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Only a few years ago, many businesses were in the middle of a mobile transformation, with companies hiring transformation managers and instituting Mobile Centers of Excellence to aid in this process. Today, we are in the age of digital transformation, and we can only begin to guess what the next transformation will be. In this world of rapid change, it’s becoming increasingly clear that learning to learn well–to transform and adapt smoothly as an organization–is an essential component of success.
In a recent conversation with Kian, Mario Maffie, Corporate CIO and VP at Mars Incorporated, shared what he believes to be the secret of success when leading a transformation: the success of a transformation ultimately depends upon whether an organization has mastered the art of upskilling. While this may seem like common sense, developing a learning and development plan--and, more specifically, identifying metrics to measure that plan's effectiveness--can be a surprisingly difficult process.
“There was a time when intelligence and upskilling was really not core to delivering on commitments. But that’s behind us now. You really have to embed intelligence into the design of the things that you do.” Mario Maffie
Outline of a Transformation
As Mario explains, in any transformation, there are several phases. At first, no one understands the new technology. After a while, however, many people with only superficial exposure begin to think they understand it. Therefore, for a new technology to really “enter the bloodstream” of an organization–that is, if the technology is going to be leveraged to do work and create solutions–an organization must train their people in the new technology. First and foremost, leadership must clearly spell out the level of dexterity in the new skills that those in various groups across the organization must achieve, and then provide learning resources. Eventually, new hires will arrive having already learned those skills in a previous workplace or during their education. Once everyone in the organization has been trained, and new hires can be expected to have those skills upon arrival, the transformation is considered complete.
“The reality of it is that the workforce and our leaders have not kept up with the pace of technology…because technology is such a large part of the solution now for running a business, and intelligence is built-in and embedded within it, the need for digital upskilling is really important.” Mario Maffie
How can an organization be certain that the new technology has been actually adopted by the employees? Traditionally, organizations have relied upon numbers provided by the learning and development department to assess upskilling effectiveness, such as the number of courses held, people trained, and certifications awarded. These are perfectly legitimate ways of measuring whether employees have completed their training, but, as Mario acknowledges, they are not reliable for providing an accurate picture of whether those new skills are being put to use.
Measuring a Transformation’s Effectiveness
In addition to these traditional numbers, Mario suggests that companies use two specific business markers to gauge the effectiveness of their learning programs. First, they should tally how many company projects are incorporating the new skills and technologies. For example, when Mars had a significant initiative supporting the use of Agile technology, Mario and his team followed up by assessing how many projects used Agile instead of Waterfall in the initiative’s aftermath. If those who participated in the upskilling programs continued to use Waterfall instead of Agile, then company leadership could assume their employees did not understand the benefits or workings of Agile and then design further upskilling opportunities accordingly.
“We can’t believe that we’ve done upskilling, or hope. We really need to, like in all the other parts of the business, have data that helps us understand if we have successfully upskilled.” Mario Maffie
A second way leadership can assess how well their organization has internalized new skills or technologies is by charting how many roles in the organization have the new skills and technologies as their main focus. For example, if a company had only a few data scientists five years ago, but today they have dozens or even hundreds, it is fair to assume that the company has fully incorporated the skills and technologies associated with that role.
As a CIO, Mario knows that technology is always far ahead of most people’s understanding of it. Few people are on the cutting edge of tech, and as such, have to be taught how to leverage new technologies for productive purposes. By identifying key metrics to evaluate upskilling success, organizations can be certain that their people–and their organization as a whole–have the skills necessary for a productive future.
- The success of a transformation ultimately depends upon whether an organization has mastered the art of upskilling.
- To gauge the effectiveness of their learning programs, organizations should consider 1) how many of their projects are incorporating the new skills and technologies and 2) how many roles in the organization have the new skills and technologies as their main focus.
- In a world of rapid technological change, learning to learn well–to transform and adapt smoothly as an organization–is an essential component of success.