Article: Create right programs at the right time, at the right scale: Global Head of L&D, Randstad

Learning & Development

Create right programs at the right time, at the right scale: Global Head of L&D, Randstad

The L&D team of tomorrow needs to be prepared to use multimedia tools to train people on new processes as well as soft skills that are becoming even more important such as interpersonal dynamics, influencing skills, and critical thinking skills, says Michelle Prince, the Global Head of Learning & Development at Randstad.
Create right programs at the right time, at the right scale: Global Head of L&D, Randstad

Michelle Prince is the SVP, Global HR, Head Learning & Development at Randstad. Michelle provides strategic human capital leadership in the areas of leadership development, employee engagement, organization design, organization effectiveness, HR analytics, career development, expatriate management, diversity and inclusion, executive coaching, mentoring, and innovative learning techniques. Michelle has national and international industry experience in HR services, technology, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and financial services, working for market leaders Randstad, First Data, Novartis, and Siemens. Michelle is a speaker and media contributor on the topics of workplace issues and trends.  

In her current role, Michelle is responsible for ensuring Randstad learning and development investments are optimized to deliver business results and create a strong leadership pipeline for the company. Randstad is a global leader in the HR services industry headquartered in Diemen, the Netherlands with over 38,000 corporate employees working across 38 markets, employing over 650,000 people every day and training over 300,000 people annually.

Michelle holds a Doctorate of Management in Organizational Leadership from the University of Phoenix, a Master of Science in Human Resources from Rochester Institute of Technology, anda Bachelor of Science in Management from Binghamton University.

Here are the excerpts of the interview.

How do you see the impact of fourth industrial revolution on the workforce?

Automation, globalization, and workforce aging spark public debate and concern over the future of work. Society and its leaders are facing the challenge of how they can use these developments to foster economic growth, while at the same time ensuring decent work, fair pay, and adequate social security.

The digital revolution has brought its own set of labor market impacts which, considering the speed of innovation in robotics, machine learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI), will continue into the future. These impacts are all getting a great deal of public attention as they propel fears of job losses – fears that, although understandable, are factually unfounded. In our Flexibility@Work 2019 publication “Future of Work, an agenda” the authors, Maarten Goos and Anna Salomons (Utrecht University & Boston University TPRI) show that automation will actually have a positive net effect on jobs. Advancing technologies are likely to increase total employment by around 0.5% annually.

There is no shortage of capable vendors who say they can successfully implement technology into the organization. However, it’s the organization’s own people who need to adopt the new technology and use the new tools who are going to determine if an organization will realize its true value

There will be no shortage of jobs in the future of work, but work will change fundamentally. While embracing the future, we also need to brace for change. Shaping a future of work that is more inclusive and rewarding for all calls for a transition agenda and a whole-of-government approach that includes all stakeholders, targeting interventions to those who need them most.

What strategies can organizations follow to upskill their workforce and make them future ready?

Jobs in the future will not be the same as those of today. Despite an increase in total employment, on average 1 in 7 individual workers will be faced with job loss as a direct result of automation. The changing nature of jobs has been an enduring feature of past waves of technological progress and will ultimately lead to the emergence of three new work types: ‘frontier work’, ‘wealth work’ and ‘last-mile work’. Frontier work concerns jobs in new technological fields, wealth work concerns jobs created thanks to increased productivity and last-mile work concerns jobs that cannot yet be automated. Looking even further ahead, the OECD estimates that 65% of the children currently at nursery school will end up doing a job that does not yet exist, such as ‘vertical urban gardener’ or ‘drone controller’.

New jobs will require new and different skills. While the rising demand for hard STEM skills and basic digital skills is well known, there is also ample evidence of a rise in the demand for soft social skills. Crucially, we will need to prepare our educational systems for these 21st-century jobs. In addition, we will need to create seamless public-private partnerships – connecting the world of work with that of education – enabling life-long learning opportunities to support workers in their careers and to help them transition securely to new jobs. Randstad is certainly playing its part in meeting this need for upskilling and reskilling. In 2018 alone, we trained some 300,000 flex workers worldwide.

What's new in learning and why businesses should embrace them?

The most critical thing that the L&D function needs to do to enable organizations to reinvent for tomorrow is to create the right programs at the right time, at the right scale. Segmenting L&D efforts and investments is important because we need to support the business needs of today while building for the future. Staying aligned with the current business strategy and priorities to deliver programs needed today; and ensure these programs provide the expected business impact (measure, adapt). We do this while simultaneously building the skills and competencies of leaders needed for the near future according to the longer-term outlook of the organization, industry, competition, etc. L&D also needs to stay closely aligned with the people strategy and strategic workforce plans in order to understand what future skills need to be planned for, by when, and what will be the demand expectations for programs to build these skills. The design and development of these new programs take time, and will likely need to be agile to accommodate fast-changing content, while also being scalable - so planning appropriately is critical.

Talent developers ought to be prioritizing building those skills that deliver the best customer experience (cx) and employee experience (ex), and the skills needed for these are not necessarily a generational issue

What’s new? It depends on where you are starting from. For some companies, the ‘next step’ may be something as basic as moving from traditional classroom training to implementing a learning experience platform for self-paced development or delivery of tech-enabled learning programs. Many companies, like Randstad, are implementing “tech & touch” blended learning solutions that combine the delivery of learning content using tech-enabled methods with bolstering the application of learning through group discussions, social learning methods, practice sessions, and experiential learning opportunities. At the other end of the spectrum, some companies are already using next-generation learning tools like virtual or augmented reality to provide employees with more innovative learning experiences.  

The CEO of one of the largest L&D providers in the US says, "the biggest mistake I see that keeps an organization's learning and development efforts from reaching their full potential is a lack of planning and commitment from the C-suite. What's your take on this?

Executives who view digital transformation as human transformation understand the commitment that is needed and the time it takes - whether be it for new L&D technology or business-oriented technology. There is no shortage of capable vendors who say they can successfully implement technology into the organization. However, it’s the organization’s own people who need to adopt the new technology and use the new tools who are going to determine if an organization will realize its true value. What’s key to any transformation is shifting the culture, processes and business model to leverage digital capabilities. This requires visible and ongoing support from executives and managers, planning and resourcing efforts appropriately, understanding that new technology implementations take time and don’t always go perfectly the first attempt, adapting plans as needed, providing the necessary training, and demonstrating their ability to lead people through times of change and uncertainty by communicating clearly, empowering their people, and role modeling the courage to learn and try new ways of working.

There is widespread concern among recruiters that the soft skills gap is widening with the technologically savvy but soft-skill-poor Gen Z employees entering the workforce. In fact, one of the top areas that talent developers expect to focus on through 2019 is identifying, assessing, and addressing skills gaps, according to a study. Your take?

In my opinion, talent developers ought to be prioritizing building those skills that deliver the best Customer Experience (CX) and Employee Experience (EX), and the skills needed for these are not necessarily a generational issue. The skills needed to create a delightful customer experience is going to differ based on factors such as industry, geography, technology, and customer expectations. By focusing on creating development programs that build the skills needed for delivering on the CX, the emphasis is less on the generation of employees or singling out members of certain generations, and much more focus on building collaboration and a continuous improvement mindset to deliver well across the organization.  

How can organizations deliver training on multiple platforms to eliminate the time crunch for busy employees?

Many people already feel overworked, some feel overwhelmed by ever-increasing workloads and expectations, therefore, carving out time for formal learning is not necessarily their priority. However, learning can take many forms beyond the “traditional classroom” or online learning environment - for example, being assigned to a new project, taking on the challenge of leading an initiative, receiving mentoring from a peer or coaching from a manager, or simply trying to get more efficient at what you are already doing by learning to use technology more effectively. Ideally, employees are learning all the time, so by redefining “learning” as having a continuous learning mindset people and organizations can stay current, relevant and agile. Offering support, such as reallocation of work projects, for those who need to attend formal training classes can help them stay on top of work priorities while completing their training. 

Using multiple methods of learning can reduce time away from the job. What I’ve been reading lately from experts is the need for L&D to integrate learning into the job, so that people are learning while working. Using tech-enabled learning support guides that integrate with software systems, on-demand job aids to support the process workflow, along with suggested “next steps”, and mini “how-to” videos that people can access in the moment of need are examples of ways people can learn while doing the work and this can also enhance engagement and productivity.

How can technology and analytics be leveraged for L&D to power reinvention and make an organization-wide impact? 

The first question to ask is what business outcome are we trying to drive and will technology enable us to achieve it best? If we start by trying to implement a particular L&D technology without understanding the problem we are trying to solve, then it’s likely that usage and adoption will be low and we won’t achieve the ROI or business impact intended.

We have to view our learners just like ‘customers’ or ‘end-users’. So if we start by asking ourselves business-related questions, such as “How could we better serve our customers (the employees) through faster, more flexible technology?” or “How could artificial intelligence transform the way we train our employees?” or “How can we leverage technology to enable us to scale our programs or accelerate adoption of our new digital tools most effectively and efficiently?” Once you understand your goals, you can make better technology decisions - this applies in L&D as well as across the business.

There is an ever-increasing array of tools and technology platforms offering ways to train and engage employees - selecting the right method of training i.e. traditional classroom, mobile, e-learning platforms, social/content creation, content curation, MOOCs, self-paced online programs, technology academies, learning laboratories, etc. depends on what you need to train as well as the readiness of your workforce to accept these different methods. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach and every company is going to likely have to manage an ecosystem of learning methods, tools, and provider resources to gain the most impact.

Data and analytics that help us reflect, understand, and predict the behavior of our employees can be leveraged by L&D and Talent Management, providing answers to questions such as - Are we getting the right participants into our learning programs? Can we show the application of learning? What skills and competencies need further development? What expertise can be more fully leveraged across the organization? Who is ready for a new role? Who is at risk of leaving due to mastery of a role and/or ambitious career aspirations? What development or experiences does someone need to be successful in a certain role? 

Across the world, industries are being faced with skills gaps. According to one study, France will require 80,000 more IT and electronics workers than will be available by 2020, while the US will have to deal with having 250,000 fewer data scientists than it needs

What is your advice for CHROs and people managers who face challenges to skill and re-skill their employees including cost and other bottlenecks? 

CHROs need to have a people strategy that addresses the needs of today and plan for the needs of the future - working with business and technology leaders to comprehend what will be the organizational skills needed for the future. Across the world, industries are being faced with skills gaps. According to one study, France will require 80,000 more IT and electronics workers than will be available by 2020, while the US will have to deal with having 250,000 fewer data scientists than it needs. In the UK, 23 percent of people lack basic digital skills despite the fact that they are required for around 90 percent of all new jobs. Talent scarcity already exists and it will become more difficult, competitive, and will take more time to fill open positions for new skills needed in the future and this can be very costly for the company. Attracting and retaining people with scarce skills will become a greater issue than it already is today. The workforce of the future will be made up of employees, contractors, freelancers, and gig workers as they allow for flexibility and adaptability to meet the fast-changing needs of the business.

Many CHROs are already considering how to upskill (keeping people in the same job but advancing their skills) or reskill (moving people to a fundamentally new role) their existing employees. Increased use of HR analytics and data are now allowing companies to address talent shortages and look at redeployment in a new, more “intelligent” way, making redeployment to internal job moves more effective than ever before. While redeploying employees has been a strategy used by companies in the past, what’s modern about it is the use of HR data and analytics, providing much more information about the organization’s human capital. 

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Topics: Learning & Development, #ExpertViews

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