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Rethinking reskilling: How to find key hidden talent within your organization

Today’s enterprises need adaptive workforces—resilient teams that can acquire news skills and evolve as quickly as technology and industry change. However, most organizations approach reskilling as standard, one-size-fits-all learning and development programs, focused on cementing specific skillsets—that unfortunately become obsolete in short time. It’s time to rethink reskilling to make it more of a business imperative.

We’re seeing a sizable talent gap in many enterprises, where people want to master the latest necessary skills, but not enough companies are providing what employees seem to want. In fact, 80 percent of workers are willing to learn new skills to take advantage of artificial intelligence (AI) their current job, according to AI 360, the second edition of Genpact’s global AI study that explores views of the C-suite, the workforce, and the consumer.

Yet while more than half of senior executives (53 percent) say their organizations provide employees with reskilling opportunities, only 35 percent of workers report such options are available at their companies—and only 21 percent say they have participated in this training.

To overcome the talent gap and foster adaptive workforces able to keep up with ongoing transformations in tech and industry, there is a clear need to shift from traditional L&D techniques like seminars and online training sessions, to leveraging existing experts within the organization so that we harness the collective intelligence of individuals and teams. These are employees who often already have the skills and knowledge that others need and follow the development of those fields closely. As a result, they can curate and contextualize that knowledge better than any external teacher, hence making it easier to for others to absorb it.

Companies also need to tap what can be a hidden resource of knowledge, identifying “invisible” go-to resources; i.e., knowledgeable employees who may be currently unrecognized or perhaps are not even hierarchically high in the company structure, but seem to be go-to people for large networks of employees.

Organizations can consider practices similar to Genpact’s Genome reskilling initiative, which uses advanced human network analysis techniques to identify these invaluable knowledge leaders outside of the usual suspects of widely known company subject matter experts.

Building on methods derived from work by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Collective Intelligence, our Genome program is also transforming from educating each person through L&D to reskilling groups of people who work together—and increasing their collective, not individual, intelligence.

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We’re already seeing some interesting results in our pilots and expect more innovation as we study these new training approaches among our test bed of more 87,000 Genpact employees.

Vibrant, learning communities start to emerge around knowledge leaders and skillsets, creating networks where people complement each other’s skills. Namely, individuals who are “T-shaped,” as in they possess some level of varied expertise in addition to their core skill, can effectively interoperate with people who are “I-shaped,” those with more narrow, deep expertise like in data engineering.

The need for such collective intelligence has led to a deep rethinking of the structure of the learning curriculum and its targeting at employee segments.

But to reskill at scale through collective intelligence, certain changes need to happen:

Redesign the architecture for reskilling

Learning new technologies often presents a dramatically different way of working and thinking that can be overwhelming for some employees. There are ways that organizations can ease the path to learning:

  • Design the learning journey like a product: Employees pay for learning—with their time. Any friction in the journey to learning will result in a fizzling of the initial excitement. Use experience design and design thinking methods to make that journey seamless.
  • Work learning into the daily flow: Employees are often stretched for time. Find opportunities for learning in segments that people can absorb into the daily flow of work they prepare for the next task, project, or meeting.
  • Give context to new knowledge: People struggle with understanding and retaining concepts that do not connect with their existing knowledge and ways of doing things. A diverse set of knowledge leaders is essential to make learning contextual and new skills immediately applicable to what learners are doing on a daily basis.
  • Use an agile development approach: Just as agile development helps with progressing digital projects, it can also help with reskilling. Series of educational sprints enable fast feedback, delivering early value from what employees have learned to the enterprise.
  • Break the boundaries between learning and knowledge management: In most companies, these functions are separate. They should not be. There is a natural synergy around two focal points: those who have the knowledge and those who want to use that knowledge. They are often the same in both knowledge management and learning.

Approach reskilling in “BITS”

Employees can collectively harness the knowledge they need in an increasingly digital world through an approach that rests on four, sequential pillars: Because, Immerse, Transform, and Solidify—or BITS. In BITS, the journey of an employee, as they learn new skills, starts with the first, and ends with the last…only to be ready to start again at a higher level of proficiency, if the skills are useful to their role.

  • Because—where do you stand?: A skill assessment, or skill inventory, identifies what skills already exist across the enterprise. The exercise helps define the relevant roles in the company, such as who are the hidden knowledge leaders, based on proficiency level. A skill inventory establishes a baseline not only for individuals’ skills, but also for the knowledge among groups, to prioritize learning interventions and workforce planning.
  • Immerse—in self-learning: Identified knowledge leaders share contextual, curated content around new skills with the members of these groups to set them off on their self-learning journey. Learners immerse themselves in the information and participate in larger group debates.
  • Transform—bring it all together: At this stage, knowledge leaders engage with learners as the latter complete their self-learning efforts. Back in the learning groups, the leaders provide contextualization to the new skills and encourage a flow of learning through virtual, video-conferencing webinars that make strong use of multiple collaboration tools.
  • Solidify—put the skills to work: Learners can best hone their skills in actual projects—with light supervision by the knowledge leaders. The true realization of reskilling happens when learners can apply their new knowledge to solve business-critical problems, embracing a true, profound change in their proficiency.

Ultimately, a collective intelligence-based reskilling model helps to source, crystallize, propagate, and absorb knowledge, enabling enterprises and their workforces to adapt to a continuously changing world—an enhancement to what traditional L&D can do in isolation.

Enterprises can then cultivate and sustain the skills necessary for employees to succeed in the digital age, filling in the talent gap, and driving continued workforce development at the intersection of domain and technology.

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