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Upskilling and Tech Fluency with Bank of Montreal

Updated on December 8, 2022 | Read time ~6 mins

On this episode of Perspectives in Leadership, host Adam Sockel interviewed the Bank of Montreal (BMO)'s Christine Crouch, Director of the Future of Work, and Larissa Chaikowsky, US CHRO and Head of Talent, Reskilling and Acceleration. They provided a closer look into how upskilling through tech fluency takes shape at a multinational investment bank and financial services company. 

Listen to the full episode here or on the Perspectives in Leadership podcast page. 

Why did BMO focus on tech fluency?

Christine: We wanted to advance the skill sets within the bank while doing it in a way that’s most meaningful to our people and our business. We wanted to focus on personalization; everyone doesn’t learn in the same way. Everyone doesn’t need to develop the same skills or even at the same proficiency levels. Digital tools like Pluralsight allow us to give people more of what they need, which is hypercritical in an environment where people have limited bandwidth to focus on learning. We want to ensure that the things we present to them are most relevant. 

Larissa: One way we’ve tried to fill in resource gaps is through contingent talent. We would love to create and build those capabilities and skill sets with our people. Forty percent of what you might be doing in your job today will not exist five years from now. These skills we need always to be five years ahead. 

One of our big goals is to invest in our people. We also know that people who work in technology want to be masters at what they do. We want to build capabilities, and we want to keep people once they have those capabilities. To do that, we need to constantly provide opportunities to grow, learn, and become masters at what we do. 

In a broader context of the organization, we know that skills should be at the center of what we're doing. We need to map skills to particular roles. We need to allow people to assess themselves so employees can own their career paths. By doing that well and having the digital tools to support our employees, we completely democratize the concept of career development. That is something that matters a lot as we look forward and want to have an inclusive organization. You don't need to wait for somebody to tap you on the shoulder. You have the things available to you to be able to successfully own your career. 

How did BMO increase tech fluency?

Larissa: We actually recognized we had to start right at the top of the organization with the executive committee of the bank. A huge piece is about awareness. We have to invest right at that level of the company and then bring it down. So, we recreated a program that went to the top 400 leaders in the bank and focused on what it really means to be a digital-first organization. Then we simplified that into a program that could be offered to all 40,000 of our employees. You can't be a tech-fluent company unless everybody truly understands what it means to be digital first. 

Christine: It’s about building a habit to keep learning, building a habit of curiosity, building a habit of acknowledging where you have opportunities to learn more. Part of what we're doing with Pluralsight as we've advanced our partnership is being mindful about how we launch. 

So we're not taking a cookie-cutter approach across all businesses. We're conducting interviews with our businesses and understanding their business priorities. We’re helping them translate that into the skills that they'll need to succeed immediately and in six months as well as five years. Then, we’re working with our Pluralsight partners to say what learning within the platform is the best first step to start tackling the skill sets that are aligned with business objectives. Pluralsight is part of an ecosystem for us. 

How does tech fluency democratize opportunity?

Christine: It’s about the democratization of opportunities and information. There are a lot of cases where learning opportunities have kind of been managed in a silo. In many organizations, you participate in a learning activity, but you're not given an opportunity to apply it. What we’re trying to achieve is one connected experience where throughout an employee's journey — whether they're just starting at the bank or have been with us for 40 years — they have the opportunity to apply different learning experiences to meet their career objectives. Personalization is so important. Everyone's objectives are different. Digital tools mean that we can help follow people along in whatever way they want to learn and that they want to progress through their careers. 

Larissa: It doesn't preclude the concept of the human touch. It's always one thing to apply it on a screen, but it's another to be sitting down in an environment where you can learn from your colleagues and your leaders. What digital does is it provides a foundation so that when you get to the point of the human touch, your proficiency level is higher so that  your productivity level is so much faster. When you layer on the human touch, the application, and these other pieces that's what creates a meaningful connection that has employees wanting to stay. 

How can upskilling and tech fluency help address attrition?

Larissa: Upskilling is one piece of what's going to keep somebody in an organization, but there are other things too. At BMO, we have a strong company purpose. It’s “boldly grow the good in business and in life.” We live that every day. If you're working at a place where your purpose is aligned with the purpose of the organization, and you're being provided opportunities to learn and develop and grow your career, it's the magic formula. 

We have a people and culture digital strategy. It's got six different pieces of the puzzle. All of those pieces have to come together. If we just do one, it's not going to be enough. Upskilling is a huge part of development. But in isolation, it's not enough. In order to maximize the investment we make in upskilling, we have to tie it and plug it into so many other things and make sure the purpose of the company is strong. 

Christine: If you lead with skills, then you know where your journey's gonna take you. For example, my job didn't exist two years ago. So, as we're building those bridges and uncovering those connections, we start to create an environment where people are able to work in areas that they're really passionate about. So, that together with the culture that Larissa talked about and the connection to all the other parts of the ecosystem helps create a place that people really wanna be. 

Check out Pluralsight's State of Upskilling Report for more insights.