Training for jobs that don’t yet exist: the AT&T story

|

Let’s turn that common lament we hear of a “talent shortage” on its head. What if you created a pipeline of talent that fit the needs of your business as it is growing and changing? While at the Infosys Confluence event recently, I heard about how AT&T has been taking steps for the last two years to create the very workforce it needs to achieve its vision.

 

First, determine what skills and capabilities your workforce will need in the future

“Based on industry and corporate direction, we chose six areas, including big data, IP networking, and software-defined networking, that we specifically want to attack as the skills of the future,” shared Candy Conway, VP, Global Managed Services Operations, Business Solutions and International at AT&T.

AT&T defined a set of roles that map to these areas, determined the associated competencies, and evaluated employees against the future landscape. They identified over 100,000 employees who will need to have a different or a more varied or developed set of competencies than they have today. “We then developed a roadmap and plan for getting these professionals into a relevant and meaningful career path that maps to the future of the company and the industry,” said Candy.

AT&T is a little over two years into this program. At this point, each employee has a prescriptive program managed through a learning portal – it identifies the role they are in currently, the one they target the future, the associated competencies for each role and the learning and education path to get there. For example, an employee could be in the network center and want to be a software engineer, and has a learning path mapped out.

The nuances of the skill areas also change quickly. “It used to be that skills would change a decade at a time, and that’s now accelerated,” said Candy. AT&T designed a program that would offer a number of options and flexibility – from internal designed and led courses, to “nano-degrees” in niche areas like web development and virtual reality to online master’s degrees from Georgia Tech and social-media based programs with badges (157,000 options) awarded as people complete courses. 

Investing in future skills is of value to the employee and the company

This plan is mapped to what roles that AT&T believes it needs to have in the future…. so employees can look for open roles and bid on the ones they want to fill. There are no guarantees that these roles will be filled by employees desiring them at AT&T, but the program still provides an advantage to the employee since AT&T is defining these roles (such as data scientist) with a forward-looking view, and therefore helping employees develop these competitive and marketable skills. Certainly, having invested in the person’s training, AT&T has an interest in keeping these people in-house and this is a way of creating loyalty, stickiness and a workforce of the future.

This kind of investment can help a company attract and keep the “best and brightest” with the most potential for helping grow a company. Individuals who feel a company cares enough to invest in their talent development, keep their skills relevant (and competitive), and give them options in a career are more likely to stay with that company.  AT&T also will have skills relevant to the future – the future workforce – without having to go out and ‘find them’. 

The bottom-line: Become a learning organization in order to be relevant to your customer base, stay competitive, and grow.

Take a look at the vision for your company. What do you want to be able to deliver to your customers? What experience do you want to create for them? What outcomes matter over time? Determine what roles and competencies, and what training, education, and mentoring will develop your workforce to achieve it.

Businesses need to be increasingly agile to address the rapid changes driven by consumer expectations and digital technologies. That means employees also need to be agile – and managed in a way that encourages and rewards-based learning.  The market is increasingly competitive for candidates who have future-oriented “soft skills” like critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity, and the ability and interest in learning. This program provides a model for how a well-established, “legacy” brand can embrace a  learning culture to enable an agile workforce relevant for competitively positioning the company for growth long-term.

Posted in : Talent and Workforce

Comment1

1 comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

  1. Excellent Case you brought barbara, thanks!
    The AT&T training for the future jobs program should be copied by other companies if they want to survive in these fast-changing times.