Capability development is a never-ending challenge.
Every organization has a combination of new hire, technical, systems and technology training, project management and professional development, and leadership development challenges. Worse, companies are always moving into new business areas that demand new skills.
For example, the auto industry has invested heavily in the skills and technical capabilities needed to build batteries and electric vehicles, software-driven interfaces and autonomous driving systems. They now compete with companies like Google and Twitter for talent.
The oil and gas industry is investing in new skills to find oil in deep sand, shale and water locations. They see 20 to 30 percent of their workforce retiring within the next five years.
As industry after industry talks about capability development in slightly different ways, one theme is clear: developing deep skills takes years.
The longer a company stays in business, the more proprietary processes, systems and tools it builds. One global oil company told my company that as a result of its proprietary processes, it takes five to seven years for a senior exploration and production engineer to become fully proficient.
In a large organization, employees have to learn how things are done, meet the people who know the ropes, occasionally fail and become familiar with the learning curve. There will be a lag between when you train people and when they become fully autonomous and proficient. Regardless of your budget, you have to develop a long-term view of organizational skills.
You have to look ahead at retirements and turnover to identify future capability gaps every year, and work with talent acquisition to make sure they see the same gaps. You have to think about learning as a series of experiences that include a culture that promotes continuous development. And if you cut spending, long-term capability development programs can’t go away.
HCL Technologies, a $4.8 billion IT consulting firm, developed a capability supply chain. The company grew at a 19 percent compound rate during the past three years despite the recession and tough competition. It competes heavily for technical talent and must stay current on new tools, mobile and Web technologies, Internet security and other fast-changing areas.
To make sure its people are current and always enhancing their technical skills, HCL launched its Technical Academy for Competency Enhancement.
TechACE is designed to build technical, project management and professional skills through a series of online learning, classroom, facilitated on-the-job experiences and mentoring. Employees are also certified in major functional areas.
Part of this continuous development process is a series of technical certifications developed and launched by a panel of subject-matter experts, virtual online labs to simulate real technical environments, thousands of online courses and more than 1,200 technical trainers covering 1,300 knowledge areas, coaching for post-training follow up and a series of online communities.
Rather than rely on lots of external training providers, HCL delivers 90 percent of its programs internally, and in the first few years has proven that employees who finish the certification programs are 81 percent more billable than their peers. Employee retention, satisfaction and recruiting are directly tied to this new program.
This type of integrated program took HCL years to build and is not inexpensive. The company invests millions in the people, infrastructure and content it needs to keep the program going and increased investment even during the recession. But by building this long-term supply chain of skills, HCL can stay ahead and grow its business in new technology areas every year.
Think about your learning function. Are you taking a long-term view? Can you improve time to proficiency for big roles in the company? Do you track and certify people over time? Have you built a blended, integrated learning program that leverages online, social, coaching and formal training?
As the economy grows, companies will compete vigorously for skills. If you aren’t taking a supply chain view of capabilities, you will fall behind.
Josh Bersin is founder of Bersin, now known as Bersin by Deloitte, and a principal with Deloitte Consulting. He can be reached at editor@CLOmedia.com.