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Panel: Upskilling your employees

The upskilling of existing employees is one way for organisations to combat the skills shortage, but should all employees be targeted or just high potentials? What are the best practice organisations doing? In this panel clip, Alec Bashinsky, national partner, people & performance at Deloitte, talks about the great results his company has gained by using innovation projects, and by embracing social media tools; Kellie Warta, head of human resources at Hilti talks about why her company concentrates on its '20% talent pool"; and Ben Willis, director of social product strategy, SABA, talks about the future of learning through tools such as enterprise social software.

Video transcript below:

Ian Hopkins, Human Capital Magazine
Ian Hopkins:  I know that a lot of companies are facing skill shortages and one way companies are combating that is looking at their existing employee base and seeing who needs to get new skills or update their skills or whatever it is.  I am curious as to how you guys are going about that in your own organisations.  I mean do you do it across the board, do you target high performers or high potential or how do you handle it?  Kellie, do you want to?
Kellie Warta, Hilti
Kellie Warta: We target all people to develop them.  We have a talent pool to nearly like to have about 20% of our people in that and of course stable performers.  The leadership model is premised on develop your people, achieve outstanding business results.  So there is an expectation that everybody has opportunities to grow, because that has an, you know another alignment growth of the business.  It’s conducted via our performance development program, that’s the tool and the development discussions should be happening quite frequently.  We have separate talent development programs that we initiate for that talent pipeline and the succession planning process taps back into that as well.
We actively and we invest a lot in recruiting our people and onboarding them, training them from the word go and so that integration program is such a cost for us that you know it’s really important that we manage to get them across the TE mark and to do that we have to keep investing in them.
Ian Hopkins: Sure, sure.  Alec, Deloitte.
Alec Bashinsky:  Yeah, yeah.  I mean your question is an interesting one, because I think when you talk about upskilling I am thinking the broader work force and I think there is no smart organisation that doesn’t develop its people.  I think the shortage of talent is still in direct conflict with developing your people.  If we want to grow as a business, we need to bring more talented people into the organisation.  So I see, you know we get about 7,000 applications for graduates across Australia.  We take about 500 – 550.  We hire roughly a 1,000 people a year, so in terms of the upskilling there is still got to be the investment in terms of developing people, but if you want to grow you got to bring new talent in and I think the other thing is particularly when you look at the work force that a) everybody is looking, particularly Gen X – Gen Y are looking at where they can pick up additional learnings, “where else can I go, what else can I do, can I work with innovation.”  We found that our innovation program has been a really good key driver and motivator because the individuals get to do their day to day work, but they also then get to participate in a bigger project or innovation.  A lot of our really fun and funky things that we do, have come from those innovation projects.  I think to your point, the upskilling is to me part of the day to day stuff, I mean the smart organisation should have a talent program, they should have a leadership program, they should have a high potential program, because without those people are going to say, well I am getting no investment, so the engagement question, I am getting no investment in me, so I am going somewhere where I can get some investment.  So you know we do everything from workshop related stuff to our e-learning platforms given the diversity of our employees and it’s absolutely a given that we do that.
Ian Hopkins: I might jump over to what Saba offers in terms of because you are heavily in the e-learning using technology, social tools to develop people.  Do you want to talk a little bit about enterprise social software and social learning and how that perhaps is the future of learning in organisations?
Ben Willis:  Yeah, absolutely.  So I think you know generally speaking when this question comes up, the traditional responses are that I can upskill people in sort of a traditional way.  I can look to hire you know temporary contract work, I can look to convince folks to not leave and in fact that is happening to some degree.  I can you know move somewhere if my operation is offshore that sort of thing, but what we are seeing again from some of our most innovative customers is again towards this flattening of the organisation and looking to new tools and technologies that give people more of a voice.  
So enterprise social software, enterprise you know social learning platforms are huge in this regard. Right, they take all the things that we have all become used to the web,  right all these fantastic new web tool technologies came up as blogs and wikis and discussion forums etc.  They bring those from the public domain into the organisation, right.  And you don’t hear it discussed I think, enough. Right I think too much of the conversation today is on social media and the references points are always Twitter and Facebook and Linkedin.  These are public domain tools right, that we all got a tremendous amount of value out of, but you tend to hear the examples being used there around recruiting potentially or around you know the marketing function, “how can I establish brand entity and get my message out’.  But then the conversation tends to stop there which is unfortunate.  So again with our really innovative customers are saying, “oh, wait a minute, that works great out there on the public domain, we need a version of that within the organisation, we can allow, we can empower people to educate themselves and educate one another more importantly and in the process of doing that giving them a voice which allows us to more quickly identify our top talent.  It allows us folks that maybe wouldn’t have had that voice previously to feel more a part of the organisation and be genuinely engaged in what’s going on”.  So I think the innovation programs you mentioned earlier are an example of that, that’s fantastic.  
Alec Bashinsky:  It’s interesting you say that, because we have taken the social media approach through our phone apps and facebook and you know that’s very much external and that’s what attracts a lot of talent towards us.  What we have also gone and done is, looked at our internal coms and we have actually established and utilised Yammer internally, about 6,000 people.  We have got 4,000 on internal Yammer group including our CEO and the beauty of it is not just round education, but it’s also the communication vehicle, in that someone says, “look I am meeting with Westpac and I got a particular tender, has anyone done any work in this space”.  And within a couple of minutes, someone from Adelaide or Perth or whatever it is said, ‘oh we tried this, why don’t you do that”.  So it’s a sharing of ideas.  To try and do that normally, firstly you got to know who to ring, who to send an email to, if you are lucky you might get a response in 4 days.  So the advent of using something like Yammer internally not only creates learning but enables people to connect so much more quickly in today’s environment.  You actually pick up learnings along the way.  We have been stunned with the response rate.  Our CEO is on that quite regularly.  It was quite funny, we had a story that went out where one of our young guys had finished the day and he said, look I am going to take it, I am going to hit off early, but don’t tell anyone.
My CEO wrote back as he is Yammer, he said, yeah I won’t.  So you have that, when you are talking about visibility of technology you have got to be careful how far that goes.
Ian Hoskins:  What on that note, I am curious as to what sort of organisations are open to this sort of social software, I mean is there a particular corporate culture that needs to be open enough to use this sort of stuff or?
Ben Willis, Saba
Ben Willis:  You know, not really.  We are seeing there are some cultural differences, for example.  So for example if you look at the numbers, there is a lot more uptake in for example Latin America where sort of business has more sort of cultural alignment to that kind of thing, versus other regions where maybe there is not.  But what we are seeing is, there is a general, there is a general sort of sense of fear around some of these technologies across the board, right.  And that what you see is, you will see a particular leader and it’s not particular to an industry or particular part of the organisation even.  Just step up and see the value of it and sort of take charge and remember some of these things and the irony is that, that most of the fear that people have around these tools is around security, right.  It’s around loss of data, it’s around you know loss of brand and message and what not.  And the irony of that of course is that it’s going by not embracing these technologies and giving your employees an opportunity, a vehicle a platform to do it internally, they are going to go ahead and do it anyway, but they are going to do it on facebook and Twitter and so it’s precisely where we don’t want them doing it, right in the public domain.  So sort of the paradox there is that, if you are really concerned about some of these things, the best thing to do is actually actively lead the charge and embrace these technologies and get your
Alec Bashinsky:  There is one other the issue to add to your point here is that, that is the way that our Gen X and Gen Ys are coming through work and if an organisation doesn’t understand that, not only do they do it elsewhere, they should leave the organisation and go and join another one who actually embraces that approach and so you are actually going to lose your talent by shutting things down.
Ben Willis:  That’s exactly right.  We spoke to someone the other day, who you know sort of informed us that no, this would never work, because they had blocked Twitter for example and I said you know, every single one of your employees has a mobile device and what they are probably tweeting about is the fact that you have blocked Twitter, right.
Alec Bashinsky:  Yeah, in the public domain.
Ben Willis:  Right, right, so couldn’t agree with you more.  I mean I think this is I think one of the single most important things that we can be doing and I think HR absolutely should be leading the charge right, because this is, these are people empowering tools, these are people enabling tools, you know social software and social learning software and we should be leading the charge and bringing them into the organisation.