Don Jones, Vice President of Partner Content at Pluralsight, interviews Tanya E. Moore, Eric Geis and Gary Beach about what technology skill development is and why it matters. All four leaders are contributors to the recently-released book, Perspectives on Technology Skill Development.
00:00:06.6 Daniel Blaser
Hello and welcome to All Hands on Tech, where today's leaders talk tomorrow's
technology. I'm Daniel Blaser. Two weeks ago, Pluralsight released a book called
"Perspectives on Technology Skill Development". This anthology is a collection of
articles by leaders who recognize their organization's success depends on their
ability to consistently build tech skills. Today we bring you a conversation with
four of the book's contributors. Don Jones, Vice President of Partner Content at
Pluralsight, interviews Tanya E. Moore, Eric Geis and Gary Beach about what
technology skill development is and why it matters.
We hope you enjoy their enlightening conversation.
00:00:45.5 Don Jones
So, Tanya, I want to start with you. Why don't you tell folks what you do? Just a
quick bit about yourself.
00:00:50.7 Tanya E. Moore
Sure. So, Tanya Moore. I am based out of the Washington DC area and I am a
partner in IBM's "Tell and Transformation" organization. And so, my kids often
ask, "What the heck does that mean?". Basically, help organizations with the
talent or the workforce component of their business and making sure that they're
using their workforce to their greatest ability to meet their strategic objectives.
So, that's really kind of what I do.
00:01:14.4 Don Jones
Now, what would you say... We know we've got a technology skills gap in the
world. We hear about it a lot. We're even being told it's getting bigger, not
smaller. What are some of the drivers for that gap? Why does that gap exist and
why is it getting bigger?
00:01:32.3 Tanya E. Moore
So, I think there are a couple of things and some of the things that we're finding
in our research is not just a technology skill gap. But, for many of these
professions, or these roles, to make their technology role work they also need
the soft skills or if you think about, kind of, the critical thinking skills as well. But
your point is taken in that the gap around skills, technology and other skills is
widening. And, the biggest reason that we're seeing is just the pace at which the
world changes. So, the pace at which technology changes. The pace at which
things you can't predict, like a pandemic. So, there's a lot that happens in the
world and it just seems to go faster and faster. That's the biggest thing. I think
the other thing that along with speed, is this concept of because the world is
going so fast, companies need to be able to do what they've done in the past but
they not only have to do it better, they have to do it faster. And so, that's when
you really start getting into anything that you need to do at pace, at speed,
requires technology, technology skills. So, those are some of the biggest reasons.
There are other ones, but that's really the biggest driver.
00:02:44.3 Don Jones
Thanks. Eric let's go to you next. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
00:02:48.4 Eric Geis
Yeah. Hi. So, Eric Geis, Vice President at Cerner Corporation in Kansas City,
Missouri. Go Chiefs. I lead our Clinical Product Development teams. So, the
software engineering teams that are advancing our products for doctors, nurses,
various hospital clinic organizations. Covid-19 has definitely been very busy, in
multiple ways, with our clients as well as what we are trying to deliver at Cerner
and a lot of the things that Tanya mentioned. So, I think yeah, the industry's
going to keep advancing. Health care as we know it, especially the public health
side, is going to have to advance really, really fast. So, us and our clients and
everybody's going to have to partner to try to make that happen to deal with
pandemics like this and other things that come up.
00:03:39.3 Don Jones
And, what would you say to a business leader who asks "Look, why does this
technology skills gap bother me?". Because I'm sure there's a lot of folks who
think "You know, our business is fine. We've got everything in place. It's not really
going to affect me", right?
00:03:54.1 Eric Geis
Yeah, I know. I think you have to be... It's kind of what Tanya said, that the
change of pace and the ability to go faster. And, all industries and companies are
a little bit different with that. But I think the really aggressive ones, with a whole
lot of demand, are seeing this a lot and trying to figure out the best way to deal
with it. Because it can be a real competitive advantage. I think it can also kind of
end your company if you don't have good plans and things in place. And, it's
very, very important to be able to retain and recruit talent.
00:04:27.6 Don Jones
Gary. Let's go with you next, tell us a little bit about yourself.
00:04:31.1 Gary Beach
Thanks, Don. I'm Gary Beach. I'm Publisher Emeritus for CIO Magazine, where I
was for 17 years. And, currently I write a column for the Wall Street Journal, CIO
Journal, that focuses on skills and workforce development.
00:04:43.7 Don Jones
So, with your work as a journalist and an author, let's pull back a little bit, take a
higher level. What are some of the things you're seeing companies do to address
their skills gap and, maybe, failing at? Maybe, not succeeding in closing that
00:05:01.0 Gary Beach
Well, there's a realization that, certainly what Pluralsight is doing, that training is
the wrong word in terms of their employees. They have to upskill them. Reskill
them. Tanya was talking about the pace and also the skill set. IBM has,
interestingly, years ago, come up with this "T" approach to skills, where the
horizontal aspect would be your cognitive or, as pejoratively called, "soft skills"
and the vertical would be the tech skills. I think there's a realization over the last
couple of years because the skills gap is widening and widening, because there's
just, again, what Tanya was talking about. The pace of technology introduction
has been so immense.
Back in 1980, there were only six or seven companies that created, or
accumulated, about 95% of the market cap of tech. And now, it's now 65 to 70
companies and all those companies have different technologies. So, it's that and
the fact that people are realizing that customers, I mean talent, is your most
important competitive differentiator.
00:06:19.3 Don Jones
So, Tanya, let's maybe do a little bit of a mindset shift here. Gary used a couple
of words there. Training and technology skills development. At least a couple of
years ago we would have called in the same thing, right? I'm a business leader. I
sent my folks to a couple of one-week classes. They got some training. I'm doing
skills development, right? But, it's not that. So, help kind of shift that for me.
00:06:45.9 Tanya E. Moore
Yeah, it's not that. And, what we're finding from companies that are saying "I
don't know about this whole re-skilling/upskilling thing because it's not working
for us". What we're finding is, companies that are saying that and experiencing
that are doing training. So, they're doing it kind of, what I would call, the old
school way of "We think these people over here have a gap. We're not even sure,
but we kind of think they have a gap, and we think this is about what their gap
is. And so, we're going to put them all through this class and we're going to kind
of call it a day". And so, it doesn't work.
It doesn't work because you're not pinpointing. You're not personalizing who
needs what. You're not personalizing the experience. You're not recognizing that
the statistics that we've had around for so long, that people retain about this
much in an actual training class. So, it's not that training isn't important. But
what we have found is that really creating an ecosystem that builds a culture of
learning is what the game changer is. And so, that is everything from
understanding the skills people have, understanding what they need. It's giving
them personalized journeys to the learning but also giving them the ability to
learn from each other. Because you can learn in a lot of different ways. This is
where internal mobility comes in. The best way to learn is to try it. Digital
badges. So, it's really creating an ecosystem. Tying your skills to compensation.
So, it's what's in it for the employee? That it's more than just "I'm going to a
training class and then I don't know what to do with it or I'll lose it". It's really
building an ecosystem that shifts the culture to one of continuous learning.
00:08:36.4 Don Jones
Eric, what would you say are some of the barriers that we put in our own way, as
organizations, that stop us from succeeding at this?
00:08:47.3 Eric Geis
Yeah, I think it's a lot of what Tanya just hit on and I think the key word she used
at and the end there was continuous. I think the old brick-and-mortar, trying to
get lots of people together and training classes just causes delay and friction and
missed opportunities. So, I think you definitely need an ecosystem that's agile,
nimble, provides lots of different formats and form factors for people to be able
to learn at their own pace and pick the topics.
And yeah, you can give some directional guidance on things, as far as where the
company's going and architectures and technologies and other things, but
ultimately, everyone's going to learn at their own pace and do some things their
own way. I do think this personal connection's still important and I think with
what we're all doing now, with videoconferencing and other things, it's definitely
made that more personal and I think will open up some more opportunities to do
that. As well as things like audio. If you're out on a run, out on a book, you're out
on a run, bike rides, something like that. How do you leverage some other
formats to still take on some of those things and advance where you want to and
when you want to?
00:09:58.8 Gary Beach
Gary, how important is it? If I'm a business leader, executive maybe, how
important is it that I be involved in technology skills development and that we
create a connection to business outcomes? Is it enough to just say "We're going
to build skills", or do we really need to know why we're doing this and what it's
going to do for the business? Do we need expectations? Do we need to measure
00:10:21.3 Gary Beach
Oh, absolutely. You can't improve it if you can't measure it. I think there's the
expectation with skill and what customer needs and wants are because all
businesses are in place to serve customers. I think the leaders are realizing that.
And, I personally believe that this Covid-19, the great pause that we're all living
through, is going to place, even from business leaders, an even higher emphasis
on, whether you're a tech employee or not, understanding customers and
customer service and customer interface. Because, as we've all gone off into our
remote locations, the customers have gone on and continue to do business with
us or other companies that have platforms and employees that are more focused
on the customer needs. But, definitely, it would have to be measured.
But, on another point that Eric and Tanya made, what leaders also have to do is,
they have to eschew their traditional ways of onboarding talent. Let's put an 800-
word posting up on indeed.com for an entry-level job with five years’ experience.
That's just not working. And, Tanya's former CEO, I thought she did a great job,
Ginni Rometty, talking about this concept of "new-collar" and Eric was talking
about digital badges, I believe. New-collar jobs, these are jobs that not
necessarily need a college degree but more than a high school degree. So, we
have to open up, executives have to open up their minds in terms of how are
they going to attract and retain talent. It's not just the old way anymore, of hiring
people with four-year degrees.
00:12:15.0 Don Jones
So, would you say it's important that, I think at least in the U.S, there's a strong
sense of, "If we need to achieve something and we don't have those skills, we'll
just go hire them?". Is this more about, "I need to be able to build them myself? I
can't just go hire them?".
00:12:32.0 Gary Beach
Well, if you're asking me, Don, yeah. I'll just answer quickly, let the others chime
in here. Harvey Nash put numbers on the comment you just made. It's Harvey
Nash's executive recruiting firm and they asked CIOs, 1,600 of them, last year:
"Where do you get your talent?". And the top three things, well Richard Dawson
doesn't do it anymore on Family Feud but, here are the top 3 answers.
Outsourcing, services, and contractors. Down the list,
down the list,
are upskilling employees. So, a lot of work needs to be done.
00:13:12.8 Don Jones
So, Tanya. If I've got an organization, I've admitted that we need to be better at
skills, completely, who in the organization ultimately owns the success of that
00:13:25.9 Tanya E. Moore
So, it's a great, great question and I will tell you one that we talked a lot about at
IBM. So, from our perspective, we very much believe that in order for companies
to succeed you have to recognize that skills are the new currency. And, with that,
it's aligning all of your business processes, all of your programs, around skills.
And, if you think about that, the HR organization is responsible for driving those
strategies, but it's in deep, deep partnership with the business. And so, what we
have found here is that, with the way organizations need to transform around
skills, there is a very new, very important role that HR needs to play. That they
haven't had to play in the past. This isn't about just setting up programs or
making something better. This is about HR being a driver of change in
partnership with the business. So, it's very much a partnership. Nothing that one
organization can do without the other side of the organization. But, that's really
where we're seeing it. It's when HR drives it with a very modern, strategic
00:14:39.0 Don Jones
And so, who would, and I'll ask both you and Eric this, who are some of the other
stakeholders? Who needs to buy into this? Who really has to be connected?
00:14:50.8 Tanya E. Moore
So, from our perspective if you think about the... We use design thinking a lot.
So, in order to make a certain experience happen, the first thing we want to do is
not just kind of go out there and define what needs to be done and create a
project plan around them, because that's the way we all used to do things. It's,
"What's the experience that we want for our employees, for our customers, for
our business leaders?". And, from there, figuring out "What are the processes?
What are the data? What's the technology underneath that, that you need to
have in place to realize that experience?". So, when you think about it that way,
there's really nobody in the organization that doesn't have some role or is
So, from a CIO perspective, it's "How do we have the technology, the
infrastructure to support that?". We talked a little bit about HR, finance plays a
very different role. As opposed to always saying, "No, you can't spend that
money”, or "You can only spend it on this" you have to partner with finance to
invest in skills. It's the employees. Because this is no longer a point of view
where we, as companies, tell people what to do and they go do it. They own their
careers. We have to support them in that, but you've got to get them to see this
as their journey and to create an experience that they want to engage in.
Managers, I mean I could go on and on and on. So, when you think about it that
way, there's really not anybody that's not responsible for skills. And, once you do
something, you're not done because those skills continue to change. This just
has to be part of the way we do business.
00:16:30.3 Don Jones
Eric same question. Who are my stakeholders?
00:16:32.9 Eric Geis
Yeah, Tanya said it really well. I mean, it's everybody. I think you have to build it
into your culture. It has to be part of leadership. Kind of top down, org-wide,
finance, IT, business leaders. And, then you also need to kind of build it into your
grassroots culture at the associate and employee level. So, I think that's what
we've seen. The goal is to put things in place so associates can go grab it and do
what they need to and learn at their own pace and have continuous models. It's
not a one-time thing. It's not a project. There might be certain programmatic
things that you put in place to try to scale it and make it as efficient and effective
as possible for everyone. But, it's a living, breathing, ongoing plan and a very big
part of the culture all the way through.
00:17:27.7 Don Jones
So, we've got a question and it fits right perfect here, I think, and it's directed to
Gary. With so many organizations spread out globally, you get a lot of challenges
from understanding how other cultures and other countries operate in terms of
developing skills. How have you seen companies overcome those differences and
culture to create, not only better technology skills, but better cognitive skills, as
you said what we sometimes call soft skills? What can you do if you're a big
global company to help, I don't want to say break down cultural differences but,
understand those and embrace those and make those part of your solution?
00:18:06.8 Gary Beach
That's an excellent question. I don't have any first-hand information that I can
point to on a particular country or what have you, but there is a realization that
the public education systems in 180-plus countries around the world are very,
very important in terms of creating a linkage between what is taught and what is
employable. And, countries and companies that are aware of that act
appropriately to have education systems teach skills that are going to be needed
in the workforce. The U.S, as an example, many of the viewers will be from the
U.S, we particularly don't do a very good job in that area. And, this is gone back
85, 90 years. This is not a new phenomenon that American students need to
hone up their skill, particularly in math and science. This has been a story that's
been told for a long time.
00:19:17.1 Don Jones
So, I want to ask the big question and I kind of want to get everyone's
perspective on this. What does a successful technology skills development effort
look like? What is success? Tanya, we'll start with you.
00:19:34.0 Tanya E. Moore
So, that is a big question for a little amount of time. So, Eric, you're probably
coming up next. Fill in the blanks. So, I really think that success is a couple
things. And, when I talk to clients about this I start with the basics. Understand
the skills you have; understand the skills you need and then figure out how to
close the gaps and coach for the future. And, you can do that from an
organizational standpoint, as well as an individual standpoint. And then it's really
setting up, again, that experience informed by, we very much think, especially
when you're doing this at a scale in order to make it interesting, engaging the
consumer level experience. That's like when I go to Netflix or shopped at Amazon
that it's suggesting something to me that's interesting. You're creating and really
curating an experience of solutions to help me and help me not just take a class.
It's to help me be employable and not just employed.
So, I can think about, you know, I can start throwing out there's things that we do
around skills and friends, where you can use technology to infer the skills people
have. It's using a learning experience system to personalize journeys,
personalize path. It's serving up internal mobility options. And so, there's a whole
ton of solutions out there. But I think that creating the ecosystem, based on data,
leveraging analytics and AI are the pieces that were finding that are really
working from a company perspective. From an individual perspective, it's
recognizing that gone are the days that anybody is going to hand you a piece of
paper, write you an email that says, "Do these three things and when you're
done check the box and we'll talk again in the year". You have to do this stuff on
your own. You have to be willing to invest part of your weekend to continually
remain up to date. To read a business journal. To take a course online. And that's
not because your company is asking you to do it, it's because this is the world we
live in and it's an investment in yourself.
00:21:52.7 Don Jones
So, Eric, what else does success look like?
00:21:56.3 Eric Geis
Yeah, I think that was all good. I think, from my perspective, your company
success, and the big initiatives that you're trying to deliver on, I think, is another
element that you kind of have to gauge. Are you delivering appropriately? Going
at the right pace? Do you have the right skills and people? Are you able to be
agile and move people around and get them trained and up to speed on these
different things and not have it be this giant event, you know, that needs to
happen? That takes a long time.
I think you have to be able to guide and see three steps ahead and try to make
sure you have the right things in place and you're providing encouragement and
opportunities. And, then I think we're seeing a lot of the population gravitate to
that and be really excited about the opportunities. So, I think that's another
thing, is how do you make it something that people are going to strive for? To
Tanya's point, and be able to go the extra mile and really do some of those things
and I don't think that's really been a problem.
As long as you have some of the right tools and technologies and things in place,
and kind of the right coaching, mentorship, guidance to just make sure people
know. And, I think once they keep going and doing it, it's just then part of their
DNA and it keeps going and the world keeps going faster and faster, just like all
of our businesses. So, it's every year I'm like, "Can we really get more done than
last year?", because we're all running a thousand miles an hour and, yep, you
figure out how to go faster and figure out how to keep doing more.
00:23:26.7 Don Jones
So, Gary. What does success look like for technology skills development?
00:23:31.5 Gary Beach
Well, it's interesting, Don, listening to Eric and Tanya. Just to put a cap on it, I've
got to come back to what we're all going through here with Covid-19. And, it's an
opportunity to reimagine our businesses and reimagine what success might look
like, in terms of what skills we need to deliver success. But, for me, in
conversations I've had with CIOs, the whole internal and external customer
satisfaction aspect is key, as in terms of measuring what success is. The
customers will tell you what is successful and what is not. As will employees, with
retention rates and what have you. On the financial side, it's not quarterly or
yearly or annual market share reports. It's how satisfied is your customer base?
Happy customers tend to buy more.
00:24:29.3 Don Jones
Yeah. So, Tanya, we've got a couple of questions here and these are ones that, in
my position, I get all the time. It's what topics are going to be big next quarter?
How do I decide what skills that I need to upgrade? What are your
recommendations for skills? I want to pull that back about a hundred feet. Are
businesses just not good at helping their folks understand what skills are
needed? Or, are folks just not good at looking out and seeing what's going to be
needed? Or, both or neither?
00:25:04.8 Tanya E. Moore
So, what we have found is that it's kind of a mix. So, businesses sometimes will
know what those skills are, but they're not doing a good job transparently
communicating that to the workforce. So, transparency in all of this is key and it
doesn't have to be super technical. I mean, we started with a list of what we
called "hot roles" and "hot skills", and you would have thought we hung the
moon just having that level of transparency. So, some of it I think is transparency.
The other part, though, is sometimes companies truly don't know or don't have
consensus. And so really, we guide people to just start with that business
strategy, and I know this seems basic, but many of our clients struggle with this.
Start with the business strategy. From that business strategy, what are the roles
and skills that are most important? I think the other thing that we're finding is,
you don't need to handle all of those roles and skills in the exact same way.
So, really, find the ones that are going to drive business success as you move
forward. Shine the light on it and then transparently share those with your
workforce. And, if you do that in an engaging way, with that experience I talked
about, you shine that light, people go. You don't have to force it on them. It's that
grassroots part that Eric was talking about. I never thought in a million years our
badging program was going to work. I thought it was kind of cheesy. And, man,
you put it out there and it was just... People wanted that information so bad and
really just gravitated to it, that we've issued something like 3 million badges to
date, in a couple of years. And, this isn't on silly skills. This is on skills of the
future. So, I really think as companies we need to do a better job. Right now, with
Covid, there are a lot of companies that have opened up their training.
So, for anybody's on the phone, who's on the webinar that's listening, that wants
to develop skills, it's a great time to go out there. Because stuff that used to be,
sometimes, thousands of dollars is free. IBM has a ton of stuff online that's free,
as do many other companies. So, it's a great time to take advantage of that skill
00:27:21.0 Don Jones
Gary, what are some tips you would offer to a technology leader, who's maybe
just kind of getting started with the idea of skills being an ongoing thing? Any
particular advice to, maybe, help them think about it in a particular way? Or,
overcome what you've seen as common hurdles?
00:27:40.6 Gary Beach
Well, if there were such a person out there, I'd ask, "Why weren't you thinking
about skills before then?". But we'll put that aside. I would prefer to reframe in
terms of, how are you going to see ahead to what the skills that you're going to
need, are? As an example, we've been talking about digital transformation for
decades. And, research I recently saw says only five percent of companies are
actually doing it well and it's not because they don't know skills, I think there's a
human reluctance to move into new areas and look around the corner.
And, one of those areas is quantum computing, that you're going to see a lot of.
Pluralsight has courses on this yet, but Tanya's company at IBM, they're doing a
lot of work in terms of quantum but that won't be around until 2025. So, how do
you set up skills for that? And, while work has to be done and you saw with the
checks that have been coming to all of us with the Covid-19 aspect, I think it was
the Treasury had a difficult time processing the checks because the COBOL
systems were so... It's like rubbing your stomach and patting your head. You've
got to train for new skills and maintain the skills that have worked for a very long
time. As I don't think there's many people, Don, that I've seen, who are not
aware as a technology leader, of the importance of skills.
And, I do think there's an awareness now, that the buy versus build, there's more
of an interest, in terms of my conversations with IT leaders, on... They're
certainly going to buy but, internally, build and reskill and work with public
education institutions in their area to tightly connect what the education
outcomes are with what the employment opportunities are. That, I think, is a
realization that technology leaders are looking at.
00:29:53.9 Don Jones
So, Eric. We work in a time with an unprecedented amount of tools and flexibility
in terms of technologies. We've got hundreds of programming languages that we
can choose from depending on the task at hand. We've got multiple different
ways that we can host and run services. It feels like the world is our oyster from
what we can do. How limited are companies by what their people can do? Is skills
causing companies to put off or make bad technology decisions just because
they're concerned about their team's ability to bring it in?
00:30:30.2 Eric Geis
Yeah, I think every company is different. I think a lot of it gets back to culture,
leadership, vision. Can you give people direction of where you're going? Can you
serve up and provide them the tools and processes they need to stay current and
agile in what you're trying to do? So, I think for the most part, as long as you
have that built into your culture and your DNA, and you have a mix of guidance
and direction from leadership, as far as what your vision and strategy and where
you're going, as well as you have these grassroots movements and things in
place that you can help go quickly.
Then, I think you can guide and navigate the waters and make sure that people
are able to navigate. I think, in the question a couple questions ago, what Tanya
answered, I think we're good at telling people where we're going to some degree.
There's definitely some variation there, but I think it's back to "Can you connect
the whole company around that?", to make sure that you're paving the road
appropriately. And, having everything in place versus certain parts of the
company maybe weren't in sync and then it's causing a roadblock of what you're
trying to do. And, I do think a lot of this Covid scenario has definitely forced
companies to think differently and get some things in place and try to leverage
technology more and more.
So, I think it's really exciting because I think the rest of the world and all
companies and all industries will now be forced to do this and I think we'll see a
lot of innovation and a lot of things go faster and faster.
00:32:07.6 Don Jones
Tanya, one of the things you brought up a little bit ago is partnering with finance.
We're in a time now where a lot of companies are trying to protect their cash
flow. It seems like training, and I'll use that word specifically, is one of the first
things that gets chopped off. It's an easy thing to let go, and especially if your
company hasn't found a way to show its value to the bottom line and the
outcomes. Is there a budget formula or, more broadly, how should companies be
thinking about the money that it takes to build skills? Like, "Yay, skills", but it
00:32:41.6 Tanya E. Moore
Right. So, I think one of the things that companies kind of have to get their head
around is, their people are really investments. They're not just the money you
pay out the door for their salaries. And, if you start to think about it that way,
there's a couple things. It's not like a new pot of money just shows up. There's no
end of the rainbow where a new pot of money shows up. But, at the same time
what we find with companies, is that many of them still haven't cleaned up what
learning they do have. They haven't digitized it, automated it. They're still
holding too many in-person sessions. The platforms, that business platform, that
they're running it on might be old. They might have 10 of them. So, I think
there's the technology portion of it.
At IBM we got rid of our very old LMS system, our learning management system,
and now use something that is half of the price of what we were paying and the
engagement and the results and what courses are being taken is through the
roof. So, if you engage in some of these more modern, technical ways of doing
things you can actually save money. So, it's understanding the ROI there. The
other thing that we're finding is that, looking at it from a portfolio perspective,
there are parts of your business that have probably been doing things the exact
same way for years and years. If you have a hundred step process, 30 of those
steps might not even be needed and, "Oh, by the way, you could automate a ton
of it". So, by looking at automation and using that as a cost-saving to fund other
initiatives, that's another way companies are looking at things. So, again, looking
at it as a big picture and that's a cultural change. Right? So, it's not just, "Hey,
learning organization, you go figure it out". It's, as an organization, where are we
spending the money? What results are we getting? And, how do we collectively
want to shift that.
00:34:44.7 Don Jones
And, Eric, same question, maybe different direction. When you identify a skill
need, and you set out to address, that how do you come up with the money?
00:34:56.1 Eric Geis
Yeah, it's a good question because it does get into the partnership with finance
and understanding what the annual, quarterly, ad hoc processes need to be
around these types of things. So, the more you can forecast what you're trying to
accomplish as a business and what you're going to need to do it, just
directionally, and kind of manage expectations along the way. Then, I think it
helps. So, I think engaging them early and often in the process is what I
recommend. While that might be scary to some, I think it's better for them to see
what you're trying to do, and see how it's going to play out and try to work that
into some of the future guidance and planning from an expense standpoint. As
much as possible.
And, then, Tanya mentioned ROI, I think some of these things are a little bit
easier to measure than others. But I think there's still room for opportunity,
probably, of how should you quantify some of this stuff? And, it won't be perfect
but there does need to be some kind of return for some types of things, and then
other things I think you just have to declare that your people are important you
need certain things in place. That's part of your talent retention and recruiting
strategy and that's just kind of the cost of doing business in today's world. But
then you're going to have some other things that kind of ebb and flow, that you
try to manage and plan for as best as possible. And, it comes back to the
business leader having accountability for their budget and making some of these
things a priority too.
00:36:30.8 Don Jones
So, Gary, we're talking about a lot of cultural stuff. These are big changes for a
lot of organizations. And, whether we like it or not, culture almost always starts
in the C-suite. It's our top leaders that teach us what our company's culture is.
Do companies need to think about making skills development part of their vision,
their mission statement? Is it that important? Does it start there?
00:36:57.8 Gary Beach
It starts and stops there. That's the whole game. Tanya and Eric were talking
about this moment ago. For me, Don, the starkest reminder of that was a study
that was done by the Society for Information Management last November. It's a
couple of months ago. They interviewed about 4,000 CIOs. And, one of the
questions they asked was "Here's 30 different issues. Pick those that are most,
top five, the most worrisome to you". In the C-suite, these are CIOs answering,
the CEOs said skills development was the 17th most worrisome issue. For CIOs, it
was the third. So, unless that gets aligned, as Tanya was saying, "Yay, skills", it's
not going anywhere. And, one of the other conversations that I've had over the
years with CIOs about skill development is, that there still is, not with all but with
many, a reluctance to upskill, re-skill because once a company does that there's
still this feeling that they'll leave and go someplace else. And, that's unfortunate.
00:38:24.9 Tanya E. Moore
So, I want to piggyback off of that because we actually experienced that
internally, Gary, as part of our IBM transformation about five years ago. And, with
our digital badge program, what we had to convince our senior leaders of was,
we were going to put together this badge program with the hottest badges and
the hottest skills in the market and, then, we were going to encourage our teams
to post that socially. And, we really had to talk through the fact that, no, that
wasn't nuts. We weren't just putting people out there to be poached. We were
investing in them.
And, what we were able to show, and that was a big dialogue, but what we were
able to show is that, in this world, you can't build your walls higher and think that
people are going to stay. You have to make it a place that people want to stay.
And, what the data was ultimately able to prove is that engagement went up.
Voluntary attrition went down. Our technical sellers, they doubled their results.
But that is a very real concern., is that we're going to invest all this money and
what if they leave? And, I think the data is starting to prove otherwise. That the
number one reason people are staying now, provided certain needs, other needs,
are met is the fact that they feel invested in.
00:39:44.9 Don Jones
And, Tanya, if I could ask you this question, for the audience, certainly not meant
to be condescending, but you've mentioned it several times and I think it's so, so
important if you would take a moment to explain it. The whole "Digital badge"
concept. What it is and how it works?
00:40:03.3 Tanya E. Moore
Sure. Again, I was not a huge fan of this at first, but I give the team who thought
of the concept real credit. Because, they saw a need of how learning was
changing and need that we're seeing real life, right now, right? So, everything's
going virtual. People learn in different ways, and we all have this little bit of
competition in us and we want to be rewarded. So, digital badge programs are
very... A company can create one themselves. There are badges that are out
there. You can go get a badge from another company. It's free and there are
different levels of badges. Some of them are just for knowledge of a certain
topic. Some of them if you've actually demonstrated successful use. We go so far
as to have certified roles that align with external standards. And, so it's a way to
really signal to your workforce the skills that matter and allow them to go gain
those skills and get recognition for it.
00:41:02.9 Don Jones
What else have you seen work in terms of meeting that need? Like, engaging
folks and filling our desire to collect and achieve and compete to move the skills
you need, a little bit.
00:41:16.1 Eric Geis
No, I agree. It's definitely one of those cultural things that I think you have to
really make sure leadership is on board and kind of understands what you're
trying to do. Because, it's a different way of thinking. But, ultimately, you have to
break down those barriers. You absolutely need to do it. And, I think it's kind of
placing a bet and taking a chance. But I think a lot of companies that have done
that have really seen a lot of really, really good results.
So, digital badges, it's one way, stickers on their laptops. Now, maybe that's not
as much if people aren't going to be walking around in person, much as they
used to, but people go to conferences and do talks and then also get different
things. So, I think it's just the sharing of the community and the sharing of the
knowledge and the continuous learning and just, anything that you can do to
create some visibility and connection across peers and individuals to be able to
do that. I think it's really fun. It's kind of like having a workout partner or a team
sport or there's different analogies that I think fit into this too. It's just the
continuous learning version of that.
00:42:27.9 Gary Beach
We can all walk around with little Boy Scout, Girl Scout badges sewn into our
shirts and dresses.
00:42:35.2 Don Jones
I want to go around and just give everyone a chance to kind of offer one last
thought on the broad subject of technology skills development and Tanya, I'll
start with you.
00:42:46.5 Tanya E. Moore
I think the biggest thing here is, from an individual perspective and an
organizational perspective, we can't hide from this. If you are not currently,
actively thinking about how you have a personal skill plan and, as a company,
understanding the skills you have, understanding the skills you need and what
you're going to do to create a learning culture, you're already behind the game.
So, invest in yourself. Invest in your people because your personal results and
your business results really are going to depend on it.
00:43:18.3 Don Jones
Tanya, thanks so much for joining us today. Really appreciate it. And, Eric, we'll
go to you next.
00:43:23.1 Eric Geis
Yeah. I would agree. It has to be a focus. You have to make sure that there's buy-
in at different levels of the organization. It needs active, ongoing conversation. It
needs to be on people's placemats and initiatives, and it needs to be well
connected. And, then, I think communication with your population is really, really
important. And, then somebody said it earlier but I think just the connection to
the community and the schools and everybody around the community I think is
another connection so we can make sure that people are starting this culture
And, then it just naturally kind of comes into the workforce that way. Because, I
think that's a big part of it is, today we still see a lot of having to engrain some of
this into people as they come into the company. And, we want to build that
bridge and make that easier as that transition happens from college or another
company into your workplace.
00:44:18.3 Don Jones
Eric, thanks so much for your perspective. Really appreciate it. And, Gary, we'll
give you the last word.
00:44:23.5 Gary Beach
Thank you. God, just three brief things. One, the realization that talent is the new
capitalism. Second, this is a lifelong journey, in terms of skills development. And
third, individuals are going to be primarily responsible for that skills
development. Not just businesses or schools, what have you. Those are the three
takeaways I see as we move forward.
00:44:51.9 Don Jones
That's great. Thanks so much and thanks to everybody who joined us live. Thank
you for your questions. Thank you for joining us for the conversation. Have a
wonderful rest of your day.
00:45:06.5 Daniel Blaser
Thank you for listening to All Hands on Tech. You can find show notes and more
info at pluralsight.com/podcast. If you're interested in reading or listening to
"Perspectives on Technology Skill Development", we've included a link in the
show notes to access the book for free.
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