Your employees are your biggest asset. Give them the right skills, and they can thrive in the business of the future.
Your goal: build the right skills for the right roles
Your top priority is to make sure your teams keep pace with the evolution of skills required in their roles.
But there’s a second scenario where reskilling is needed: when people move between roles. Every IT organisation (in fact, every department generally) has a set of skills and roles that are in decline, and a set that are in demand. You should strive to match up, using your skills profiles, those people who are in declining roles against their most suitable open requisitions, and get them ready to make the transition to that new role where they can start adding more value to the organisation.
In the vast majority of cases, reskilling is less costly than turning to the outside market to hire a new specialist, certainly in terms of salary and recruitment fee, but also in terms of the cost of onboarding, transferring organisational tacit knowledge, and process familiarity. Your existing people may lack certain new skills and capabilities, but they likely have a lot of what you need to give you a head start.
Make every act of reskilling a step on a learning path to role development
In both of these scenarios, the principle is the same: it’s to match the skills available to those in demand, identify the gap, and bridge it. The key here is not to throw training at your engineering, development, operations and architecture teams for its own sake; every training moment should be a step on a learning path to a new role, or to a new level within their current role. You certainly don’t want to train people in new skills they have no chance to use – they’ll simply leave.
Cisco is currently piloting SFIA to allow us to bring in standardised job descriptions and skills taxonomy, creating the potential for all employees in our IT organisation to look at their particular job role, or the role they’re interested in moving to, and have a clear, precise sense of the skills they need for future development. They can see the skills they’ve got and at which level. If they’re planning to transition to a different role or even a different team within IT, we know that they’ll be talking about the skills needed in exactly the same way. Every employee can have a clear conversation with their manager and find the right development to get them where they need to go.
Use the “three Es” for effective skills development
Training is not the only way to help your talent gain new skills. At Cisco we follow the well-established ‘three E’ model, also known as the 70:20:10 framework, which emphasises learning by doing (Experience) and learning from others (Exposure) over formal learning (Education).
In the Experience part of the model, we encourage on-the-job learning in a number of ways, including departmental rotations and stretch assignments. These put an employee into a team where they’re exposed to new activities for a period of a few months — potentially even in functions outside of IT, where they can pick up a broader understanding of how the business works and learn soft skills.
Exposure to new skills is a very important tool in skills development, particularly in an organisation where new roles and talent are being injected into the team on a regular basis. As the talent mix of your organisation evolves — for example, as new graduates join, or as people switch departments — you have a huge opportunity to foster cross-pollination of skills and knowledge.
As well as the familiar mentoring and shadowing models, we use a “buddy system”, where individuals from very different backgrounds are matched to learn equally from each other. For example, in Cisco a newly-qualified network engineer learns a lot about network design and implementation from someone who has been doing that for years. Meanwhile the experienced network engineer learns about software programming from the new graduate.
At a group level, we encourage best-practice sharing from early adopters to the rest of the organisation. Identify your true pioneers and give them time to experiment. Then form working groups to share and refine best practice that can then be rolled out as training to the rest of IT. You can also make time in regular team meetings for best practice sharing, or set up a group space in your collaboration apps for people to share articles, code snippets, and other useful content they find.
Employees will become increasingly independent, but there is still a crucial role for you in creating the right environment for learning to happen. For example, carving out time in the team calendar for individual and group training activities; incentivising and rewarding training; and deploying new tools that make it easier for employees to fit training into their commutes or downtime. You can lead by example by reporting on the training you do, and by ringfencing budget for training and development.
66% of Cisco-certified professionals prefer self-paced eLearning for training5.
For more research on the future workforce, and to learn more about the different kinds of training available, check out our Training Services site.