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How to Build Diversity Within Your Tech Team

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On March 5, 2020, General Assembly publicly launched CODE for Good, an enterprise training coalition that reskills existing non-tech women and underrepresented groups into software engineers to improve diversity in the field. A lot has changed since early March, but our passions and initiatives remain stronger than ever. 

We launched CODE for Good as a way to make progress against these critical issues:

  • By 2028 there will be 4 million CS-related roles in the U.S. and only 19% of CS (Computer Science) grads to fill them.  
  • By 2030, roughly 14% of the global workforce will need to change or upgrade occupational categories, as digitization, automation, and advances in AI will disrupt the world of work.
  • Gender diversity in tech needs to improve. According to NCWIT, there are only 26% of women in computing-related roles with only 7% Asian women, 3% Black women, and 2% Hispanic women.
  • In the U.S., where many in our GA community are located, there is a long history of violence and harassment against People of Color. Discrimination is especially visible in the tech industry, where Black and Hispanic talent are underrepresented and face wage gaps versus their white peers.

Since CODE for Good launched, the coronavirus recession has hit Black Americans particularly hard, amplifying racial inequalities. As a global community, we should all be angry about the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, the harassment of Christian Cooper, and the many unnamed others who have been harassed, exploited, violated, and killed due to their race.

Meanwhile, digital acceleration spurred by COVID-19 is forcing leaders to prepare for automation and think about the immediate need to future-proof their teams.  According to insights from McKinsey, “Now is the time for companies to double down on their learning budgets and commit to reskilling… Building your reskilling muscle now is the first step to ensuring that your organization’s recovery business model is a success.”  

Savvy enterprise partners like CODE for Good launch partners, Guardian and Humana, are admirable examples of investing in the diversity of teams at this critical time while facing digital acceleration head-on. 

CODE for Good class, General Assembly and Instructor Team, and Guardian and Humana executive stakeholders.

The first-ever CODE for Good cohort kicked off a 3-month live online Software Engineering Immersive cohort on May 4, 2020. The students come from roles like Helpdesk Technician, Learning Coordinator, License Associate, and more at Guardian and Humana, and will have new jobs as software engineers at the end of the program. This incredible cohort showcases the diversity we can bring to the tech industry – it is 60% female, 50% BIPOC, and includes veterans, parents, and individuals who identify as LGBTQ.

As a company, we have learned three substantial things from this partnership and others, such as Adobe Digital Academy, Disney’s CODE Rosie, and Capital One Developer Academy (CODA): 

  1. Scale: Many companies want to champion a reskilling initiative, but it’s challenging to take an entire cohort (20–25 people) of existing employees out of their full-time jobs for three months, hold their current roles, and successfully place them all at the same time into a technology team (after the three-month Immersive course). 
  2. Target Audience: There is a massive need to reskill across all geographies, and this type of program is especially impactful with a diversity lens focused on creating opportunities for women and underrepresented groups.
  3. Price: While the value proposition and ROI are clear, it’s hard to fund a full $400K cohort without testing with a subset of employees in a shared cohort first.

Solution: GA’s CODE for Good, the first-ever multi-enterprise live online cohort.

These learnings prompted a lot of thoughts and dialogue at GA. For example, What if we make it easier for companies to hit their business and diversity goals by only committing to reskilling five existing employees at a time, focusing on women and underrepresented groups?  What if we made it even easier, and rolled it out as a live-online, multi-enterprise Immersive course (that’s pandemic-proof)? Finally, how easy would it be to commit only $100K for five spots per enterprise partner to reasonably scale while testing the model? 

These ideas came to life with CODE for Good, and we already see positive results just halfway through the first cohort. Mid-course surveys show a perfect NPS score of 100, and both students and instructors feel the impact.

Let’s dream big.

The sky truly is the limit. We’d like to see CODE for Good gain momentum and expand across companies, industries, geographies, and more, as we’re confident the results will speak for themselves. We’re excited to see graduates champion this program within their organizations and beyond.  

We’d love to hear from all of you directly if improving diversity in the tech industry is something that you believe in and that you’re championing.  Who wants to be part of the next U.S. launches or become a launch partner for CODE for Good Europe?   


We couldn’t have launched this program without the support of many people who helped make it happen. Here are some personal notes of “Thank You!”:

A huge thank you to the entire Guardian team for being a first-mover on this concept and pushing me to lock in the other partners to get this concept off the ground in 2020.  Another big thanks to the entire team at Humana for getting GA to a unanimous, ‘YES, let’s do this!’ 

I’m also grateful to Joyce Russell, President of The Adecco US Foundation, for submitting me to attend Fortune’s Most Powerful Women NextGen event in December ‘19, where Ellen McGirt, Senior Editor at Fortune Magazine, handed me the microphone to pitch CODE for Good in front of 200 female executives. I was thrilled to meet the Union Pacific Railroad team there, and their five employees will be reskilled as part of the next cohort!

Thank you to my kids, Jake (6) and Sophia (3), for crashing all of my Zoom calls to tell my colleagues and my clients that they both want to be engineers when they grow up. Finally, thank you to my husband for teaching me and my kids more about technology as an engineer himself.


Ali Levitan is the Head of Global Strategic Business Development & Innovation at General Assembly.


Since 2011, General Assembly has trained individuals and teams online and on-campus through experiential education in the fields of technology, data, marketing, design, and product. Learn more about how we can transform your talent and our solutions to upskill and reskill tech teams across the globe.

Filling the Gap Between Learning & Engagement

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The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a rapid and forced transformation of many businesses. Plans that companies previously anticipated rolling out over many years have been decided and implemented in weeks.  

Amid this rapid change where many are scrambling to adapt, leaders should ask themselves what other “five-year plans” should fastrack to keep pace with these critical business plans. One of the plans that companies should evaluate is talent development: how can businesses develop strategic plans to meet the needs of their rapidly evolving businesses?   

Creating talent development work isn’t as easy as providing online learning to employees. Our Marketing Standards board members met recently and uncovered an unexpected commonality. While all of them are making learning available to their employees, the primary area for improvement on their employee engagement surveys continues to be upskilling. This revelation brought on a layered conversation about the common challenges employers face when it comes to engaging employees in training and development — especially when these pieces of training are online. So, what’s causing the disconnect between desire and action on upskilling employees, and most importantly, what can leaders do about it?   

Understanding the Disconnect

Upskilling is urgent for employers — especially for newer professionals who aren’t going to be satisfied in their jobs if there are no learning (or advancement) opportunities. Employees don’t merely want a job; they want to work for companies they can learn from and grow within; employees wish to build careers.  

In a Deloitte survey, 90% of employees said their organizations were redesigning jobs. The World Economic Forum reported that more than half of all its employees would require reskilling or upskilling to address the digital skills gaps driven by changing job requirements over the next three years.  

For many reasons like these, our board members agree that it’s an employer’s responsibility to make learning available and an integrated part of the employee experience.  

So, what’s getting in the way of learning — from the employee perspective?  

Two big factors are time and incentive. Many employees feel like there’s not enough time during the workday to take the training accessible to them. Others don’t prioritize upskilling because although they want new and updated skills, there is no extrinsic motivator for learning them. One of the clearest opportunities for extrinsic motivation often isn’t clearly connected to training: it’s the idea that training and skills are requisite expectations for the job or performance. The right jobs motivate all of us.  

Possible Solutions

Providing employees with upskilling opportunities signals to them that they are valued and that they have a future within their workplace organization. However, offering a training program isn’t enough — the implementation of these programs must be intentional, structured, and relevant. During our conversation, board members came up with tips that can help companies foster a learning-positive workplace. These tips include:  

1. Partner With Leadership to Allocate Time During the Workday

Big roadblocks employees face: blocking time to make learning important and creating company-wide time blocks, like “No Meetings Fridays,” to provide designated time for employee upskilling. Making these time blocks company-wide is critical. If some teams aren’t participating in it, they’ll throw a meeting on the calendar that conflicts with the learning time. At that point, you’ve lost the consistent open time and original initiative purpose you’re trying to create for your team.   

2. Extrinsic Incentives: Compelling Rewards

Extrinsic incentives are tangible motivators that can encourage employees to take an upskilling training course. Offering incentives gives employees a clear prize at the end of their experience, plus an added incentive to complete learning by a particular due date. This specific incentive is a nice touch from board member Gretchen Saegh (CMO of L’Oréal USA), who plans on rewarding “the best re-scorer” of the CM1 assessment with being “CMO for the day.” These empowering incentives give employees a sense of purpose, a structured career path, and long-term vision, giving them valuable real-world experiences and advice that can be difficult to get elsewhere.  

Extrinsic Incentives: Executive Messaging on Expectations

Source: https://learning.linkedin.com/resources/workplace-learning-report

When employees see their managers endorsing upskilling, and also see the executive team pushing for the same thing, it speaks volumes about the value of upskilling within that organization and the expectations around completing tasks and initiatives surrounding it. The bottom line is that upskilling gains immediate credibility when employees see it supported by leadership. A message from the CEO and executive team is imperative when it comes to setting the tone for a company, as a message from “the top” can have a ripple effect throughout the organization.   

Getting employees to translate the desire-to-action key values of online learning is particularly pertinent as more employers look for efficient and effective ways to train their employees remotely via online training providers. It’s a new world, and there’s no magic bullet, hidden secrets, and there are certainly no shortcuts. The right online training is thoughtful and methodical: it considers human behavior, personal motivations, and leadership alignment + support to get online training to occur and resonate for employees — from entry-level positions to the C-suite.  

Finally, there’s the process of trial and error. Although initiatives often start with the strongest and best of intentions, the most successful training results adapt and fluctuate over time. No plan is flawless right out of the gate — however well-planned or well-intended.  

Learning is always a journey.

To learn more about how General Assembly can help guide your company’s talent transformation, check out our enterprise marketing solutions.

Skills Needed For Marketing

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Building Marketing Leaders of The Future

Looking inside of a new roadmap of core skills to drive vision and leadership in the industry to see what it takes to be a leader in marketing?

This ideal skill set has changed dramatically in recent years as the responsibilities and experience of today’s marketers have expanded in scope. While strengths that used to set marketers apart — like crafting a powerful brand voice and a brilliant go-to-market strategy — are still more important than ever, leaders today need to be savvier with marketing technology, data fluent, and measurement focused. They must be equipped to decide which systems power their strategies, connect the customer experience across an array of channels, and address new innovations such as virtual reality and artificial intelligence. They are also accountable for demonstrating and optimizing ROI. 

As marketing’s purview has widened, we’ve seen individual roles become increasingly narrow and specialized, creating silos of digital capability. Budding marketers often focus on technical skills around a specific set of digital tools such as Optimizely and AdWords that translate to growing sub-fields, including conversion rate optimization and SEO/SEM. 

The problem with this approach is that by focusing on a limited set of tactical skills rather than the broader goals those skills help achieve, marketers risk losing visibility into how brands grow. They also lose the ability to solve complex problems that span beyond their immediate domain. 

This creates several human capital challenges: 

  1. Lack of leadership development: A narrow skill set is not suited to leadership roles in marketing, which increasingly require synthesis across social channels and touchpoints.
  2. Lack of career guidance: To grow beyond narrow domains, marketers need clear guidance on what skills and industry experience they should develop and what career options become available as a result.
  3. Lack of clarity in hiring: Without clarity around the essential marketing skills or how to assess for them, recruiters can only guess at who might be a high-potential candidate. And without clear expectations, new hires are not set up for marketing success. 

To better prepare the next generation of marketers, leaders across the industry urgently need to come together to explain the broad skill set needed for marketing success in the field today. As a wide-ranging set of good marketing leaders across the consumer goods, technology, publishing, and education sectors, we formed the Marketing Standards Board to channel our collective experience toward this purpose. With the goal of defining excellence in the field and providing transparency into marketing careers, we’ve crafted a framework that will help provide this clarity for individuals, teams, and business partners. 

What Makes a Marketer?

Marketing is comprised of four major functions, each with a distinct goal:

  1. Brand: Define and communicate brand purpose, value, and experience.
    • Brand marketers are responsible for brand strategy, brand communications, and working across the organization to create a holistic customer experience.
    • Sample job titles: VP of global brand, director of integrated marketing, brand manager
  2. Acquisition: Win new customers for your products and services.
    • Acquisition marketers are responsible for acquiring customers within a given budget. They run campaigns and think strategically to improve performance.
    • Sample job titles: Director of search engine marketing, lead generation specialist
  3. Retention and Loyalty: Retain customers and expand share of wallet.
    • Retention and loyalty marketers are responsible for engaging customers. They deeply understand consumer behavior and work to maximize customer lifetime value.
    • Sample job titles: Manager of CRM, director of brand activation
  4. Analytics and Insights: Get business insights and drive ROI using data.
    • Marketing analysts are responsible for analyzing increasingly large volumes of data to derive insight that informs business decisions.
    • Sample job titles: Marketing analytics manager, data scientist — marketing.

These four functions are common threads of marketing success, and they frame goals that haven’t changed over time. They were true when TV, print, and radio were the dominant media, remain true today with the prominence of web and mobile, and will remain true for whatever media and products come next. Although the execution required to achieve these goals has changed due to new tools and technology, the underlying purpose provides a stable frame of reference to understand and explain our profession.

Experienced marketers will often prioritize the skills needed for their role spread across more than one of these functions, given that a single role is often accountable for multiple goals that require a blend of skills.

A Career Framework for Marketing

With the four functions of marketing in mind, we have drafted a framework that captures our collective thinking about the career paths and associated skills required in marketing today.

Let’s break down each section of the framework and how we see it being used to guide career progression.

Level 1: Foundation

To begin a career in marketing, individuals need the bundle of skills in Level 1, from understanding customer insight to marketing technology. These skills allow them to be valuable early-career professionals, and are essential irrespective of company type, stage, and industry. From an HR perspective, Level 1 encompasses the set of required skills for most entry-level and early-career marketing candidates. They are the building blocks of marketing success that are needed and can be assessed for, regardless of one’s future career path.

Level 2: Application (Mid-Level)

Level 2 is for mid-career professionals and includes the four key functions we identified above. After demonstrating strong fundamentals from Level 1, most marketers will find that their career paths grow into a mix of Level 2 applications. Not all mid-career professionals need or desire expertise in all four areas — many will find their talents best suited in one or two. However, awareness of the full spectrum can identify strengths on which to double down and gaps that may lead a marketer to seek more support from others on their team.

For example, there are brand managers who are incredible at building out brand identity and communicating the value to consumers. They are clearly Level 2 marketers specializing in brand, even though they use acquisition and retention strategies to execute on their objectives. Similarly, there are search engine marketing managers (Level 2 marketers in acquisition) who are tremendously effective at finding new customers, and CRM managers (Level 2 marketers in retention) who specialize in engaging and delighting existing customers. Finally, new roles have emerged that are as much data professional as marketer, and as such we see Level 2 marketers in analytics.

It’s our job as leaders to guide team members toward Level 2 applications based on talent and interest, and define with our HR colleagues which (and how many) Level 2 skills are needed in each role, at each stage of seniority. Skills across these Level 2 applications, paired with strong vision and judgement, will prepare individuals to become marketing leaders.

Level 3: Leadership (Senior Role/Management)

For team members who seek leadership roles, Level 3 contains the bundle of additional skills needed to be successful marketing directors, vice presidents, senior vice presidents, and, ultimately, chief marketing officers. While having Level 3 skills does not make a leader, a leader typically possesses all of the Level 3 skills. At the leadership level, overall domain expertise and verbal communication skills becomes as important as setting the vision and strategy for the marketing team. Because these roles require problem-solving across the specialties of marketing, from customer experience to tech and data, successful Level 3s have often covered more than one Level 2 during their careers.

Next Steps: Putting Words Into Action

We formed the Marketing Standards Board six months ago to provide clarity into marketing careers for individuals, teams, and business partners. Our career framework is a first step toward achieving this goal, but it’s only effective if followed by action.

Our goal is for this career framework to be a valuable tool for:

  • Aspiring marketers who want to understand what skills they need to enter the field.
  • Mid-career professionals who want to understand their career options.
  • Marketing leaders who want to build capable, well-balanced teams.
  • HR leaders who want to build transparent, consistent career pathways.

To put this theory into action, we are going to use this framework within our organizations to:

  1. Explain career progression and roles across our teams. We’ll use the framework to guide development conversations by linking individual marketing activities to strategic objectives on our marketing teams.
  2. Guide high-potential employees on how to round out their skills. Point to individual strengths and gaps in Level 2 applications and Level 3 skills to support conversations with team members who show potential to take their career to the next level.
  3. Evaluate job candidates based on the function for which they are applying. Use one or more assessments to define and validate skills needed in open positions.

If you could benefit from these same actions, we encourage you to join us in using the framework for similar purposes in your own organizations. Our industry needs to use a common language around marketing, and that language extends beyond our board. 

In parallel, we’re seeking feedback from our colleagues and friends to refine this framework. We’re starting with partners in our executive teams, industry associations, and peers around the world. We’re also asking you. If you have feedback on how this could be useful for you, let us know at credentials@ga.co

By coalescing on what it takes to succeed in marketing businesses, we can begin to examine some of the big talent strengths and weaknesses in the profession and better prepare the next generation of successful marketing leaders. We analyzed 20K+ Certified Marketer Level 1 assessment results; download The State of Skills: Marketing 2020 report to find out what we discovered.

How is The Workforce Changing?

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Putting The Future of Work In a Global Context

Six countries’ skill-building programs and policy initiatives in the age of automation.

Today’s workforce and the workforce of tomorrow is not just changing. It’s undergoing a seismic shift that, according to the McKinsey Global Institute, “is happening ten times faster and at 300 times the scale, or roughly 3,000 times the impact” compared to the Industrial Revolution.

The reality is that professionals grapple with a volatile economy where the shelf-life of skills is shrinking, hybrid jobs are increasing, and fears about automation’s disruptive impact on the job market make headlines every week. In the U.S., despite surging stocks and historic GDP growth, people’s incomes and wages haven’t kept up and income inequality continues to accelerate.

Around the globe, governments and employers alike recognize that areas such as AI and automation are quickly reshaping the global workforce. And the gap between the skills workers have and the skills companies need is growing wider as workers struggle to keep pace with emerging technologies in fast-growing industries.

In my role at General Assembly, I get the opportunity to speak with U.S. policymakers and analysts who grapple with employment and workforce development issues, and formulate solutions to ensure Americans can succeed in the new world of work. In these conversations, examples of education and workforce investment models spearheaded in other cities and countries often come up, and how we might repurpose them. Global training providers like GA are also partnering with organizations to craft upskilling and reskilling programs that arm professionals with cutting-edge skills, and also generate creative sources for talent in an increasingly competitive market.

We know technology is rapidly changing and transforming the global workforce. What’s less clear is how this transformation will take place — and what policymakers, learning and development providers, and business leaders should be doing to prepare for the future in the labor force.

Navigating the Future of Work Through a Global Lens

In our new white paper, which we developed in collaboration with Whiteboard Advisors and features a foreword from former Acting U.S. Secretary of Labor Seth Harris, we uncover a lot of useful insights about how the U.S. and other industrialized nations are navigating these employment and workforce issues. Our study examines the experience and policy initiatives of six countries — Australia, Denmark, France, Germany, Singapore, and Switzerland — and their strategies to improve upskilling, economic mobility, and employability in an evolving, and, at times, turbulent marketplace.

While the U.S. economy and labor market have unique characteristics with a diverse workforce, we discovered there are lessons to be learned from other developed economies pursuing workforce development programs and initiatives.

For example, we examine Australia’s Vocational Education and Training (VET) program, which provides government support toward helping people pursue non-college skills training. Or, consider Germany’s Dual Training System, where companies partner with publicly-funded vocational schools to provide job training.

As American politicians, educators, and business leaders, we must ask ourselves: How can the startling impact of these innovative approaches be applied within a U.S. context and environment? It’s a question industry stakeholders and experts have posed to the General Assembly with increased frequency since we were acquired by The Adecco Group in April 2018. As the largest human capital solutions company in the world, The Adecco Group is an active participant in the highly successful Swiss apprenticeship model, a government-led initiative that provides young Swiss professionals paid apprenticeships designed in partnership with Swiss companies, and that’s recognized around the world as a paradigm for work-based learning.

Putting the Future of Work in a Global Context offers a high-level analysis of these and other examples of skill- and employability-building initiatives in industrialized nations, as well as a few observations:

  • Nobody has it figured out. Even when there are highly sophisticated programs in place that combine the best of the public, private, and social sectors, these programs haven’t always had the desired impact. For example, France’s Personal Training Account (“Compte personnel de formation” or the CPF) enables private and public sector employees to track work hours, which turn into credits for vocational and professional training schemes. On paper, access to training dollars with no strings attached seems like a surefire way to ensure French citizens can consistently upskill and reskill. However, just 6% of French workers took advantage of the training, despite the reality that 64% of that population would like to retrain in different fields or career paths.
  • Exportability is great in theory but tough in practice. Most of these programs are inextricably linked to the highly specific dynamics among labor market actors — companies, unions, and education and training providers — within each country, making it hard to replicate the best ideas elsewhere. Denmark’s “Flexicurity” model has some incredibly compelling features. Workers have greater security through generous government-funded unemployment benefits and education, retraining, and job training opportunities that help them return quickly to the labor market after they lose a job. Employers also win thanks to flexible contracts that allow them to hire and fire at will without incurring excessive costs for dismissing employees. As a result, litigation due to dismissals is rare. It would be difficult to imagine this program functioning in a large, heterogeneous country like the United States, which lacks the same tight alignment between government, employers, and trade unions.
  • There are still many good ideas worth exploring further. That’s not to say there isn’t massive potential in these models, which can inform U.S. domestic education and workforce policy. Given the breadth and variety of American industry, it would be hard to imagine the level of coordination and cohesion, which has made the Vocational and Professional Education and Training System (VPET) such a success story in Switzerland, working stateside. With that said, many of the guiding principles — stackable credentials, designated learning pathways, and funded apprenticeships — could be replicated in the U.S. It’s already happening: the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce, along with Accenture, delivered an in-depth report in 2017 that demonstrated how various Swiss companies have adapted the VET program, some for more than 10 years, for their U.S. operations.

Today’s increasingly global workplace demands a more nuanced, comprehensive understanding of the different ways governments and industries are addressing and responding to economic mega trends. Our hope is that this paper can begin a conversation about the lessons, ideas, and insights that other countries have to share with U.S. policymakers, employers, and practitioners on how to respond to and anticipate the future of work and education.

8 Unconventional Ways to Discover Great Tech Talent

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The following is an excerpt from 6 People Strategies for Successful Digital Transformation, an exclusive white paper from General Assembly. Download the full paper here.

Companies of all sizes are constantly struggling to find and retain talent that can stay ahead of emerging technologies, and use them to drive business innovation and success. Discovering people who excel in fields like digital marketingdataweb development, and more involves going beyond posting a job description online and letting the candidates come to you. Organizations need to be proactive and creative when it comes to hiring and cultivating great teams. This means looking both within and outside of your company’s walls for inspiration, capabilities, and assets.

Below, we’ve outlined several strategies for leveraging the talent you already have, plus offer off-the-beaten-path places to seek out emerging leaders.

Leveraging Talent Within Your Organization

Bolstering rising talent within your organization not only helps motivated individuals get ahead. It also presents opportunities to empower industry veterans who may be behind on tech skills, which is a win for everyone.

In analyzing data from 10,000 individuals who took GA’s entry-level digital marketing skills assessment, Digital Marketing Level 1 (DM1), we learned that top digital marketing talent can lie in fields outside the marketing function. (Read more about this in our report, The State of Skills: Digital Marketing 2018.) Being able to look beyond people who hold the job titles you’re looking to fill opens up a whole world of potential candidates. Company leaders can also equip HR teams and recruiters with the skills they need to attract exciting candidates.

1. Embrace reverse mentoring.

Bureaucracy, structure, and rigid culture can often mean that some of the freshest ideas rarely make it to an executive’s desk. When done right, reverse mentoring programs, wherein high-potential junior talent exposes more experienced managers to new ideas, technologies, and ways of working, are an effective way to skip levels, break down silos, and enable fresh ideas to permeate the organization.

This strategy was effective at Procter & Gamble Co., says the company’s former Group President Deb Henretta. “While running P&G Asia, we designed and executed a technology reverse-mentoring program,” she says. “Each leader on my Asia Leadership team had a millennial tech mentor who they met with on a regular basis. In these meetings, leadership could learn about what’s new in the digital space, experiment online, and get answers to all the ‘silly questions’ leaders may otherwise hesitate to ask. My wonderful tech mentor helped take me from ‘near dinosaur’ to ‘near diva’ in the digital space. He made it safe, fun, and insightful to learn.”

2. Offer accelerated promotions.

Similar to reverse mentoring, accelerated promotions can help bring new perspective and capabilities to leadership teams. While heading up the Asia region at P&G, Henretta decided her group needed to become more technologically adept.

“I needed to augment my leadership team with someone who was both skilled and knowledgeable in the digital and eCommerce space but also business savvy,” she says. “I found that person in a young mid-level level leader who was significantly younger and less experienced than the president- and VP-level folks on my Asia leadership team. When I said I wanted to bring this individual on, I got significant pushback by nearly all of my team — category heads, country heads, and function heads. And yet, this may have been the single most important decision I made to advance our team knowledge and capability, which was a key driver in our Asia business acceleration.”

3. Train your recruiters.

Traditional recruiting teams often lack the vocabulary, understanding, and networks to attract qualified candidates with the right tech and business skills. It’s important to train your recruiting team in the structures, motivations, backgrounds, and ways of assessing talent. General Assembly offers a number of online foundational lessons and in-person workshops to help HR teams understand the basics of concepts and practices such as codinguser experience design, and data science.

“As the primary points of contact for new hires, recruiters have significant influence on a candidate’s perception and experience of your company and the role for which they’re applying,” says Kathryn Minshew, CEO and Founder of The Muse, a leading career development platform. “Particularly for emerging roles in the digital space, recruiters could benefit from focused training and development to ensure they’re representing the role in an exciting and accurate way.”

4. Create projects that tech experts will love.

Faced with the option of joining a young startup or an established behemoth, most emerging talent will opt for the former — the chance to work on something truly novel, coupled with the appeal of flexibility, innovative benefits, and open work plans is hard to ignore, particularly as well-funded startups are often able to match or even exceed salary offers from larger companies. Large companies should consider establishing separate digital units, free from some of the structure and restrictions of the overall entity, to attract top talent and incubate new products and ideas.

Finding Talent Outside Your Organization

Go beyond applicants from traditional job postings to find emerging talent in fields like web development, data, design, and digital marketing. Seek out future tech leaders — many of them digital natives, those who work at companies born in the digital age — through programs like hackathons, startup accelerators, and more.

1. Get involved with startup accelerators.

Accelerator programs like Founders Factory, Startup Bootcamp, and others are excellent sources of motivated and creative young talent with a wide range of skills. Relatively small financial contributions in the form of investments, sponsorships, and corporate memberships can afford large companies access to this talent for projects, early investment opportunities, and inspiration.

2. Have students tackle projects in your organization.

General Assembly’s full-time Immersive courses regularly partner with companies large and small to build and deploy custom projects that students work on during their time on campus as part of the course curriculum. These projects save companies an estimated $20,000 per project in free design, tech, and data resources, while also being valuable practical learning experiences for our students.

3. Sponsor hackathons.

Pioneered by tech companies only a few years ago, these all-night coding sessions (sometimes scaled down to one-day experiences) can help rapidly generate solutions to thorny business problems and innovations. Corporate sponsors are often able to shape the nature of the competition, with the benefit that dozens of innovative minds are intensively focused on fresh solutions to the company’s problems.

4. Actively consider acquisitions.

Brand and product acquisitions have always been an active element of portfolio-building in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) world. But with the growing number of new consumer products players and the increasing speed of digital transformations, there have been many more such purchases in both the CPG and retail world.

One significant example is Unilever’s acquisition of Dollar Shave Club for $1 billion. Though Dollar Shave Club was not making a profit at the time of its purchase, its benefit to Unilever can be significant and multifold. The company represents lessons in branding, distribution, and, of course, an accelerated entry into a category dominated by just two rivals — the irreverent but highly authentic ads that went viral on YouTube are a particular manifestation of why this brand become so valuable so quickly.

Searching for the technologically equipped individuals who will evolve your business can feel discouraging. But if you’re smart and strategic, there are countless ways to find talented team members and leaders, both outside your company’s walls and within your organization. Get creative in your search, and strengthen your teams and business.

Motivate teams and galvanize leaders.

In 6 People Strategies for Successful Digital Transformation, discover the clear habits, practices, and investments that drive success.

Get the White Paper

Eric Ries on 5 Lessons Companies Can Learn From Startups

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Since the Great Recession in 2008, startups have become a major force in society. Today’s entrepreneurial culture — with lower financial barriers to launching a business and people’s increasing desire for flexibility, freedom, and purpose in their work — has bred a whole generation of young companies that have quickly scaled and revolutionized a wide range of industries. A number of those companies, like Airbnb and Uber, have achieved explosive growth and evolved into bonafide conglomerates in recent years.

Meanwhile, older organizations looking to remain relevant and thrive are striving to figure out the practices that allow these startups to excel — and how their corporations can adopt them in order to catch up.

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How to Cultivate Top Tech Talent: What Every Exec Needs to Know

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Hiring Strategy Digital Skills Training

Our recommendation is simple: Companies need to invest in learning.

The following is an excerpt from 6 People Strategies for Successful Digital Transformation, an exclusive white paper from General Assembly. Download the full paper here.

The digital landscape is evolving at a rapid pace, and it’s essential for companies to harness wide-ranging technical expertise in order to stay ahead. Today’s marketers must be able to analyze massive amounts of data, IT workers must be able to design compelling mobile app experiences, and a “product” is no longer only a physical object but could be a website, a piece of content, or even a training curriculum.

General Assembly’s recommendation for keeping up is simple: Companies need to invest in learning. The Economist magazine recently issued a special report that highlighted the importance of “lifelong learning” as a habit that both skilled and unskilled workers must incorporate to keep pace with a rapidly developing economy. They profiled GA’s approach to tech education — including upskilling promising individuals and reskilling those with outdated competencies in data, web development, and design — as an effective way to ensure employees’ skills were kept up to date.

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9 Ways to Develop Talent for Tomorrow’s Economy

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Policy Ideas Skills Gap

Create opportunities for employers and job-seekers alike with these proposed policies to help close chronic skills gaps.

A tightening labor market, persistent skills gaps (in fields from manufacturing to technology), and the short shelf life of skills in the rapidly changing digital economy, have led to a seemingly paradoxical narrative in the education-to-employment pipeline.

In manufacturing, for instance, 70 percent of companies now face shortages of workers with the necessary technology skills. And yet millions of Americans struggle to find jobs that put them on a path toward social and economic mobility or, at least, a comfortable perch in the middle class.

What’s worse, the compounding forces of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) will begin to dislocate a growing number of workers — putting unprecedented pressure on an education and workforce development system that is ill-equipped to tackle looming reskilling and training challenges.

New Models Emerge

In the last five years, an array of non-accredited education and training providers has surfaced to address these challenges, including General Assembly, as well as on-demand learning platforms, ultra-low-cost course providers (like StraighterLine or Coursera), and new approaches to “education as an employee benefit” (pioneered by companies like Chipotle, in partnership with Guild Education).

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How Prohibiting Salary History Questions Can Help Close the Wage Gap

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Ban Salary History Pay Gap

For HR leaders, especially those who focus on talent acquisition, making fair and equitable salary decisions is a daily struggle, and one that can frustrate even the most experienced leaders.

It is common practice to make compensation decisions based on salary history. When considering costs and the bottom line, companies are often tempted to leverage opportunities to pay as little as possible for a role, offering whatever a candidate will accept — and not a penny more. This is true for many industries, but especially in tech, where salary data is scant due to ever-changing programming languages, skills, and platforms. Continue reading

Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg: Lessons on Leading a High-Growth Business

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Sheryl Sandberg Interview Masters of Scale podcast Red Hoffman

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg talks leadership lessons with Reid Hoffman on the Masters of Scale podcast. Photo by Jacqui Ipp.

Leading a high-growth company and scaling it into a tech empire involves working through countless challenges: You need to constantly innovate, adapt with the economy, navigate relationships with executives, evolve your team, and more. Sheryl Sandberg knows this experience intimately, from her time as Google’s VP of global online sales and operations — during which she scaled the company’s online sales team from four to 4,000, driving two-thirds of the company’s revenue — through her past nine years as Facebook’s chief operating officer.

To get to where she — and Facebook — is today, Sandberg has learned hard leadership lessons about growing a team and a company.

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