Salesforce, the San Francisco cloud computing company known for its widely adopted customer relationship management software, is going public with its internal online learning platform. Conceived in 2014 and launched internally in 2016, the Trailhead program has allowed numerous employees at Salesforce to develop tangible digital skills and make stark career shifts. In a recent profile by Elizabeth Woyke at the MIT Technology Review, one employee shared how he moved from recruiting to engineering after getting certified in two programming languages through the self-guided, interactive platform:
[Greg] Wasowski’s chances of making such a transition seemed unlikely—until he began spending several hours a week (in the office and on nights and weekends) on Salesforce’s online learning platform, Trailhead. Within a year, he learned two programming languages, earned certification as a Salesforce application developer, and got a job configuring Salesforce software for customers.
The occasion for this profile was Salesforce’s announcement that it will soon release a version of the platform called myTrailhead, which will allow clients to customize it to train their own employees in the specific skills they need. Trailhead, which uses micro-learning, gamification, and a system of points and virtual badges to make its short, consumable training programs engaging and effective, already contains a range of tutorials geared toward Salesforce users, including on how to master, administer, and program for the Salesforce software itself.
In addition to allowing the tech giant’s own 26,000 employees to upskill for career shifts, the platform has also allowed them to get up to speed on technology changes after coming back from leave, thus mitigating the career risks of having a child or taking other extended career breaks due to family obligations or illness. Woyke also interviews a mother at Salesforce who used the system that way:
As cybercrime targeting the valuable personal data organizations hold about their customers and employees becomes more common, HR can add value to and even lead efforts within organizations to strengthen cybersecurity and data protection, first because HR department handle a lot of private data and as such are common targets for cybercriminals, second because enhancing cybersecurity systems means recruiting valuable and often hard-to-find cybersecurity talent, and finally because effective cybersecurity depends on ensuring that employees adopt best practices regarding passwords, online communications, and the handling of sensitive digital materials.
Currently, cybersecurity is less about compliance and more about protecting against breaches, but laws around data security are moving in the direction that cybersecurity will become a compliance issue for many US employers, at least at the state level, in the years to come (European law is also evolving in this regard). New York State, for example, enacted a regulation earlier this year that will make it mandatory for banks, insurers and some other private companies to meet a set of minimum cybersecurity standards. At SHRM, Dinah Brin dives into how HR can help New York employers face this mandate starting next year:
Among other measures, the regulation requires each covered entity to establish a cybersecurity program to protect company data systems and private consumer information from hacking. Affected companies, also required to implement written cybersecurity policies, must be prepared to detect, respond to and report system breaches, and will have to conduct penetration testing and risk assessments. …
Now that every company needs a digitally adept workforce, the race to attract, hire, and retain top talent in this field is as competitive as ever. Demand for tech talent was already outpacing supply, but the problem is getting worse as companies’ talent needs are converging. In our research at CEB, now Gartner, we found that 40 percent of all job postings by S&P 100 companies were for just 21 different roles, including many technical, digital, and data jobs. (CEB Recruiting Leadership Council members can read our full study on competing for critical talent with a market-driven sourcing strategy).
LinkedIn and Capgemini recently completed a study quantifying the severity of the digital talent gap and looking at where companies are missing the mark. They found that 70 percent of US companies say the digital talent gap is widening, while 29 percent of employees believe their skill set is currently redundant or will be soon and another 38 percent believe this will be the case for them in four to five years. These findings also highlight how much more companies need to be doing to train existing employees on the digital skills needed for success in the workplace of the future. Almost half of the employees surveyed were not satisfied with their organization’s current learning and development offerings, and 43 percent said they were willing to move to another company if they felt their digital skills were stagnating.
The data suggests that companies’ development priorities are misaligned with their own future talent needs. Our learning and development research has shown that companies are often too focused on short-term skills gaps when creating development programs. In this case, digital skills may be the long-term blind spot.
A the Wall Street Journal last month, Joann Lublin examined an emerging trend of boards using a buddy system that pairs new members with more experienced mentors to help them “figure out the boardroom’s cultural norms, power brokers—and even the right place to sit.” Companies using this technique include Cisco, Foot Locker, Nasdaq, and Applied Materials, and a 2016 survey by the National Association of Corporate Directors found that 33 out of 296 US Companies with orientation programs for new directors were assigning senior members to mentor them.
This buddy system, corporate governance experts told Lublin, was “virtually unheard of” five years ago but is growing increasingly common, with one expert predicting it could be in use at 50 Fortune 500 companies by 2020.
This may be in response to recent reports on board struggles, including a survey last year finding that many directors had negative perceptions of their boards. Some of the shortcomings identified in the survey include boards not bringing in relevant talent and directors not giving each other honest feedback. Based on our research at CEB, now Gartner, we have argued that the head of HR is perfectly positioned to step in and support the board with its current talent challenges.
Dissecting the goal of the buddy system, which is to acclimate new board members, we find further reason to advocate for heads of HR to increase their involvement with the integration of new board members. In their role, CHROs are responsible for talent and culture, critical areas for a new board member who needs to become familiar with an organization quickly. And this is not going unnoticed by organizations, as nearly 30 percent of CHROs tell us they are more responsible for onboarding board members now than they were three years ago. (CEB Corporate Leadership Council members can see the full results of our 2017 CHRO survey here.)
Most of the new jobs created in the US in the wake of the Great Recession have gone to workers with college degrees, and the wage premium Americans gain from holding a bachelor’s degree rather than just a high school diploma is higher than it has been in 40 years. Partly due to the higher number of college-educated candidates on the market, a bachelor’s degree has become a baseline requirement for most middle-class jobs. The decline of good jobs for less educated and lower-skilled workers is commonly understood to be a driver of inequality and social stratification in the US today.
A new report published on Tuesday by Harvard Business School, Accenture, and Grads of Life underlines the extent to which “degree inflation”—jobs for which a college degree was once optional and is now a requirement—is compounding this problem. According to the report, 6 million American jobs are at risk of degree inflation, as employers have “defaulted to using college degrees as a proxy for a candidate’s range and depth of skills.”
Axios’ Christopher Matthews discusses the report’s implications with one of its authors:
“This phenomenon is a major driver of income inequality,” Joe Fuller of Harvard Business School tells Axios. “We’re hollowing out middle-class jobs and driving everyone to the extremes of the income spectrum.” …
On October 18–20, more than 1,000 HR leaders from around the world assembled in Washington, DC for CEB’s annual ReimagineHR conference. Below are some of the insights that emerged from the keynotes, presentations, and breakout sessions:
A series of massive data breaches at major companies, including the recent theft of over 140 million Americans’ personal data from Equifax, has put questions of cybersecurity at the front of every CEO’s mind. At the Wall Street Journal last week, Vanessa Fuhrmans noted that the threat of losing their jobs or even seeing their business destroyed was pushing more chief executives to give cybersecurity their personal attention.
Their motivations are twofold: First, the frequency of data breaches is increasing at an alarming rate, and second, CEOs are increasingly getting blamed for them. After last month’s crisis, Equifax’s board moved quickly (though some argue not quickly enough) to remove Richard Smith from the CEO role he had held for 12 years. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, for example, had her bonus for 2016 rescinded as punishment for a 2014 security breach that compromised hundreds of millions of user accounts and to which an internal investigation found her management team had not responded properly.
The bottom line, Fuhrmans hears from various chief executives, is that they can no longer afford to pass the cybersecurity buck to the IT department and hope to escape unscathed if their company’s data is eventually compromised. That means developing good cybersecurity habits themselves (given how much information is publicly available about them, CEOs are attractive targets for phishing scams), learning more about how their organizations’ security systems work, and taking on a more direct oversight role.
Here’s an area where CEOs could be leveraging their relationship with the HR department to be more proactive about solving the problem. Rather than investing more in firewalls to prevent external breaches, many organizations should also be looking inward, as employee errors account for nearly 60 percent of privacy failures. There’s a big role for HR in helping employees avoid the errors and bad habits that make cyber attacks more likely to succeed.