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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 how Honeywell and many other companies are now making masks. These companies are demonstrating just how quickly they can move once they eliminate what was holding them back. They stopped using yesterday’s thinking, such as outdated business models or processes, to solve today’s challenges. But right now, companies are facing constraints, like pervasive shelter in place orders, that are unique to today’s historic moment and require new, creative approaches. These agile organizations have uncovered their own ability to adapt, and it’s critical that they don’t rebound to outdated routines and structures after the crisis has passed.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’s not confined by conventions, remains open to fresh approaches in tune with their changing environment, and places a premium on continuous people development. Over the past 20 years, we’ve honed our software to help companies adapt quickly with the right people, skills and 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? Keep removing 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 it’s happening. Courses should also be offered in a variety of formats, such as learning through social collaboration or in shorter forms—also 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-Personalized: Remove the time and energy it takes for employees to seek out learning. Technology can help present relevant opportunities to employees that are contextualized 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 where information is actually retained— which requires repetition, reinforcement and nurturing. Real learning is always evidenced by change: changed mindsets, changed behaviors, and changed outcomes.

To help administer this kind of learning, Cornerstone has been focused on providing people with the most modern, relevant learning content available through our subscription service offering, Content Anytime. Curated with thousands of courses from dozens of world-class content partners, we are committed to helping organizations 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, organizations will be prepared for whatever challenges lie ahead. In a truly adaptable workplace, learning is every worker’s constant companion, and people will always be learning.

Careers Unbound: AI-Based Personalized 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. As detailed in a recent trend report from Mercer Consulting, they also  want to feel a sense of purpose at work. Employees crave continuous and frequent check-in sessions with their manager, and they want to understand how to improve. They want guidance on how to best challenge themselves while also maintaining a sense of well-being, and they desire new experiences so they can put learning into practice and explore emergent interests. In essence, people want to be coached.  

In order to best support their workforces, companies have to transform managers into coaches. Coaches are more effective because they guide individuals instead of roles and take time to truly understand who they’re coaching and where they’re headed. To encourage this transition, organizations will have to provide managers with tools to help them 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 that will help them apply this holistic information into more meaningful conversations and personalized career navigation.

In addition to turning managers into coaches, organizations can find new ways to supplement employee guidance with AI-powered digital coaching tools. These types of tools are embedded into technology that employees are already using and apply every employee’s personalized 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. Employees will further benefit from AI-based recommendations, nudges and conversations with intelligent chatbots that can flag new trainings, upcoming projects they might be interested in and new roles that are suited to their skills. 

These tools, combined with rich conversations with managers (powered by data), provide truly personalized career navigation that’s informed by an employee’s skills, experiences and aspirations and results 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 personalized way.

Data Unbound: More Holistic People Data for Better People Decisions 

With technology has come an explosion of data and analytics. And for years, organizations have been striving to extract insights and important business value from people data. However, data sets have historically fell short in providing organizations with a holistic and meaningful understanding of their people both inside and outside of the organization. Businesses today 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 organizations 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. And with data on both internal and external talent, companies will be able to assemble the optimal mix inclusive of employees, candidates, contractors and freelancers.

Second, and more importantly, inclusive data will allow companies to improve their employees’ well-being, engagement and retention, rather than just help them with productivity and efficiency tracking. For example, during development conversations, data will help employees and managers take a hyper-personalized approach to their personal growth rather than one that’s one-size-fits-all. Data has the power to create more meaningful work-life experiences that ultimately benefit 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 their old habits; for instance, they can no longer take 18 months or more to pivot the workforce. When unforeseen forces arise, businesses that are able to react quickly not only endure the change but thrive because of it. And to build this 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 our innovation, but we now have access to nearly twice as much client data which will help us improve AI 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 opportunities and transform into a resilient unbound business.