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Adopting Artificial Intelligence for Your Organization: A Map to Help Your Team Embrace AI

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When you hear the term “artificial intelligence,” what comes to mind?

The idea that AI is upending the modern workforce is a big obstacle companies have to overcome when thinking about how to best integrate and adopt artificial intelligence into their business. While it’s true that automation may displace 75 million jobs, statistics also indicate that it will generate 133 million new ones worldwide by 2022. COVID-19 is only accelerating this change, transforming business models in every industry and challenging the skill sets of their teams.

While leaders know that artificial intelligence can unlock incredible insight, many companies — especially traditional ones — are struggling to adopt it. The ability to identify and implement AI technology can be overwhelming and complicated in equal measure. This stems from four critical challenges with emerging technology:

  1. Complex change management: There is often a disconnect between how companies anticipate using AI solutions and the ability of leaders and managers to handle the degree of adaptation that’s required. In general, the lack of understanding about what artificial intelligence actually is and what it does gets in the way of fully planning for this integration in order to really improve the business.
  2. Lack of examples: There aren’t enough publicly available common use cases from which leaders can learn.
  3. Need for ethics guidelines: There isn’t enough awareness of how to make good decisions around the ethical and responsible use of artificial intelligence.
  4. Skills gaps for practitioners: There aren’t enough people with hard skills in AI, DevOps, cloud, machine learning, and data engineering to really enable this change, even as leaders begin identifying the right opportunities for it. About 95% of the AI-impacted workforce population (as identified by the adoption map below)* does not have skills in these sectors.

To address these challenges, we partnered with Microsoft to form the AI & Data Science Standards Board, representing a broad set of AI and data executives across the tech, auto, media, healthcare, professional services, and hospitality sectors. The board aims to increase the clarity around and access to AI skills and careers so that organizations and leaders can responsibly realize the opportunity of artificial intelligence.

Board members agree that, while machine learning and automated tools have the potential to drive better business decision-making, the No. 1 barrier to adoption is an organization’s inability to identify and implement artificial intelligence into its business model. This begs the question: How do you transform a business model?

It starts by taking a look at your workforce strategy.

Defining Roles in the AI Workforce

A true picture of AI encompasses how a workforce collaborates across teams, how workers do their work, and how they communicate with leadership. With this in mind, we created an AI & Data Science Adoption Map to help organizations evaluate what’s required for their artificial intelligence and data science adoption journey. The map captures the board’s perspective on which groups and functions should be responsible for the different elements of enabling a change to create a successful AI organization.

Click to download for more detail.

Let’s break down the map’s key features. At a high level, we have three groups: Leaders, Creators, and Users. These were chosen specifically to display their interconnectivity and showcase each group’s responsibilities. Leaders set the vision and are accountable for the responsible adoption of AI, which influences the Creators’ work. Creators implement the vision (set by the Leaders) while keeping in mind the needs and processes of the Users. Users then leverage the outputs of this AI and data science adoption to improve speed, efficiency, and quality of work. This map is not a reflection of an org chart, rather, it provides a bird’s-eye view of who should be involved in AI adoption and how it impacts their function. Download the map for more detail about the key functions and titles that fall within each group.

Many of our board members and enterprise partners acknowledge that few leaders truly know where to start when it comes to implementing and effectively leveraging artificial intelligence. But Gretchen O’Hara, VP of U.S. AI & Sustainability Strategy & Partnerships at Microsoft, stated that the “map will help companies reskill faster and at scale.”

If you could benefit from using the AI & Data Science Adoption Map, we encourage you to join the board in reviewing this framework to evaluate your organization and the strengths and gaps in your AI system.

Next Steps

Implementing AI and data science strategy within an organization is complex, and the AI & Data Science Adoption Map is a first step toward achieving improved clarity and definition for the field. The board’s next focus will be to more clearly articulate the skills required across different functions. Of course, we will also be evolving our training and certifications for relevant roles to ensure that team members at every level can better execute their goals.

This is only the beginning, and we can’t wait to hear from you about how you plan to use the map. We look forward to continuing the conversation in the months to come.

Download the free AI & Data Science Adoption map here. Have reactions or feedback? We’d love to hear from you! Email us at cheers@ga.co.

Meet the AI & Data Science Standards Board

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

Six People Strategies for Successful Digital Transformation

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Even before the twists and turns caused by COVID-19, digital transformation was top-of-mind for today’s business leaders. Companies everywhere are reimagining their workforces and doubling down on digital capabilities and systems with an accelerated timeline. 

But success isn’t guaranteed. 

In fact, 75% of digital transformations fail to generate returns that exceed the original investment1. Why? Because companies often fall into the trap of focusing on systems rather than people. Leading companies recognize that, in order for their digital transformations to work, employees need the structure, mindset, skills, and vocabulary to support and drive new strategies — from senior leadership to those on the front lines.

Through collaborations with global organizations like L’Oréal, Booz Allen Hamilton, Guardian, and many more, we have identified our top six people-first strategies for driving success in digital transformation. We first published this list in 2018 and have refreshed them to meet this moment. Despite rapid market evolution, they still ring true.

1. Create a Leadership Agenda for Change

Given the far-reaching implications of a successful digital transformation — especially in 2020 — it’s critical to have full leadership support and encouragement from the top. To translate theory into action:

  1. State a bold goal simply and repeatedly. Adopt a simple-but-bold vision for the future, and frame every key milestone — including company updates, staffing shifts, new launches, and training initiatives — in the context of how it is impacting that goal.
  2. Hold an executive sponsor accountable and give them access and authority. This C-suite member must take responsibility to carry initiatives forward and make the organizational changes necessary to bring your goal to life. 
  3. Campaign internally and externally. Reinforce transformation goals by developing talking points and slogans that are easy to grasp and remember. By building a reputation as a tech-forward employer, your company can attract the right tech talent and create an internal culture that motivates employees to drive initiatives forward.

2. Embrace Agility & Uncertainty

Agility is key to success when undertaking digital transformations. Gone are the days of three-to-five-year strategy cycles and two-to-three-year product and marketing innovation plans. Today’s technologies and consumer needs change faster than historical business roadmaps can deliver. 

Winners in this environment learn to adapt and adjust, finding digital equivalents to the traditional processes that guided business thinking and development in the past. This is as much a mindset shift as it is a physical shift in work, as — at least for the short-term — face-to-face consumer interactions have been largely replaced by virtual consumer encounters. 

Take Procter & Gamble, which recognized this need and established P&G Ventures to create new, innovative direct-to-consumer brands. “The disruption of DTC was biting on our heels. How consumers are discovering new brands is different than how we grew up. [P&G Ventures] gives us a more nimble, agile way to get closer to the consumer,”2 Leigh Radford, the initiative’s vice president and general manager, said. P&G Ventures brought us on to offer capability training in digital marketing disciplines, including Facebook and social media marketing, eCommerce strategy, and marketing analytics. As a result, most of its product design and brand creative is done in-house, and leaders across all levels and functions know how to remain close to the customer.

3. Organize Around the Consumer 

The consumer and customer must be at the center of any successful digital transformation. This is the only way to stay grounded in the reality of the market and resist the urge to chase every new trend or platform.

First and foremost, it’s essential to understand your consumers — their tastes, habits, ways of communicating, and pathways to purchase. Leading companies implement tools such as journey mapping, personas, and user research to learn about consumer needs. Then, assess the best way to organize and address your findings through different departments such as product development, marketing, and sales. 

Finally, allow for new injections of people, ideas, and technology within your organization to incorporate new abilities, approaches, and ideas. We’ll explore this further in Strategy 6.

4. Measure & Reward Based on Metrics

Digital transformations often fail to take HR into account, particularly when it comes to managing employee performance against executing on these goals. This is often a severe blocker to real change — if people’s personal goals, compensation, and motivators aren’t aligned with the organization’s, there’s unlikely to be much positive impact.

Update performance management tools to reflect the business metrics and desired behaviors that matter to individual roles, and track the metrics that employee efforts can directly impact. We recommend using “micro-metrics” such as:

  1. Number of digital media A/B tests executed per month to monitor the company’s embrace of experimentation.
  2. Time-to-deployment for new products to measure hours saved by using new coding applications such as React libraries.
  3. Number and scale of manual data processes automated to measure efficiency gains from using Python instead of Excel.

You can further support employees by describing key behaviors and competencies that will help them achieve success.

5. Bring Data to Every Conversation

We believe strongly in “data-driven people strategy.” In practice, this means that hiring, development, and team structure are all underpinned by robust assessments, and the resulting data helps to understand and pinpoint each individual’s strengths and weaknesses. 

GA assessments are built in partnership with top industry executives on our Standards Boards who help define excellence in their fields. By designing and deploying practical skills assessments, we provide employers with a clear and consistent understanding of their teams’ abilities in key high-demand domains, including marketing, data, and tech.

Collecting this data can shape a variety of goals, including benchmarking existing talent against the industry, evaluating job applicants, designing learning paths for employees, and making decisions about organizational structure. 

6. Invest in a Culture of Lifelong Learning

Given the speed at which change is taking place, our recommendation is simple: Companies need to invest in learning, both at the institutional and individual levels. Leaders not only need to embrace new technologies but also build digital mindsets at all levels of the organization to power new ways of working.

Keep in mind: Talent with in-demand skills is not only scarce and expensive but also difficult to retain, so companies cannot rely on “buying” talent alone3. Prioritizing up- and reskilling is a necessary measure in order to transform teams and organizations for the future. “Building” talent through training programs is often a more efficient route to acquire these skills versus searching for them externally. What’s more, research suggests that education is among the most-valued benefits for modern employees, boosting retention, engagement, and loyalty.

Thomas Malone, professor at MIT’s Sloan School of Management and director of its Center for Collective Intelligence, told Deloitte that: “Many decisions in a company are made by communities — a kind of informal consensus involving community norms. If you want to accomplish almost anything in the world and if you’re realistic about it, you need to be thinking about how to work with [collective community intelligence] to achieve whatever you want.”4

As you build a culture of learning, the foundation of digital transformations, it’s essential that everyone — from the CEO to individual contributors — is involved.

Learn more about how General Assembly can help guide your company’s talent transformation.

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1PwC Front-Office Transformation, Walking the Talk: We prioritize people over technology, and you should, too, June 2018
2Forbes, Big Firms Can’t Innovate: How P&G Ventures Is Dispelling The Myth, April 2019
3Josh Bersin, Rethinking the Build vs. Buy Approach To to Talent, October 2019
4Deloitte, Superminds: How humans and machines can work together, January 2019

A is for Andragogy

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Think of a great learning experience you’ve had. 

How would you describe it? You might say:

“Interactive,” “Engaging,” “Hands-on,” “Relevant,” “Practical,” “Digestible,” “Clear and easy to understand,” or “Fun!”

We’ve asked this question hundreds of times, and the answers are rarely surprising. Yet, when we ask another question, “How many of the classes you’ve taken actually fit these descriptions?” sadly, the percentage is often quite low — but not for our students. 

At GA, we’ve mastered the magic of delivering great learning experiences for each student and client. 

Interested in what this means? Read on. 

Principles of Andragogy

Andragogy is an esoteric term meaning the method or practice of teaching adult learners. If this is the first time you’re seeing the word “andragogy,” you’re not alone. 

The reason we mention this term is that we’re often asked about our “pedagogy”, in reference to our learning theory. Considering that the word most commonly used to discuss learning theory (pedagogy) has a prefix that means “relating to children” (ped) says something about the way society thinks about education. Namely, that learning is primarily for children. This has never been less true than it is today, where even successful professionals with years of post-graduate education and executive experience need to continuously upskill to keep pace with our rapidly changing world — now more than ever.

The distinction between andragogy, the adult learning methodology, and pedagogy, the children’s learning methodology, is important because while many good learning experience qualities such as engagement and interaction apply to both adults and children, there are some key contextual differences.

In both cases, excellent educators reference Bloom’s Cognitive Taxonomy to ground their courses in observable learning outcomes, and aim for active, hands-on learning with multiple opportunities to check for understanding and provide feedback along the way. 

However, we all understand that adulthood differs from childhood. As adults, we have an abundance of two things children typically have less of: choice and responsibility. 

What does this have to do with learning design? When you start thinking about taking a course or changing your career as an adult, you are plagued with different considerations than you had in grade school:

  • Is this worth my time and money? 
  • Will I be successful in learning this? 
  • What kind of people are going to be in my class? 
  • Will this be useful for my unique set of circumstances?
  • Should I just Google it? 

Designing for the Adult Learner

Six key actions tend to assuage adult learning anxieties, and help learners construct individualized meaning from a shared learning experience:

We know that adults learn best when they are active in the learning experience, when they are working toward solving a realistic, relevant, and interesting problem, and when they can show up as a whole person with individual experiences, goals, and preferences. Adults are not empty vessels… they are fully developed and experienced individuals.

So how does this knowledge impact our approach to learning? We design classes where the instructor does not just push information to the students; the instructor creates space where students can share their perspectives, be social, build connections, hear from other people, stretch their minds, and enjoy the process. 

If you’re having trouble picturing a unique GA learning experience, here is an example of what it looks like in practice: 

As a warm-up activity, we ask groups of participants to “be the search engine.” We give them printouts of five different Google search results from a previous search we conducted, such as “lunch.” We then ask them to arrange those printouts in the order they should be returned to the searcher in response to a few rapid-fire search queries, such as: 

  • “Lunch” 
  • “Best Restaurant to Take Clients” 
  • “Vegan Lunch Downtown” 

This succession of questions leads students to look at the details of the pages — their titles, contents, references to location, date published, etc. — to make and discuss these decisions. These details are factors of how search algorithms work and factors they will need to optimize for in their SEO strategies. 

The exercise illustrated above takes about ten minutes, roughly the same amount of time it would take the instructor to explain how search engines work. However, the exercise primes the students with decision-making, real-life engagement, and meaningful, useful information that can later be built upon. Most importantly, the students have not just heard the information; they have processed it — and had fun along the way.

Instructional Design in the Digital Age 

At GA, we deliver learning across two spectrums: the experience spectrum, which ranges from absolute beginners to field professionals seeking to remain current, and the duration spectrum, which ranges from 20-minute eLearning modules to 12-week, 480-hour immersive courses.

Designing a relevant and active learning experience across these spectrums is not easy, but it’s core to our proven success in digital skills education over the last nine years. Our instructional design practices are rooted in: 

  1. Modern Digital Design Practices
  2. Learning Theory and Sciences

Understanding each of these fields helps us to better utilize the other. 

Modern digital design practices include user research, design thinking, agile development, data analysis, and rapid iteration. These practices are typically core drivers of the last 30 years of technology innovation, yet too many educational institutions have been slow to embrace them. By leveraging these more modern practices into our instructional design process, we can make better use of learning theories and sciences that largely emerged in the 20th century, including the behaviorist learning theory and constructivist learning theory

For example, Nir Eyal’s book, “Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products,” elaborates on a behaviorist learning theory used by UX designers and product teams to keep users coming back to their platforms. Think of that addictive social media feed, or how you can’t resist tapping an app with a big red notification bubble…

This behaviorist strategy is also well-suited for learning beginners just starting in a field, or those independently working through material on a digital learning platform. Through data analysis, we’ve seen this user need come through in myGA (eLearning) lessons via requests for “more knowledge checks,” and we’ve added them accordingly. Those frequent checks help learners gain confidence and validate their understanding, which is particularly important in the absence of a live instructor. 

As a learner “climbs” Bloom’s taxonomy into greater depths of knowledge in a field, frequent, short exercises start to become irritating, and gamification attempts can feel juvenile. We’ve seen this in students’ feedback on long-form courses where they’d prefer fewer activities. This feedback led us to consolidate those activities into select, more robust exercises. 

Meaningful, more robust exercises are examples of the constructivist learning theory, which suggests no singular “truth,” and each individual will derive a personal meaning through action and reflection. At GA, this shows up in all of our long-form courses, where in the end, students solve real-world business problems of their choice in a capstone project. 

Guiding learners to make their own meaning through project work is great when you are leading a classroom of professionals in solving a business problem using new digital skills. Still, it can leave people lost in certain scenarios, i.e., if applied in a room full of first-time programmers trying to understand what a Python loop is. That’s why both constructivism and behaviorism strategies are effective for different purposes. 

Through user research and data analysis of the thousands of learners collected over the years, we know how to deploy the right strategy at the right time, and iterate in rapid cycles based on continuous feedback from our instructors and learners. 

Bringing Everything Together

We’re passionate about delivering best-in-class education, and hope a deep dive into our approach to learning has provided some helpful insights as you explore an upskilling journey that will ensure both personal and professional growth for your teams.


Alison Kashin is the Director of Instructional Design 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 teams across the globe. 

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.

10 Questions To Ask When Planning a Corporate Training Program

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planning-checklist
The scoping and planning phase is an incredibly important but frequently overlooked element when developing a digital training or transformation program. L&D executives and training sponsors are often bombarded with feedback, including questions, opinions, and pressure to quickly move on launching a solution, which can often lead insufficient planning.

In hearing from large organizations across the globe, GA’s corporate training team has found that an underinvestment in scoping corporate training programs can result in substantial rework, delayed launch dates, and disappointing program outcomes due to prevalent knowledge gaps.

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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.

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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