Let’s create opportunity, together.
Last week, Guild hosted our third annual Opportunity Summit, bringing together Fortune 1000 HR leaders from the country’s most innovative companies as well as educational institutions and thought leaders to discuss today’s most pressing talent challenges — and how to build a future of work that works for everyone.
- Insight #1: Your talent strategy is your business strategy.
- Insight #2: Skilling your workforce effectively means meeting your employees where they are in life and in their career journey.
- Insight #3: Focus on culture to unlock retention and attraction.
- Insight #4: Strategic long-term talent investments yielding short term benefits is the business case for mobility your CFO needs to hear.
- Insight #5: De-siloed efforts among employers of opportunity, the right platform, and the right skilling partners scale results.
Insight #1: Your talent strategy is your business strategy.
We hear the phrase “talent crisis” a lot these days, and we heard it a LOT at this year’s Summit. A shrinking workforce and hyperfast innovation mean ever larger shortages of talent and skills — the most urgent threat organizations face.
The idea that talent strategy must be linked to business strategy was one of the most common talking points on event panels, at lunch tables, and in our executive sessions this year.
Leaders are trying. Yet despite incorporating new thinking and approaches into talent strategies, an overfocus on 1:1 job matching, inequitable policies, and a boom in low quality skilling and education programs prevent solutions from becoming scalable.
Talent attraction and retention coupled with dwindling talent pools are still core issues.
“The next crisis,” said Dean Carter, Guild’s Chief People and Purpose officer, “is a big wave. We need to prepare for that big wave now.”
“The next crisis is a big wave. We need to prepare for that big wave now.”Dean Carter, Guild’s Chief People and Purpose officer
Here’s what HR leaders are up against:
- Shrinking workforce: .3% projected rate of growth of employment in 10 years (currently, it’s 1.2%) (BLS)
- Broad disruption: 44% of workers skills will be disrupted in the next 5 years (World Economic Forum)
- Dismal outlook: 80M people now believe the American dream is out of reach for them
Building internal opportunity is the force multiplier today’s talent leaders need.
Scalable internal pipeline and workforce agility happen when organizations invest in their people and pathways to growth.
Dean Carter, Chief People Officer at Guild, laid out how chaotic moments embed an opportunity to do better during the Opportunity Summit’s opening keynote.
“Agility and resilience can help you in chaotic moments — HR people know this better than anyone.”
According to Guild research, the growing influence HR leaders are experiencing is staggering.
- 77% of HR decision-makers feel they have more influence than 3 years ago
- 80% of HR decision-makers say their budgets have increased in the last 3 years ago
- 81% of HR decision-makers believe other leaders see HR initiatives as important
Strategic mobility pathways and skilling opportunities help companies maximize internal talent while demonstrating to future employees that investing in talent is a lived value.
The right approach to reskilling and upskilling both prepares employees for mobility and builds workforce agility.
Insight #2: Skilling your workforce effectively means meeting your employees where they are in life and in their career journey.
Employers can’t stop talking about skilling, BUT employees can’t stop thinking about financial and job stability.
These two seemingly disparate inputs produce the same outcome — a more highly skilled, better compensated, workforce filling tomorrow’s roles.
It’s the semantics getting in the way of employers and employees connecting the dots.
The word "skilling" doesn't resonate with employees in the same way that it’s taken hold in the HR space.
What does resonate? Economic and career mobility — and the steps needed to get there.
The word “skilling” doesn’t resonate with employees in the same way it does with HR and business leaders. What does? Economic and career mobility.
HR leaders echoed these sentiments at the Summit, saying that they continue to look for ways to amplify their commitment to education benefits, skilling, and career mobility by broadcasting the message in “surround sound”. Just offering the benefit is not enough.
As stated in the day two workshops, HR leaders must:
- Design the career pathways
- Clear the way to career growth
- Maintain those paths to advancement through updates, public recognition of mobility efforts and goals to measure KPIs
Leaders also discussed the challenges faced with frontline populations carrying a variety of educational backgrounds and prior history with learning.
When companies take an active approach to skilling, more people can take advantage of upskilling opportunities.
“Interruption and negative experiences in education can do a lot to a person. Lack of confidence and real or perceived barriers can hold people back,” Kiera Fernandez, Executive Vice President and Chief Community Impact and Equity Officer at Target, pointed out. “Tuition-free education is a way to overcome those barriers and create opportunities where we all rise. So much starts with taking the first step and realizing what’s possible.”
This highlights the importance of designing internal mobility and skilling programs for those who face the greatest barriers to accessing new skills and career opportunities — financial barriers, occupational identity barriers, accessibility barriers… the list goes on.
When those barriers are lifted, more diverse, broader talent pools start to take advantage and the benefits to the business quickly follow.
Within two months of Charter Communications launching its Guild partnership, 35% of employees had created an account, 12% had already submitted an application, and 4% employees have already become enrolled learners.Beth Biggs, Group Vice President, Benefits & ESC, at Charter Communications
Employers of opportunity aren’t gatekeeping skills of the future — like AI.
New technologies, particularly around generative AI, have already begun to make an impact on how we live and work. Everyone is feeling pressure to upskill — not just white collar workers.
In Guild’s recent launch of over 40 new AI skilling programs into Guild’s Learning Marketplace, 15 do not require a bachelor degree — and of those, five can be taken with no prior education.
AI has enormous potential to optimize an employee’s entire career mobility journey.
Guild’s Interim CEO, Bijal Shah, shared an exciting glimpse into the future member experience in which AI-assisted technology helps employees explore the breadth of career mobility options available to them — without forgoing the human connection, guidance, and support employees expect and need.
“We have an incredible opportunity to help people adapt to a changing landscape — to bring them along and support them, while also ensuring our businesses thrive. With advancements in AI we are also at risk, as a country, of leaving people behind, especially the most marginalized.”Bijal Shah, Guild's Interim CEO
Insight #3: Focus on culture to unlock retention and attraction.
“Concepts don’t work unless they provide mutual benefit,” Johnny Taylor, President & CEO of SHRM said in his opening remarks as moderator of a session focused on building cultures of opportunity with talent leaders from The Walt Disney Company, Sam’s Club, and Bons Secours Mercy Health.
Every lasting talent win is a testament to culture. People stay when they feel seen and valued.
Leaders make the right investments when they understand the impact of building accessible mobility pathways and enacting accessible policies and support structures.
Guild’s Chief Opportunity Office, Terrence Cummings, shared what’s at stake.
“As a society we’re trained to believe that this is the ticket to employment opportunity: if you get your work done, success will follow… but that leaves out one key ingredient: luck.”Terrence Cummings, Guild’s Chief Opportunity Office
112M American workers are in frontline roles, and of them, fewer than 25% are likely to be promoted.
Cummings presented the challenge that opportunity cultures are uniquely positioned to solve: “How can we scale serendipity so people don’t have to be lucky to access opportunity?”
Cummings highlighted some key considerations for HR leaders to center on when designing and updating their education and career mobility strategies in 2024, including:
- Designing for those who face maximum barriers to learning and advancement
- Ensuring baseline support is available and accessible
- Unlocking to access to career-aligned learning opportunities
- Cultivating connections
- Paving smart mobility pathways with enough on and off-ramps that any employee can access mobility
The result? Short-term gains in critical areas of improvement as companies build agile workforces of the future.
Allan Calogne, Chief People Officer for Bon Secours Mercy Health’s core operations shared that approaching culture and mobility became apparent as an operational imperative.
“We have over one million encounters per year. Staffing facilities is a matter of life and death,” he explained, adding that since launching with Guild, Bon Secours Mercy Health saw turnover plummet, along with a significant reduction in vacancies.
Insight #4: Strategic long-term talent investments yielding short term benefits is the business case for mobility your CFO needs to hear.
In a conversation with Chief Customer Officer, Jonathan Marek, leaders in industries from hospitality, financial services, and communications shared their biggest talent challenges, and the impact they’re seeing as a result of strategic investments in workforce mobility and upskilling.
A common reason decision-makers hesitate to move on career mobility investments in a moment of economic uncertainty is concerns about a lack of near-term impact and actual data backed outcomes.
They're already spending money on programs they can’t prove are effective. The assumption is that a workforce-defining strategy takes time to bring to fruition, so that must mean the benefits will take time to be realized as well.
Here’s what they agreed were among the most impactful approaches with their CFOs and peer decision-makers:
- Data-driven recommendations: “When you talk to finance people, always go back to data. A story not supported by data will look like fluff. They want to see what it will do and how it will drive the bottom line.” —Beth Biggs, Group Vice President, Benefits & ESC, Charter Communications
- Empathy for collaborators: “Know what your CFO’s pain points are and what they are responsible for. The more you put yourself in those shoes, the better you are at understanding what they want their HR partner to come and speak with them about. Come in with a bit of a framework and a plan rather than a concept.” — Sarah King, Chief People & Diversity Officer, Darden
“Know what your CFO’s pain points are and what they are responsible for. The more you put yourself in those shoes, the better you are at understanding what they want their HR partner to come and speak with them about. Come in with a bit of a framework and a plan rather than a concept.”Sarah King, Chief People & Diversity Officer, Darden
Both of these approaches apply to other stakeholders as well. Consider their perspectives and orient your approach accordingly.
For example, where a CFO may be primarily concerned with cost, a CLO may be more concerned with structure, and a COO may be most focused on where and how often mobility outcomes are realized.
Insight #5: De-siloed efforts among employers of opportunity, the right platform, and the right skilling partners scale results.
Dr. KimArie Yowell, Chief Diversity Officer at Rocket Companies & Chief Learning Officer at Rocket Central, moderated a dynamic conversation with three Guild learning partners to illustrate what driving mobility and skilling through wraparound supports can look like through the story of an employee called Danielle:
- Choosing the right employer: Danielle obtains a position with Rocket Central as a Client Advocate. Due to life circumstances, she had been unable to pursue higher education, but learns through her manager that Rocket Central offers a fully-funded education benefit to help employees access internal mobility.
- Accessing the right support and guidance: Danielle becomes a Guild member and connects with a coach to discuss her skills, goals, and programs that align with her interest in exploring a career in technology. She decides to pursue a fully-funded Business Operations certification from Pathstream.
- Building foundational, future-ready skills: The program at Pathstream gives Danielle experience in project management — everything from operations to handling challenging stakeholder situations that can arise during a project. She learns that she particularly enjoys the technical aspects of the program.
- Expanding expertise: Again with Guild guidance, Danielle decides to pursue an associate of Applied Computing from Outlier, where she accesses courses from Golden Gate University, as well as obtains certifications from Google, Salesforce, and Meta embedded directly into the program.
- Preparing for a destination role: With new skills and greater confidence, Danielle obtains her bachelor of science degree in Computer Engineering at UMGC. Her prior certifications stack to enable her to move more quickly through the program without redundant learning — and her tuition is covered 100%.
The combination of Rocket Central’s commitment as an employer of opportunity, Guild as a workforce and skilling accelerator, and multiple learning partners’ focus on business-relevant, future-ready skills paved the way for Danielle to learn more about herself, grow her talents meaningfully, and access mobility in an area of business need.
What opportunity will be unlocked in 2024?
Opportunity Summit attendees represented a diversity of industries, each with unique challenges and areas of focus.
Yet despite differences, through the connections made and conversations we heard at this year’s summit, it was clear that the most urgent talent pain points today’s leading companies face are shared — and so are the most impactful, sustainable solutions to these problems.
The future belongs to those who scale opportunity. Employers of opportunity know that investment in their people is an investment in organizational longevity and the communities where they operate.
We are grateful to our incredible speakers for sharing their wisdom and expertise and to our attendees for their enthusiasm to build a future of work defined by opportunity accessible to all.