We get the latest from Vincent Belliveau as we talk acquisitions, future skills and much much more. We join the conversation, edited for clarity, as Jon and Vincent discuss a hectic few months for the organization.
Jon Kennard: It’s been a really busy year for you 2022, with the acquisition of EdCast; what are the areas of innovation that you’re looking to accelerate in, and where do you think are the competitive advantages in that front?
Vincent Belliveau: You know, in my role, I interact with companies around the world, particularly in Europe, Middle East and Africa as well. And I’m based out of Paris, by the way, but I keep traveling around these locations, as well as the US where we’re headquartered. And when I meet with customers, it’s very clear that there are challenges at two levels. And I’ll get to the answer around the acquisitions in a minute, but I’m setting the stage as to why the acquisitions first.
On the one hand side, companies feel the environment is changing on them, they need to adapt to a changing workforce, there’s ever faster changes in their business models, they need to develop agility, they need to become more digital faster.
Pretty much every company I meet that’s not a tech company says ‘we want to be a tech company that happens to be in financial services’. Or if you were a bank, or if you were in automotive, you say want to be a tech company happens to be in the automotive industry.
So everyone is going through really rapid transformation, even public sector organizations as well face that accelerating pace that’s imposed by the world today. So companies need to act faster and more sharply. And to do that they need a really strong foundation for learning and talent management.
And this is what we’ve been doing with Cornerstone with Saba, with SumTotal, we’re committed to continue to invest in every one of those platforms to provide the best foundational learning and talent management in the industry. That’s mission critical for our companies and our customers. And we’ll continue to invest there.
That said, the market is also telling us that the pace of change is so high that companies can’t, at the top level, plan everything they need to empower the employees to figure out a lot of what needs to be done; the skills obsolescence is accelerating evermore meaning the time a skill is valid, or needs to be updated, is getting shorter and shorter. And the company can’t think about all the skills needed, the variety of jobs is changing very, very fast.
How many jobs are new that did not exist just five years ago, 10 years ago? So for that very reason, we decided to embark on the acquisition of EdCast, to act as our foundation for our people growth experience platform. So to provide people with all the capabilities they need with the learning experience, learn to develop on their own, the very skills they want to identify to own the opportunity marketplace.
Our strategy is very coherent, because by buying the likes of SumTotal, and Saba, in addition to Cornerstone, we now have a data lake of more than 100 million users, of course anonymized and respected data wise, and with a lot of privilege and responsibility coming with having that data, but that allows us to then infer the skills of 100 million records. It allows us to understand all the content tagging, and drive AI to tag content and recommend content in a very unique way, such that our foundational layer, our learning and talent management layer, is ever stronger.
Companies need to be able to be more agile, react fast, have really strong tools and capabilities, stay compliant, but also [keep] operational performance at the top whilst employees are empowered to take control of their development, take control of their careers in a radically different way. Not in a small incremental way – in a radically different way. And both living together with a common skills language, common data lake and really strong AI, driving ultimately, really strong content recommendations and content offerings? That’s the strategy.
We unveiled that last week at our global Convergence conference, where we had thousands of customers really reacting positively to that. And we label that overall capability that I just outlined, the talent experience platform. All of this together becomes the talent experience platform.
JK: Let’s try and get into the predictions game. So obviously, we know that skills really is the dominant conversation now, and the most important thing that we’re seeing a lot of companies invest in. Can you predict what will be the skills of the future? We know soft skills are going to play more of a part. But what else is around the corner do you think?
VB: So first and foremost, I talked about skills with pretty much every CHRO, but also CLO and head of recruiting and head of information for HR, and there’s a lot of confusion out there. People wonder, where should they master their skills? Should that sit with my learning system, with my core HR system, with my recruiting system? There’s a lot of questions out there. We make our skills ontology open, completely open, open to external developers, open the customers that can take it live with it.
The value is not in the skills ontology, the value’s in the algorithms that make all the recommendations. We keep our algorithms, but we make the skills ontology available for all partners to develop around it.
So that’s just one important point. We think there’s value in tying it with your talent experience platform, because it’s at the core of it, and therefore having that be the master of skills for a given company. And it’s completely open to integrate in other systems. But if a company decides to have a better system, their ERP, for instance, or recruiting system that would not be ours, we’ll auto map to that skills ontology, and then make all our recommendations of development, career content, etc, based on that indirect mapping to that source system. So I just want to call out that there’s a big question mark out there in the industry, and we advise customers in a day in day out basis on that topic. It’s super important.
But your question is a higher level order question, which is, what are the kind of power skills that will make a difference tomorrow? And you’re absolutely right to ask that. Maybe before I answer, I’ll throw in a few extra statistics that I found interesting and scary. We measured with more than 1800 employees, more than 800 business leaders, and we compared the views of the employees versus the companies around their ability to develop their skills.
Employers felt they were doing a great job developing their customers, their employees, most employers felt they were doing a great job. Most employees felt their employers were doing a poor job developing their skills. So there’s a skills gap, there’s about a 30 to 40%, depending on the segment gap between the perception of the employer and the employee of importance.
We actually looked at the top performing companies and we realized that in terms of revenue, and in terms of retention of their people and profitability, these companies have the smallest gap – their gap was only 11%. So they do invest in developing their employees. They understand what it means to develop their employees, and they work on the perception of their employees, too.
So it’s a lot about communications, not just doing it, and they perform better. The worst performing companies right now had a more than 40% gap relative to the employee perception around their development. So investing in development of your employees is important. And again, that informed our strategy and our move to buy EdCast and introduce that talent experience platform layer.
So back to your question on the core skills expected in the market that power skills of tomorrow, a lot of them are soft, of course, you’ll always need your technical skills, but communication and teamwork, so team building, business writing and emotional intelligence, that’s super important; that won’t be replaced by bots. Leadership and management, the ability to inspire, to drive strategic thinking, problem solving, drive mentoring, coach, as well as have an inclusive approach or D,E,I approach as part of that.
All of those are, you know, amongst the poorest skills. The third category is productivity and collaboration. So time management, really great collaboration, operating in a matrix environment. Being able to have influence without power, if you will, or power through influence, project management in a very uncertain world, and nonlinear reporting lines is that productivity and collaboration bucket.
The fourth one, the tech trend, is digital and data fluency. Data literacy, data analysis, all of those are super important. And the fifth one is very different. It reflects how people have felt when the pandemic, let’s make no mistake, it started before the pandemic, but it’s continuing now and that is personal development and wellness. That’s accelerating.
If you want the best out of your employees, you’ve got to invest there. And if you want to be a good manager, and if you want to perform this notion of work life balance, stress management, mindfulness becoming critical, we put that as the amongst the top five power skills based on the surveys we’ve had with employees…
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