HomeEventsHRD Roundtable Report: Creating An Internal Talent Powerhouse – Mastering Skills Development For The Re-Engagement Of Employees

HRD Roundtable Report: Creating An Internal Talent Powerhouse – Mastering Skills Development For The Re-Engagement Of Employees

  • 6 Min Read

The most impactful move for any organisation is in the development of internal skills. In an evolving job market, active investment in skills and the commitment to ensuring employees stay relevant is the most valuable offering an organisation can bestow upon its workforce. Do you agree? On 30th March 2023, a panel of HR and […]

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The most impactful move for any organisation is in the development of internal skills. In an evolving job market, active investment in skills and the commitment to ensuring employees stay relevant is the most valuable offering an organisation can bestow upon its workforce. Do you agree?

On 30th March 2023, a panel of HR and people experts discussed how employees need investment in their career paths through learning and development, as much as those organisations need senior leadership buy-in to ensure a healthy ecosystem of retained and engaged staff. The conversation was moderated by Sarah Roché, Director of Talent at Royal Mail, supported by Simon Lambert, Chief Learning Officer at Microsoft UK.

Simon started by discussing the importance of skills in driving economic growth, particularly in the technology industry where reskilling is a permanent requirement due to the rapid pace of change. He mentioned a staggering figure: the life cycle of a skill is now fewer than five years.

He shed light on three common pain points for organisations:

  • Developing digital and tech capabilities in their workforce
  • Finding and retaining technical talent
  • Doing so quickly in a challenging economic environment

To address these challenges, three emerging tenets were identified:

  1. Building a culture of continuous learning
  2. Thinking differently about talent and where it can be found (read: intermobility)
  3. Putting the learner at the heart of the learning experience

Microsoft has developed tools and systems to challenge the “know-it-all culture” and create a “learn-it all-culture,” as well as offering programmes like apprenticeships and bootcamps to identify and develop emerging talent. Putting the learner at the centre of the learning experience, Simon believes, can improve employee retention and support their growth.

How to create career pathways for internal movement

Sarah then opened the floor by asking attendees what they’ve been implementing to develop employees’ skills to re-engage the workforce. One participant shared they’ve been working on the learning culture. The team worked on creating skills profiles for different job categories within the company to encourage lateral movement to other roles based on their matched strengths. But the current challenge for the participant was developing a business case to demonstrate the long-term benefits of investing in technology to support it.

Another speaker discussed a career pathways programme that they used, with a tube, or subway, map to show potential career progression. While the programme was successful, bigger conversations weren’t being had with line managers, as employees felt they could only go one way on the suggested route. This prevented some individuals from thinking outside the box and considering alternative career paths. The speaker suggested that more emphasis should be placed on conversations with line managers to encourage individuals to think about what is right for them, rather than just following the organisation’s suggested career path.

Others spoke about a ‘progress map’ for career conversations but found that some employees were overwhelmed by the process. They asked, “What’s my next role?  Where should I go from here?”. The speaker encouraged managers to lead that career conversation with a coaching style, to really empower the individual to take responsibility for their careers but be there for directive support.

Personalising learning pathways

The group moved to personalised learning or career pathways for individuals and how they’ve been implemented. One speaker described the self-assessments employees take by looking at their skills, receiving feedback from peers and managers, then mapping out their path again with re-identified strengths and skills. From there, they see which roles or job families best match their passions and strengths. It allows the freedom for individuals to walk their unique path. This still requires employees to understand enough about the company to know where in the organisation they fit.

Another participant agreed, saying despite not being where they wanted to be with learning and development, they’re trying to create an environment that moves from ‘required learning’ to ‘desired learning’. They raised excitement about how AI will be able to help create richer individual pathways for employees, but for now, encourage staff to develop not only role-specific skills but things they’re passionate about. When they’re growing and developing, they’re more likely to be able to move internally.

The group shared that many of them still face pushback from staff because of the time learning takes. One speaker shared an example of the company’s learning platform being accessed mostly via mobile phones, seeing that employees were learning on the go. They then could adapt learning material and platform functionality to be optimised for mobile use.

Another member spoke of their company focusing on ‘decluttering’ the organisation. Practically this included decluttering decision-making, making processes more efficient; having better meeting etiquette i.e. do I need to be in this meeting?; and paring back what goes out to staff regarding training deadlines. Decluttering people’s schedules and lightening their loads was the goal so there would be more capacity for learning and development.

The importance of senior leadership buy-in

Simon then asked a poignant question to the group: Do you have a CEO or senior leadership champion for learning and development buy-in? Or do they feel a learning culture is not that important? A participant shared the importance of taking CEOs or the senior leadership team on the journey to a learning culture. They stated that a senior leadership team’s understanding can be limited and it’s up to HR directors and people and culture teams to broaden their perspectives. It’s a slow process and many didn’t feel that their leaders are fully embracing it yet. Another speaker discussed how their team brought in an external consultant which was a lot more effective for getting buy-in, rather than hearing only from the internal team.

One participant spoke about their organisation having talent co-partners who will strategically identify skills needed and when to switch direction – what skills do we want; what are we going to buy into?

To conclude the discussion, the group agreed that managers need to buy into a learning culture as releasing strong talent can be a hindrance for them. To prevent this, it’s vital to have an understanding that employee movement is good for the business. Leaning on personal example, one speaker said that while employee movement can be a business positive, intracompany opportunities ultimately result in losing a member of another team. As difficult as that is to face, they concluded that as a manager it’s up to them to support those team members’ journeys. Leading by example hopefully means that when those team members become managers, they will do the same and support internal movement and growth.

“76% of employees say they would stay longer if they could benefit from learning and development.” – Microsoft.com

To join future discussions please visit: HRDxMicrosoft Viva Roundtable Series (hrdconnect.com)


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