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The Skills-Based Approach to Talent Development and Mobility

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Susan Manning: Good afternoon, everyone. This is Susan from Credly. I'm really excited to see the numbers of participants just climbing and climbing and climbing. I don't want to wait too long to get started. So out of respect for the rest, most of you, let's go.

This webinar, by the way, is being recorded, and you will have access to that recording after the fact.

We are so excited to be talking about these really important changes in the world of talent development and specifically mobility for the employees of organizations who have taken a skills-based approach to this topic. And so you're going to hear from guests today talking about their experiences.

I also want to point out that if you are interested in live-tweeting, we have a hashtag of skills-based workplace, so feel free to use that, and let's go.

Today, my guests are Andrew Vecchiarelli from BMO Financial Group, who's going to take us through their journey with skills-based talent management. And then Dan Froelich from Cisco, similar but different strategy when it comes to working with internal mobility and skills specifically. And I'm Susan from Credly.

Alright. We've all heard about the great resignation, and I wonder how it would be different had we not had a pandemic, but nonetheless, we do. So one of the things that we've learned is employees really want to reskill, and if it's not part of their organization, they may make some choices that are unfavorable to business. They also want to be rewarded for the new skills that they've earned. So, again, if there is not a recognition program or no reward for having developed those skills, there could be problems.

So this is an alarming number: 73% and 76% of professionals actively planning to quit their jobs. That's a lot. Let's see if we can reverse that trend. And 54% expect their credentials to lead to a new job or promotion. So if you're looking at issuing credentials in the workplace, they should count for something. Otherwise, they have no inherent value to the employee.

At times when it comes to working with internal recognition systems and business, it may feel like you're pushing a rock up a hill because you worry if you recognize and specifically work towards skill development for your internal employees, will they leave? I think you'd be surprised about the positive outcomes, but we are going to look at that, too.

There are barriers to internal mobility. Many organizations just don't have the processes to carry through with this, or there aren't enough internal employees to fill those roles that they have. And then there's the whole side of the house where you've got to get the managers on board to look at those skills and to see the possibilities for their employees. I am sure that Andrew and Dan are going to talk about some of these barriers and how their programs have worked at addressing them.

So where can employers go from here? Well, we're going to switch to these forward-thinking organizations to help us see the possibilities.

And with that, I'm going to transition to Andrew Vecchiarelli from BMO Financial Group. Andrew, welcome. I'm going to give you the floor.

Andrew Vecchiarelli: Thanks, Susan. Hi, everyone. I'm Andrew Vecchiarelli, Strategic Initiatives and Learning Manager at BMO. I could actually go on about this topic for hours so I'll try not to go on too many tangents, but really, when we think about skills-based talent management, BMO’s journey really began around 2017, 2018.

We looked at the megatrends that were shaping the external landscape, and we recognized that we were at an inflection point to either carry on along our current path or shift towards skills in preparation for the future of work. And as we just sort of reviewed some of the data around the great resignation and what is happening in the marketplace, those have actually been accelerated because of the pandemic.

Now, even though there have been a few twists and turns along the way, we kept building a skills-focused foundation because the values of skills-based development have always been clear. We know that it accelerates the development of our talent by focusing on the skills that they need instead of the skills that they have. And that's especially true when you have a clear measure of proficiency. We also know that it democratizes careers because skills-based credentials create equitable and transparent access to job opportunities in ways that you don't really get when you just look at experiences like yours and time on the job.

We know that when both of those concepts work together, it increases employee engagement, especially when development is personalized to what they need for the role that they have or the careers that they want. And unfortunately, we know this part because when we get it wrong, the number one reason that people leave is because they feel they don't have the opportunity to develop.

When we make data-driven decisions on skills data, it allows us to deepen our talent pools for in-demand, short-supply rules that unlock this zero barrier to internal talent mobility. And if we could go to the next slide, this is really where regardless of all of those benefits, we do also need to take a holistic lens of what it means to the employee. That's why we want to make sure that this experience for employees was simple, personalized, and consistent.

Whether it's an employee that wants to upskill to stay current because their profession is constantly evolving, or they want to grow in their career and become more senior or take on more responsibility or reskill to start something brand new, it should follow a consistent path. And we found that that's really about assessing their skills to determine what is the gap, creating personalized development plans so they can actually increase their proficiency with a skill, and then performance becomes this proof point of their development. And that's whether they're in their current role or so that they can hit the ground running in the new one that they're taking on and sitting beneath.

All of this is really our skills-based development framework and this is how we kind of operationalize and enable that personalized experience, regardless of the employee's career goals. And the one significant data point within that framework is the way we look at credentialing as this universal and consistent measure, especially early on because aggregating all those data sources actually could be a little tricky.

Now it's also important to note that when we do talk about that middle circle around development, that this is a broad spectrum that is not just about formal and informal learning programs. This is also including things like experiences. So this might be gigs, seconds or rotations, and that's also in conjunction with connections. This might be communities of practice, mentorship, or even coaching. And that's really because we can't just look at development as a learning function and you also can't just look at development as a punitive thing of you need to get better at your role.

We really want to make this a holistic and all the time catalyst for the way that we are bringing our employee promise to life. If we could jump to the next slide, I'll give two really quick examples:

The first is a bit more of an external example. BMO is on a journey to become a digital-first, future-ready bank. And we recognize that there was a need to invest in the development of our cloud engineering team, so basically, instead of borrowing or buying talent with Amazon Web Services skills, we decided to build it. So without going into the complexities of the program, this really was a development experience that was multifaceted.

But the certification is that proof point that we're not only investing in our talent, but then it also becomes a data point to understand where our skills bench strengths across the organization. And again, in this context, we're using development strategically to assess the skills that we have at the business unit level and then create development plans to help our employees get the skills and raise the waterline that they need in targeted ways. So when everyone goes through the AWS program, they're all operating at the same level that they need to be based on the certification that they are identified to go through.

The other one is more of an internal example. And actually, I'm really excited about this one because I did help to create it, which is where we've taken things a step further and we've built our own internal program to help all of our employees prepare for the future of work. And that curriculum, which we call Demo Forward, is multiple curriculums actually that cover skills such as data visualization, analytics, cybersecurity, and even power skills like influence and emotional Intelligence. The digital badges we give out through Credly are not only a recognition of the work that goes into completing one of those programs. It also gives us data that helps infer an employee's career interests, and this is how we then deepen our talent pools.

Because the program is voluntary and because there is a time commitment like depending on which curriculum you're looking at, it could be anywhere between 13 and 17 hours of work that goes into achieving a digital badge. It really is a clear indication of not only skill development, but that this is a career commitment that an employee is really interested in. And that way the digital credential actually becomes an evidence point of not only skill sets that the employee has, but allows our leaders to use it to help plan their own talent decisions. And it even lets recruiters reference it when looking at their candidate profiles to sort of see what skills somebody has. Then ideally, as we continue to look future-focused and through other technology integrations, it'll also suggest career opportunities to the employee that are aligned to their interests and career ambitions.

If we could jump to the next slide, this is really where our ultimate goal is to create a frictionless experience for employees. So it really maintains the integrity of our data, but also so that no one falls through the cracks. The reason that this is important is because all of our data is right now driven by what the employee enters into their talent profile. So their personalized development experience can really only be informed by the data that we have. But the bright spot is that certifications really help us create a universal and consistent measure of a skill. And as such, this slide is aspirational about where we want to go.

But as you can see, it really is building a robust profile of skills for our employees so that their career aspirations can be met and we have a measure of where we have strengths, but then also where we do need to look externally to sort of inject the skills that we don't currently have in order to continue to compete or in order to help be mentors to our employees as they continue to develop. If we could just jump to the next slide.

The last thing that I'll add is just a bit of advice because even though we've been on this journey for a while, since 2017, it's actually been within the last year and a half or so that we've made the most traction. And the reason there is actually around executive sponsorship development really can be the catalyst that drives your entire talent management engine, but it really takes thinking about how skills change your HR ecosystem and not just how it helps become a proof point of a particular learning experience.

Then, the other big consideration that we found is that organizational change management is really foundational how managers develop employees and how employees think about the skills that they have or the careers that they want to move into requires really good communication, really good support, and a really good plan because ultimately you're now creating a culture in the organization that is skills-based and development driven. But cultural changes are hard when some managers want to hoard talent or they don't see the value in providing time for employees to develop new skills. And yeah, those are just some of the things that we're working on.

Susan: That's wonderful.

And I know that we're going to have a lot of questions, and I'm going to encourage the audience. You have a Q&A area. Go ahead and write in your questions now that anything that Andrew said has kind of triggered. I'm curious about go ahead and put them in there.

And as we listen to Dan, I'll encourage you to do the same. And then at the end we'll have our discussion.

So Dan Froelich from Cisco is now going to introduce us to what they're doing in terms of talent management with skills based programs.

Dan Froelich: Thanks, Susan. Andrew, thanks for that. Great presentation. You going first always gives me just a few extra points to jump off of. I think you'll all find that while there are some similarities in both of our programs and our efforts with badging and our partnership with Credly, there also be some slight variations in what we're covering here.

As Susan mentioned, I'm Dan Froelich. I'm a learning and development project manager here at Cisco. I work for our customer experience team, which is as far as my work goes and internal-facing role. So you'll get to hear about our journey and the work that we're doing to develop our employees internally rather than focusing on any external efforts.

Our internal badging journey and the customer experience organization really became an accelerated project during the pandemic. As you'll hear and as you heard from Andrew, you put a plan of action together and you partner with Credly and some amazing things can really happen to transform your employees.

We created a highly impactful employee mobility approach. And as with any new program, especially in learning and development, it's really important to have an executive sponsorship at a charter. As you can see here, our charter focuses on enabling individuals to broadcast secure and verifiable credentials. These badges connect Cisco employees, partners, and customers. So we're talking about those that work here, those who work in partner organizations, as well as ultimately how this impacts the customer and how we run the business next.

While it's nice to have our own ideas about what creates a workforce that provides talent mobility, it's important to verify our decisions with current market research. Many of you on this call are probably well tuned into Deloitte, if you're not—not here to plug them as an organization—but I think in learning and development, there's a great deal of learning that we can do and things to validate the work that we're doing internally here at Cisco or in your particular business. Jen Fisher is the Chief Well-being Officer at Deloitte, and she states here in this quote that organizations that provide workers the ability to explore passion areas really prepare them for their next career move. And by us providing those experiences, we can really more effectively activate workers around that emerging business priority as they develop.

Ultimately, it's about keeping the employee happy with their role, but also providing them opportunities to develop and move either laterally or vertically in the organization. Our badging approach really supports that.

Next, are some visuals of what our actual Verified Learning badges look like. I wanted to highlight these because it's subtle. When you look at badging, if you're scrolling through your LinkedIn profile and you see so and so has a badge, there's a message in that visualization, and while ours are very simple, there's not much to them. You can see through some of our other badges through certifications and programs. Those badges tell a story. It's subtle, but it's a really important part of our collection and really brings that badge and that brand messaging of who we are.

Here at Cisco, the type of badge that's illustrated can also show that level of effort as well as level of impact that it had on the individual. With these examples, you can kind of see that we have a variety of options, starting with our Customer Organization's Foundational trainings with Green Belts and for more advanced roles, we've had programs such as Blue and Black Belt as well. Verified Learning badges, for this particular presentation, make up 100% of the collection that we're discussing. We've got a few dozen certification badges that are well recognizable across the globe, from CCIE to CCNA and so on, but that's not a part of the Customer Experience Badging initiative that we're showcasing today here. This is really an opportunity for those to collect their professional accolades, to tell a story about where they are in their career and where they want to go.

The learning in this program is open to all of our Customer Experience employees, and it allows them to upskill and reskill as well as explore opportunities in their career. For example, in the Customer Lifecycle Journey at Cisco, you have those enrolled in that journey that may hand off the customer project to you, and you may have that project work off to the next person in that life cycle. In this case, you might be interested in training both. We won't call it below, but to the left and right of yourself in that Life Cycle Journey. And in that case, I can cross train to understand the needs of those in that role. If you want to move into a more senior role or a different role entirely in that Life Cycle Journey, you can choose to go down that path, complete the Verified Learning, and earn that badge.

That badge tells your manager, your directors, and those around you and your team what your interests are and what your expertise can be in. We do provide opportunities to develop our individual contributors, as well as our people leaders. We feel that we have a big responsibility to develop all of our employees, not just those individual contributors and not just our executives, but everyone from the ground up.

Next, I think numbers tell an important story. While we didn't get into the specifics of the dates of this particular project, we launched this particular badge collection in the summer of 2021 after about a year of effort to determine the full scope of this project during that time frame. Our fiscal year cycle is from August 1st through the end of July. So when we kicked this off in August during Q1, we saw the issuance of 20,000 batches. For a better perspective, we have 28,000 full-time employees in this particular organization, so within the first quarter, we had the equivalent of almost one badge per full time employee.

Keep in mind, we did do some historical issuances of badges for those that were in our pilot programs before we actually had the full technical integration in place. But to tell a bigger story going into Q2, which just wrapped up a few weeks ago, we had 28,000 badges issued. Q3, which just started at the beginning of February, where the numbers are low because we're only a couple of weeks in. But ultimately, what you see here is that in the course of less than a calendar year, our employees have gone and earned their Green Belt to help them in their role to do their job, but have also gone and explored at least one other learning opportunity to earn another badge.

It's an impressive story. It's one that is showing the partnership, the handshakes, the warm hand offs, and all those things that integrate an organization full of complex relationships and organizations.

One of the things we've been studying lately is how do these numbers compared to the market? You can see here that Credly's averages are in parentheses on the left side of the slide, and ours are the percentages on the left. Our acceptance rates and our clicks per view are par for the course. They're right in line with credit averages, but we're trying to understand the impact of how to get our adoption rate up when it comes to getting those to share their badges. Sharing badges socially—sharing anything socially can have tremendous impact for good and for bad.

In this case, the more we can share these opportunities, whether they're internal badges that are shared through an external LinkedIn profile or just shared with one another through our internal employee directory, it sends a message of what our employees are working on and how they're developing themselves and making their career mobility ready for whatever that next step might be.

We've done a lot of work in the last couple of years; We've got a lot more learning to do one of the things that we're really interested in moving forward is figuring out how to push this program further, how to improve our adoption, and how to continue to grow and support it. It's been a great experience, something very new to us when it comes to this particular integration and the different platforms we're using. But if you've got any questions around what that looks like, I'd love to provide any answers.

Susan: Thank you, Dan.

So now we're going to ask the audience to give us some insights into them before we transition to having the discussion as Q&A. So we've got a couple questions. The first is, where are you in this idea of a skills based talent management approach? Are you beginning you're already there or you haven't started yet? I'd love to have the guests, the listeners on our webinar, go ahead and answer that question, and then we'll show you where you are. We'll reveal the results after sufficient numbers come in.

Okay, we have a little more than half of you. So let's go ahead and show what that looks like. Wow. Kind of evenly distributed. Some of you are starting. Great.

Okay, do we have another question or we're just going to go on? Okay, so earlier we mentioned some challenges not having enough internal employees to fill roles or lack of processes or resistance from current managers or lack of information to employees who don't quite know what's available or what to do. And I think you can only pick the most pressing challenge.

And here are the results. So lack of processes is the winner, the clear winner. It's encouraging to see that the resistance from the current managers is not very high. Okay, that's great.

Let's go on to your questions. I want to start with a couple of easy ones.

Dan, I'm going to have you answer this first. What metrics are you using to determine success? What are one or two keys?

Dan: Yeah, I think one of them is just that initial adoption. We showed numbers there at the end of the presentation, which frankly floored us. We weren't really sure how much of a push we would have to give for these programs to show themselves for the value that they are. But after the first few employees, from what we saw, the first few employees that started to work through these programs and socialize their badges I hate to say it, but it was the new shiny, right? It's the thing that somebody wanted. And we watched our stats explode.

There was sort of an exponential growth. If you were to look at our organizational analytics, you'd see it was a slow trickle at the start, but then suddenly it was a rapid onset of interest. And while it may be something simple, it was not just this one more thing that you had to do during the quarter to prepare yourself for your role, but it became this thing that adds value to yourself as a professional. We've had badges at Cisco for a while, but they've been internal. They don't have the technical requirements, so they can sort of be socialized pretty easily. But once they found out this is something that sticks with me, not just in my career here at Cisco, potentially wherever I may go in the world, it showed just how explosively successful this program was.

The other metric we haven't quite figured out how to score really, since we wanted this program to roll for a while. We looked at trying to merge these programs and our satisfaction scores because all of our programs have some level of surveying in them to understand how relatable, enjoyable, relevant, and how well the program was put together. And so we're trying to connect those two pieces together. And that's sort of something our business Insights team is working on. Sort of moving forward is to create some measures to show not just checking the box, we've done these things and we've earned these badges, but how is it impacting the business? And that's really the next step of what we want to measure is great.

We've got this program and it develops our employees internally. How is it impacting the business? And while that doesn't exactly answer the question fully, it shows where we want to go in this next step of our journey.

Susan: Great. Andrew, what metrics are you keyed in on?

Andrew: Well, let me say that Dan, because your numbers are amazing, I feel embarrassed to say that some of our metrics are around, “how do we increase our current, even just participants that are currently going through our BMO Forward program, from 4,000 to just 8,000?” And those aren't even completions. Those are just starting the program and generating, engaging interest and you're in the tens of thousands, which is awesome.

So one of them is that we are trying to increase our employees to start to develop the skills that they need for the future of work. And that does come into fruition in a couple of ways. One of them is how many people are participating in our BMO Forward program. Other ones are just as simple as how many skills do we currently have associated with each employee profile that has a valid measure against it? So not just something that was added as, yes, I have this skill, but that there's a credible sort of evidence point that goes along with it, whether it's inferred through other integrations that we have with other platforms or as given by feedback from managers and endorsed through peers through feedback or other things like that.

So multiple measures broadly in terms of also how we're moving talent and our talent mobility practices, but specifically from a skills and a learning perspective, those are two of the big ones.

Susan: Great. You just said something that I wanted to follow up on anyway, and that is how do you validate skills? What is the assessment process or what's the validation process?

And let's start with you, Andrew.

Andrew: So the answer is that it's still complicated in some respects. We leverage platforms like Pluralsight, which give a proficiency score based on more technical skills and skill sets, and then also allow us to measure how people develop and increase their proficiency over time. And so that's like one measure, another one is that we're looking at how do we create what is like a roughly reasonable evidence point.

So as an example, if anyone uses Workday, you'll know that when you have a skills integration, it can use AI to infer your proficiency and sort of back that up with how, I guess, confident it is with the evidence that's sort of leading to that based on the certifications that you have experience or roles that you've had in the past, feedback that you've received from managers or peers and through 360s. So that's sort of one chunk and then the other one is that through other kinds of assessments, it's not just a self-assessment, but more robust 360 assessments.

How do we make sure that managers are vetting that when those 360 go out, it's going to give a rounded picture and not a—let me just say the Fidelity of that picture is going to be higher than if you cherry-pick this person will give me a good review. So it's a couple of different aspects.

The largest challenge that we have is not only getting all that data, but then aggregating it into one single book of record because systems all use different metrics or measures in terms of how they're sort of gauging proficiency. So we continue to work through that barrier.

Susan: Great. It's an opportunity, not a barrier. Yeah.

Dan, anything different at Cisco?

Dan: I actually wouldn't say different in that case. Your statement, Susan, opportunities are plenty at Cisco because we're working on a sort of an independent approach with our customer experience organization. And there is a greater movement in our HR or our people's division to really work on an upskilling approach and skill development and actual development of skill tags.

While I'm quite familiar with Pluralsight, many of the platforms, we also use Workday. The people in the community's team are trying to figure out how to work with Workday. Our main learning platform that we're using for this particular program is Degreed, and every piece of content on that platform is tagged with a variety of skills. And to be completely honest, we're doing our best to develop these skills sort of not only a hierarchy, but sort of a taxonomy of what we use to tag these different pieces of learning.

But we've got to figure out how to leverage that data, right? How to put that all together, because there are a lot of potential tools with our platform that we use for learning as well as our Workday platform. And to that effect, I have to very vulnerably say I don't honestly know exactly where we're headed with that because it is sort of at an enterprise level, and it's something that the work that we're doing with our learners and customer experience is providing us a large database of records of the skills that are being developed.

So the data is there. We've got to figure out how to connect the dots, kind of like the previous question, determining how to put it all together.

Susan: So one of the buzzwords these days is your tech stack, and you both have robust tech stacks with lots of different platforms that you're interacting with and you're getting data. And as you said, Dan, there's got to be a way to aggregate all of that and make sense.

How did you convince executive leadership to go with one more program that might have the same kind of data you could find elsewhere?

And I'm going to start with you, Dan.

Dan: Yeah, I think so. I'm not sure of our audience. The polls didn't necessarily reveal this, but sort of what kind of industries we're looking at across our audience. But because we're an IT business and our engineers, our technical employees, many of them have required certifications.

Credly was sort of a natural fit at the certification level because this was something that was a part of their career and has been for the duration of Cisco's 30-year existence. One of those things where it was a sense of pride to be able to show that badge, right: Whether you're certified as a technical engineer, or maybe perhaps you're just a project manager who's recently earned your PMP certification, you want to have that in your signature and your professional profile and all those places, because that was the nature of the business. It was only a natural next step to move forward.

We adopted Degreed and I don't know the timeline because this was prior to my time at Cisco. But when we adopted Degreed, there was the discussion of Credly’s integration with Degreed. And that's not actually what we're using to issue our badges. It's what we're using to deploy our learning and our skills development.

The badge issuance is more on the technical testing side of things, and that's how those are released. So it was a natural next step from everything I can see and how we've taken this journey.

Susan: Great. And Andrew, how about for BMO Financial? How did you make the case to executive leadership?

Andrew: What's interesting is that we started with digital badges as a pilot. What's interesting is that there are other Credly webinars where my colleague Trevor goes into more detail about what our journey was there.

The interesting thing that I would actually say is that the success of the pilot actually made us sort of go back to our first principles approach of thinking about, “what do we want our certifications to be?” And it sort of led us to rethink about what is our tuition reimbursement program. How is that integrated? How do we capture and create those frictionless experiences where whether it's a micro, credential, a degree or something that they're doing internally is all sort of filtering into the single data source of giving people credit for the work and the development that they have been doing. So it's easy to find new roles. And it sort of just helped us build a business case that helped create a foundation around which was we need to think about this in a new way.

That kind of more holistic view of things and how these sources all sort of filtered into a holistic employee experience kind of helped build that case.

I hope that helped answer the question, but that's sort of where it came together.

Susan: Yeah, and it actually gives me a jumping-off point, too.

There was a question earlier about “how do employees access and work with their profile?” Because you had mentioned their skills profile, do they elect for whatever the next learning experience is or to develop certain skills? Is it suggested to them? How do they work with that?

Andrew: Yeah. So we use Workday, and there's some functionality in Workday that I'll just be transparent works better than others, but it allows you to not only tag the skills that you have but the skills that you're interested in developing.

We also use Degreed, and that also gives you a chance to sort of suggest what are the skills that you want to be your core development skills. So from an employee perspective, there are ways for them to target the skills that they want. And ideally, when everything is working the way it's supposed to, it will feed recommendations based on the skills that you want to develop with either the learning or the different experiences that are available that will help you accelerate toward them, whether that's like an experiential gig or a course that is readily available. Again, tagged to the skill that the employee wants.

But yeah, they get to control what that is. So it is kind of like a Netflix experience of “this is what I'm interested in. So this is what I'm being served as content.”

Susan: And can I watch Netflix during the work day, or do I have to do learning independently? No, it's on employee time. Right?

Andrew: It is. And that's where we've identified a barrier that we need to resolve as part of that change management of it's not just about giving people the opportunities, it's creating those spaces for people to develop.

Like, one of the reasons why we've had a lot of people start BMO Forward but not a lot of people finish being forward is because finding the time to do that, it's either something that they're doing on their own time because they're really interested in it. But ideally, it's also that they have really strong managers who recognize the value of development and making the space for employees to be able to do it.

Susan: That is so neat. It makes me want to go back 30 years in the workforce. Not really.

Dan, let me ask about the culture shift that had to happen in Cisco as well to make all of this possible, especially as the customer experience people talk to the learning people talk to the talent management people.

How do you get those groups to have similar goals and visions and buy into the program?

Dan: Yeah, initially it was an approach of here's, a high-level blueprint of what we need to develop for our employees. And so we kicked off with that. And this is just a few years ago but more recently, the conversation has shifted from this master blueprint of where everyone should be going to an approach of let's focus on each of these different—We have role communities established here at Cisco where you may have anywhere from a couple of hundred to a few thousand people that do the same job you do in the organization. And we developed these role communities to create these communities of learning and create an impact where they can connect with one another.

It's not just about emails and processing tasks and sales or any of those things. It's really about providing an opportunity to better understand what your job should look like and how you can best succeed at it. We started putting these blueprints together. We started throwing—we'll use the word trainings—these trainings, these learning opportunities, towards those different communities with the buy-in from the leaders, with the buy-in of subject matter experts to help us develop programs that were specific.

We started out very high level. Using some Degreed terminology here—Andrew mentioned you guys also use that—we developed some pathways and plans that were a little bit more generic and shared across many of our dozen or so roles that we initially rolled out. And what we heard from our community was, okay, it's good information, but it's kind of generic. Tell me how to do, tell me what I can do to develop myself, to do to push myself further in my role.

So over the next three years, each iteration, we fine-tune the content to target really put a laser point on each of those roles and their programs. You saw the visualizations of those badges.

So our Customer Success Executive is a fairly advanced role in the career, and they really have to show themselves as professionals, so it was a combination of the technical skills and the tools to do the job. But also we identified it's about some soft skill and leadership development to lead their teams of the other dozen roles that are tied in with them. And so it was an eventuality of we recognize you and your role, but we recognize there are many of you. Let's put you together to work together, to learn together, and to move forward together.

And putting your point in identifying is not just this general subscription or prescribed learning, but really something focused and refined. And the business changes in it. We go from quarter to quarter and year to year, and an entire approach may shift radically into the next year. And so we have to be able to adapt those programs and get them out there.

I would say that while some of it is prescribed learning, I think our greater vision is to have a lot more self-exploration and skill development like I've heard from Andrew’s stories at BMO.

But right now it's really about identifying the needs over the next quarter or next few quarters of what you've got to do to sort of advance in your career, not what you have to do to advance in your career, but what you have to do to do your job, and also at the same time, how to develop your career moving forward. And so to sort of wrap that all up, where we are now is we're beginning to build learner journeys where we identify in advance of each quarter, starting the learning opportunities that are available to you in your role. And we come back to the community leaders and we speak to them and we identify what those needs are, and we provide the opportunities of you all have compliance training, so sometimes that has to be a part of the experience. That's not a part of the Credly badging experience, that's just the day-to-day things we have to do at work.

But beyond those compliance trainings, what are all the learning opportunities that are timely with the rhythm of the business for this quarter and next? And how do I plan my time, again, to Andrew’s point, it's having the time to actually put aside to do it. So all the things that are more highly recommended get higher traction. We are starting to see some of those optional opportunities really get picked up by our employees.

Susan: Great. All of these credentials that you're using to recognize your employee development can be taken outside of the organization.

Do you have any insights as to whether has your entire organization embraced that idea that you could be developing someone who will take your credential and go elsewhere? Have there been challenges? How have you dealt with that side of the story?

Let's start with Dan.

Dan: First of all, our conversation was, should we be using Credly for internal badging things that are specific to being a Cisco employee in your role? And after that conversation was had, well above my pay grade, it was determined that we are here to develop the employee, period.

And from my perspective, and it's as an individual contributor, it's a little bit limited. It's sort of one of those things—t's a known variable, a known entity, if you will. But I don't think it's an issue. I think Cisco really values its employees. We have an expression. We use, “Cisco: one company with many careers.” It's part of our culture. Once you're here, we would love for you to stick with us.

We invest a lot in our employees, whether it be learning opportunities or different ways to grow and eventually become a leader, if that's the path you so choose. So it's acknowledged.

I don't think we're necessarily threatened by it because I think, a little bit of a brag, we were rated number one place to work in the world a couple of years in a row recently and I have to say that just the culture itself. If you develop a good culture that supports your employees and their career growth, it shouldn't be an issue. It shouldn't be something you worry about. And I haven't heard any murmurs from the HR side of things because we have such forward trajectory and our growth as far as employee satisfaction that it's developed a really powerful community of employees.

Susan: Great. And Andrew, how about in your organization? Has there been any pushback about the idea that you might be developing someone to leave?

Andrew: No. Similar to some of the points that Dan was making, I think one of the biggest points of pride at BMO is that we have a Corporate University called BMO IFL and creating that culture of curiosity, creating that learning agility where people want to learn something every day, is one of those foundational pieces that sort of created that physical space back in, like 1994.

So developing people, and if they do leave because that is the career goal that they need to pursue, is just the consequence of what is essentially the alternative of developing skills in people that they don't have an opportunity to use every day, in which case it just atrophies. Our ideal state is that we build skills in people and then we move them into the roles where they can use those skills and continue to thrive based on what is their passion and what their interests are.

So it was never really a, “maybe we shouldn't do this.” It’s really more of a “we have to do this—and let's make sure we're getting it right.”

Susan: Dan, you're going to love this. One of our audience members gave you a shout out—someone who received an internal promotion because of their Cisco Academy badge. Thumbs up on that.

Dan: Oh, awesome.

Susan: Yeah. So you have badges that go internal and external. How do you know what's the next great credential for you to develop for your employees?

Dan: Myself, personally? This is one of those [questions] where my colleague I'd hoped to have co-present with me was present. She could certainly run with this one.

I would say at a higher level, the strategy really happens through our workforce development team. They provide a way to identify a variety of things. I know one aspect that they're looking at is how to diversify global hiring and looking at different markets where we may not have a very diverse population of employees.

We want to make sure, as a global corporation, that we provide a face to the customer that represents wherever they may be, in many different ways. And in that identifying those gaps of: Do we have enough full-time employees to run a particular area? We work with contractors, we work with partners, and all those are different dynamics that work with one another.

Ultimately, my answer to your question is there are teams that work and focus on this. I'm just a little bit further down the line where my work is mostly on implementation and deployment, and so that's really about the best I could provide at this point.

Susan: Okay, great. Alright. I'm going to ask you to reflect just in the last two years, the world has been crazy.

How has that impacted your credential program?

And let's start with Andrew.

Andrew: That's a good question. I would say that we've found that we've had more appetite for our credential program in the last year than we had before, but I would also say that it isn't just skills-based at that level.

Broadly, when we think about how we're using credentials is both recognition and also skills-based. So it's increased. It continues in that upward trajectory, and we're starting to reach more of that critical mass where it's become something people are more familiar with seeing.

But it's still not there at that point where it is being used internally the way that we wanted to of moving talent at an accelerated rate. We still have some work to do there, but the increase in excitement over getting digital badges is where we've reached over the last year, I would say. So it becomes a point of pride, I would say. Yeah, that's the bottom line answer.

Susan: Great. I am always tickled and delighted at how having a credential be a point of pride is so universal, really. I think because we all like to be recognized for our efforts, right?

Andrew: Oh, definitely.

Susan: Dan, in the last two years, how has the world's craziness impacted your program?

Dan: I think we're at a little bit of an advantage, once we got our feet under us. Cisco was very proactive about figuring out how to get employees to work from home rapidly. We're not alone by any means—everyone's had to do that in the last two years, but a global shutdown of campuses all over created this entire shift of how—for myself, I’ve worked from home for the last ten years. But for other employees that rely on that day-to-day interaction with other coworkers face-to-face, one of the things that Cisco's focused on, and this is outside, includes the CX organization. It includes the entire company’s focus on well-being—mental, physical, whatever you might, spiritual, whatever it may be that helps you find balance in your life.

We've always done our best to try and respect the work-life balance, but when you're at home, the scales shifted suddenly. And when an executive says, “If your kid needs you during a meeting, be available to that child. You are a parent first and foremost. You are a Cisco employee secondly.” And that doesn't have anything to do with Credly or these badges but it sends a message of taking care of yourself.

It also sends a message of the availability of team off-sites, planning sessions, retreats bring in outside vendors to come in and provide skills development and training. That all went away where it became purely digital, not even hybrid at that matter.

Our approach became how do we find these opportunities for learning and present them to our employees to develop themselves, but also keep that balance because the whole workplace has changed. And so at the end of it all, Cisco's approach is really focusing more on the hybrid work model and figuring out how to find that blend, and that blend is not a formula that fits just one person: Everybody's may be just a little bit different. Ultimately, the idea behind this is you take time for yourself, you take time for your family, you take time for your career while also taking time to get your day-to-day job done.

So it's a very holistic approach around not just getting the job done and worrying about the bottom line, but if we can take care of our people and develop our people, the rest will come and so it just created an environment where exploration and learning is just a part of that conversation.

Susan: Yes, in a way it's been an awful two years and in other ways, we've seen really tremendous positive change in corporate cultures and recognizing the whole self coming to work, and that certainly is something that I anticipate will continue. I certainly hope so. So we have unpacked a lot today and I want to thank you both for sharing your journeys with the idea of skill-based talent management and what you've been doing through your credential programs for our audience. Thank you so much for being so engaged. I hope we got to the majority of your questions and look for more resources from Credly on this topic. Thank you again.