. To learn more about Cornerstone’s HCI Survey and how to use its findings to inform or update your skills development efforts, click here to download and read the full report.

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