Corporate Strategies Category Archives - General Assembly Blog | Page 4

GA Jobs to Be Done: A Series – Build Teams to Thrive in A Digital-First World

By

The Third Step: Accelerate Technical Hiring Sustainably

The race for digital transformation has companies across industries under increased economic pressure to digitize. There’s only one issue: Getting ahead of the transformation imperative requires major changes. 

We can help.

Through our deep experience across many types of organizations, we’ve seen leaders’ transformation challenges boil down to four key goals:

  1. Create digital mindsets across the company. This includes understanding digital trends, growing digital mastery, and building a product-driven organization.
  2. Upgrade capabilities to reflect cutting-edge technical skills across marketing, technology, and data functions.
  3. Accelerate technical hiring by upskilling and reskilling current employees and new hires. 
  4. Understand what good looks like — a skill necessary in achieving every goal.

This series, GA Jobs To Be Done, unpacks each of these four goals, providing actionable recommendations that organizations can put into practice to help set their businesses on the path to sustainable digitization and success.

In this series, we’ve revealed how to build a strong digital culture and how to grow the capabilities that allow transformation — but to holistically scale your technology, you need the right talent. 

How do you get the “right” talent? Look internally — and read on. 

Talent Is the End Game

Earlier in the series, we addressed how to set your business up for digital success by upskilling and reskilling your current workforce and aligning your company — from leadership to new ways of working. But scaling these new digital systems, once again, requires acquiring the right talent.

“Help me accelerate my technical hiring” is one of the most common asks we get from executives. Once digital visions are mapped and job functions scoped, companies see the importance of scaling teams — very quickly. Top-performers who have knowledge of technical skills are spending more time interviewing candidates than building technology, causing a major lag in demonstrating transformation-related ROIs.

Rest assured, there’s a way to stay out of this. We studied it, so you can avoid learning the hard way.

The Zero-Sum Game of Buying Talent

Anyone who is hiring knows that good technical talent is hard to come by. To get desired candidates, companies are engaging in a competitive talent battle that is accruing huge recruiting bills and skyrocketing salaries for qualified potential hires. This competition has created a tragedy of the commons in which a $4,000 cost-per-hire is normal, where a company like Netflix can offer a double salary to poach a new recruit, and 70% of employers either have terminated workers due to the implementation of new technology or anticipate doing so.

This is neither a winning strategy for digital companies or the marketplace as a whole. In the meantime, serious inequities have surfaced in underserved and underrepresented groups and their ability to access necessary skill development needed for tomorrow’s roles.

A Virtuous Cycle With Better Market Results

Getting out of this aforementioned vicious cycle is best for your company and the overall market. 

Good news! There is a new and better cycle: Recent studies have shown a $136K potential savings per person from reskilling in-house tech talent instead of layoffs and new hires. Reskilling high-potential employees whose roles may phase out due to automation means you increase your talent pool and demonstrate a willingness to invest in and grow your employees. Contrary to the common fear many companies share (investing in talent only to see their stars work for competitors), these “talent donors” get an incredible boost in employee engagement and loyalty

In fact, companies that invest in talent become more attractive to skilled employees drawn to their growth culture. These investments create a bigger pie for the job market: the more companies grow their internal talent, the more available talent is for the market. Job-filling efficiency also gets boosted.

Many companies are already successfully investing in talent to save time, money, and turnover. Booz Allen Hamilton’s investment in reskilling and upskilling 25,000 workforces across 80+ locations resulted in a growing data capability that secured a 4% lift in contract value and an 11% growth in employee job satisfaction and retention. Some of the largest global technology, insurance, media, and auto companies are doing the same with skilling programs thriving at Interapt, Guardian, Humana, Bloomberg, and more.

Diversity Is a Winning Strategy

While the bidding war for top talent accelerates, the market only exacerbates the well-documented diversity issues within the tech industry. From vast underrepresentation for women and people of color to wage gaps compared to their white peers, institutional barriers prevent a healthy distribution of diverse perspectives in technology.

The exclusivity of skilling access is an obstruction —  and companies are making moves to change that. For example, Disney launched a program called CODE: Rosie to reskill women as developers — and it resulted in a 100% hiring rate for graduates entering technical roles. Guardian and Humana partnered to create the Code for Good coalition that reskilled underrepresented groups (including women, BIPOC, veterans, parents, and LGBTQQIA+ individuals) into engineering roles with perfect program satisfaction scores.

Bottom Line: Invest To Grow

As these programs grow and flourish, it is clear that building talent is the answer to the vicious cycles of talent shortages we see today. Throughout this piece, we’ve highlighted the many opportunities that make building talent more effective than buying it. 

So, how do you accelerate technical hiring for your new stage of growth? Skilling your people from within is simply the most sustainable way. In addition to solving the hiring conundrum and creating numerous additional company and labor market benefits, investing in internal talent also helps you:

  1. Build a talent pipeline to attract and retain high-potential talent.
  2. Make tangible progress on your DEI goals. 
  3. Lower the costs of talent acquisition for tech and data roles.
  4. Reduce the potential shortage risk for projected talent needs,
  5. Reduce the financial and morale impacts of large restructuring efforts by reskilling laid-off workers with competitive skill sets.

As the shifts in digital innovation only accelerate, growing your talent funnel is the most effective strategy for employees, the bottom line, the labor market, and the future of business.

A critical question companies ask is, “How do I know I’m doing everything right?” While “right” means different things to different businesses, we help you benchmark what “good” looks like, so you can set and attain personalized growth goals. We’ll get into all of this in our final installment.

If you’re ready to invest in your talent, we can help today. Explore our catalog to see the digital literacy and upskilling courses that we provide — from IC to strategic leader, across digital fluency, marketing, data, and technology. 

Want to get specific about how we could help your organization? Get in touch. 

GA Jobs To Be Done: A Series – Build Teams to Thrive in a Digital-First World

By

The Second Step: Grow Business Impact With New Ways of Working

With consumers’ accelerated adoption of digital behaviors, the inevitable digital transformation of most businesses within every industry is here. Under increased economic pressure, business leaders across the board are trying to get ahead of the transformation imperative that digitization requires.

Through our deep experience across many types of organizations, we’ve seen leaders’ transformation challenges boil down to four key goals:

  1. Create digital mindsets across the company. This includes understanding digital trends, growing digital mastery, and building a product-driven organization.
  2. Upgrade capabilities to reflect cutting-edge technical skills across marketing, technology, and data functions.
  3. Accelerate technical hiring by upskilling and reskilling current employees and new hires. 
  4. Understand what good looks like — a skill necessary in achieving every goal.

This series, GA Jobs To Be Done, unpacks each of these four goals, providing actionable recommendations that organizations can put into practice to help set their businesses on the path to sustainable digitization and success.

Last week, we explored the importance of mindset resetting to embrace digital philosophies, understand digital trends, and gain the literacy to discuss them across the organization. Now you’re ready to upgrade your business capabilities to reach its full potential. 

So, let’s get down to your business. 

Once transformation initiatives are underway, leaders want to make more business impact through new ways of working, but a stunning 53% of organizations can’t identify what skills they need.1 Regardless of industry, we’ve found that the majority of companies have three transformation goals in common:

  1. Harness data as a strategic asset by enabling employees to adopt data capabilities and mindsets that help them become fluent with data. 
  2. Transition from legacy technology systems by reskilling employees into high-impact technology roles on teams that properly use new tools and technologies. 
  3. Market for today’s digital customer through evolved marketing skills and practices that speak to the behaviors and expectations of the digital-first customer. 

Let’s go through the below steps required to reach each of the above three goals.

Adopt a data mindset to grow your business capabilities.

Data is power. That’s why 97% of executives are investing in big data and AI initiatives.2 As you progress into becoming a digital organization, properly-leveraged data will make you more efficient, more focused on planning, and more effective against your priorities. 

The first step? Invest in data literacy across your organization to help employees understand how to use and drive results with data.  In a digital world, fluency is the key to improving with time. Every team — regardless of an advanced analytics skill set — will need basic literacy to be part of the data-driven culture you are building. As you scale your data capability, your employees will have the opportunity to work with an incredible volume of data to help make better and faster decisions across functions.

Next, incorporate advanced skills to solve increasingly complex data problems. Once you build systems to collect, refine, organize, and analyze your data, those employees who work closest to the data will need advanced skills. Companies often invest in upskilling employees with data modeling and visualization, machine learning, and Python programming to enable them to be higher-leveraged with data. 

Finally, leaders set the data vision. To effectively manage data- or AI-driven teams, leaders must lay the groundwork for a successful data transformation by mapping the ideal flow of data throughout the organization and prioritizing data investment opportunities to make that flow a reality.

Working with data can take a long time, but like many digital technologies, it’s about increasing your rate of learning and improving as you go. Setting clear expectations of where you are and where you’re going is critical to growing your team in the right ways and modernizing your company so that your talent will want to stay and grow. 

Reskill employees into high-impact technology roles.

As you modernize your tech stack and build digital fluency, you’ll want to scale your engineering team to maintain your new and improved business operations. Note: Good engineering talent is hard to come by, but luckily you have options beyond hiring-in talent, which we’ll dive deep into in our next post!

The second thing you’ll need to do is build broad technical fluency across your organization. Your engineers will be powerhouses of systems thinking and advanced skills. Still, their work will not be fully effective unless your entire organization understands the benefit of new technology and how it factors into their ways of working and ultimate company goals. 

From there, you’ll be able to update the skills of existing engineers with modern engineering practices. Tech is a field that is constantly evolving. Today, engineers must understand modern frameworks and methods to support cloud migration and other enterprise technology projects. However, in this fast-moving industry, keeping up with innovation means making learning a key priority of your technology team. Offering ongoing upskilling helps you invest in the culture of learning, so your employees are able to operate at today’s level and continue to evolve with the industry, learn, grow, and become valuable assets to your company. 

Create modern marketing for the modern consumer. 

With consumer behaviors continuously changing alongside technology,  your business faces both unprecedented interaction access and higher-than-ever customer expectations. (Last year, global e-commerce grew by more than 27%, accelerating digital sales to a level not expected until 2022). Many companies struggle with this transition because marketing skills tend to be highly siloed, as marketing was not previously considered a digital role. Today, pushing transformation forward means evolving your marketing skills and practices for digital fluency across the team. 

Start by growing customer insight functions to build a foundation for marketing strategy based on scalable market research, producing tailored personas and detailed customer journey insights to inform your strategies. Use this consumer-centric design and user research to help you up-level creative development. Modern marketing’s fast pace and segmented audiences make it more important to ensure alignment within your teams and agencies. This means enabling multiple people to create at once with tools like writing briefs, branding guidelines, and content strategies to ensure a steady drumbeat of quality, on-brand output that furthers business goals. 

With this content in progress, focus on building out your channels and execution functions. Social media, search engine management and optimization (SEM, SEO), earned and owned media, and e-commerce all require specific skill sets– including the measurement and analytics to know you’re hitting your KPIs. Engineering’s data-driven culture has migrated into digital marketing, which now has processes for testing and optimization at its core.  

Finally, get comfortable using marketing technology, like customer relationship management (CRM), marketing automation, and adtech. These tools help you make the most of digital channels, enabling you to track the details of a high volume of interactions, build personalized messaging, and target the right audiences in the right channels. 

Always strive for improvement.

Once you’ve established a digital mindset, there are a wealth of skills you can invest in to make your business’s digital transformation effective. With broad functional literacy across teams, you can build skills from the ground up, creating data scientists, engineers, and marketers with modern skills, coordination across teams, and a culture of learning that helps your organization grow and lead.

An ever-evolving, skilled digital culture is key to building teams with the best talent — stay tuned for more content from this series.


If you’re ready to invest in your talent, we can help today. Explore our catalog here to see the digital literacy and upskilling courses that we provide — from IC to strategic leader, across digital fluency, marketing, data, and technology. 

Want to get specific about how we could help your organization? Get in touch. 


1 Statistics Source: Gartner
2 Sources: NewVantage Partners

GA Jobs To Be Done: A Series – Build Teams To Thrive in a Digital-First World

By

The First Step: Transitioning to a Digital-First Culture

Due to the effects of the pandemic, we know that remote offices are not only surviving — they’re thriving. The digital world is here to stay.

Between consumers’ accelerated adoption of digital behaviors and a permanently changed working culture, the inevitable — and necessary — digital transformation of every industry took unusual leaps forward in the last 18 months. Business leaders across the board are trying to get ahead of the transformation imperative that digitization requires and the economic pressure it adds to their businesses. 

For a problem that requires holistic change, we help make digital transformation manageable. Through our deep and diverse experience, we’ve seen leaders’ transformation challenges boil down to four key goals:

  1. Create digital mindsets across the company. This includes understanding digital trends, growing digital mastery, and building a product-driven organization.
  2. Upgrade capabilities to reflect cutting-edge technical skills across marketing, technology, and data functions.
  3. Accelerate technical hiring by upskilling and reskilling current employees and new hires. 
  4. Understand what good looks like — a skill necessary in achieving every goal.

This series, GA Jobs To Be Done, unpacks each of these four goals, providing actionable recommendations that organizations can put into practice to help set their businesses on the path to sustainable digitization and success. 

In this first post, we will share how to begin creating digital mindsets across your business. 

A digital-first culture: What is it, and how do you know when you’ve got it?

For those embarking on a business transformation initiative, the first problem we often hear is, “my business needs to transition to a digital-first culture.” This is understandable, as culture fit is one of the most important aspects on both sides of hiring, and your high-skill candidates want to work on high-skill teams.

So, what is a digital-first culture? It begins with digital literacy, a competency for using digital technology to find, create, evaluate and communicate, across an organization. This basic skill set is the stepping stone to developing comfort with — and ultimate adoption of — digital practices, such as experimentation, iteration, and “antifragile” working practices incorporating continuous learning and growth into everyday work. 

Once literacy is achieved, you can begin unlocking the skills that are the hallmarks of a digital-first culture, such as data literacy, design thinking, and agile project management. From there, teams can advance their use of practical, hands-on skills in data science, marketing analytics, coding, and beyond.

The transition from digital literacy to true digital culture requires these digital processes and technologies to work effectively across the organization. When these digital practices become core to your business — that is when they are the go-to, standard process by which a majority of your company operates — then you may claim a digital-first culture.

Culture… it matters.

To many business leaders, “culture” is a “soft” word that leads directly to a People team — and keeps it there. This is a great place to start culture transformation, but it reflects the siloed way traditional businesses think about talent. While formal development is critical to digital transformation, it needs to touch every part of the organization to cause a real cultural shift. That means engaging leaders across teams to plan the transition, champion new processes, and set appropriate goals.

A learning culture is critical to staying competitive in a rapidly changing landscape. The days of arguing whether digital transformation is the right path are over; not only does transformation drive performance, it is a key element of attracting and retaining top talent. In a January 2021 study, we found that supporting professional growth is a core value of the modern worker. Many ranked “commitment to supporting my professional development to improve in a current role” as the #1 factor in whether they will stay at their company — rather than finding greener pastures elsewhere.

This all points to a positive feedback loop: innovation breeds innovation, and procrastination pulls traditional companies further behind. This is definitional; digital transformation promises that it helps businesses scale non-linearly while keeping costs low — that is, your investment in digital pays dividends long after the work is done. According to BCG, companies that focus on digital culture are 5x more likely to achieve breakthrough results than companies that don’t. 

How can you encourage digital culture in your organization? 

The Critical Steps:

Digital literacy often develops in pockets among junior staff, hired-in individuals, or specific strategic teams, but it doesn’t work in silos. Building a workforce that excels in a digital-first context requires engagement of all levels in the organization, from contributors becoming literate to leadership driving digital adoption. 

1. Leaders need to role-model digital behaviors and create a culture where teams thrive in adopting a digital mindset. This requires training to accelerate mindset shifts and learn the latest philosophies for innovation in digital strategy. From there, leaders must set goals and hold teams accountable to digital KPIs — and vocally champion the use of new digital practices.

2. Teams need to understand — and be able to communicate — why digitalization is a business imperative and lead by example with their digital mindset. Peer support is key to empowering teams to make more autonomous decisions that avoid cognitive overload as the business scales.

And, while it makes sense for some roles and teams to be more digitally advanced than others, it is important that all individuals at the company have basic digital literacy. This shared language is important to a cohesive working environment where all employees understand the priorities, are motivated by business milestones, and have opportunities to advance.

Diagnose a Digital Mindset

Luckily, you can prepare your organization to develop its digital culture no matter where you are in the process. Likely, there are digital-first practices you do well today and other areas where you might improve. Here are the top characteristics for digital-savvy organizations — how many do you have?

  • Be customer-centric. You solve customer problems through a seamless, consistent experience based on an empathetic understanding of the customer mindset at each engagement journey phase. 
  • Experiment. You take complex problems and break them down into smaller parts to implement for testing your assumptions early and often.
  • Adopt agile methods. You are nimble, flexible, and good at working across multiple departments. You always close the loop on experiments to maximize team learning.
  • Activate growth. You design tactics to target your customer across each stage of the funnel and spot opportunities to grow product usage. You have metrics to evaluate each stage of the marketing funnel and its impact on business success.
  • Be data-driven. You navigate the proliferation of data and use data at the heart of all decision-making. You’re skilled at data capture, analysis, and visualization to generate and communicate actionable insights across teams.
  • Evaluate trends. You are aware of how emerging trends impact customer expectations, and you routinely evaluate evolving your strategy to meet fluid demand. 

How many boxes did you check (or not)? Whether your business is about to begin a digital journey or already has a digital practice ongoing, it’s helpful to return to basics to understand which qualities of digital culture are working for you today and where you can stand to invest. One of the best actions you can take is to advocate for digital maturity across your organization, helping leaders understand the benefits of developing their digital culture and plans to move forward. 

We’ll share more on how to grow digital impact, accelerate technical hiring, and evaluate what “good” looks like at every stage to help your business get the most leverage out of digital culture in the upcoming posts of this series. Stay tuned.

If you notice specific areas you want to grow, we can help. Explore our catalog here to see the digital literacy and upskilling courses that we provide — from IC to strategic leader and across digital fluency, marketing, data, and technology. 

Want further specific advice on how we could help your organization? Get in touch. 

Designing Learning for In-Demand Skills: Cybersecurity

By

What does it take to create good learning content? This is a question we, as instructional designers, are asked in one form or another pretty often. When I first started in the field, I would develop an outline, do some light validation, and then build the program — then off to the races! 

Since then, a few things have changed: learning design has evolved as a discipline, and competition for high-quality learning content and experiences has skyrocketed. 

This has coincided with an ongoing multipart effort by our Instructional Design team. Every day, we’re engaged in developing deep learning design processes and rigor around our learning and content design. We’re also striving for a deeper understanding of the jobs market and what skills and bootcamps employers and learners are scouring the internet for. This comes into play when considering backward design, where we start with “why” and focus on establishing the overarching learning outcomes and skills needed before designing the content to support that experience.

So, what does that look like in practice?

Moving from theory, let’s get into a real-life example of a learning solution GA just released this quarter: Cybersecurity for Developers Accelerator. We’ll take a look at three parts: (1) the background research and validation, (2) the skills needed, and (3) the product itself.

Step 1: Research & Validation

When building a program, our Instructional Design team partners closely with a product manager to help us ensure we are building best-fit learning solutions for our clients. This process includes deep market and industry research, performing a skills growth analysis for our target learners, and interviewing our best customers and partners. 

All of these inputs helped us to confirm that businesses, now more than ever, need cybersecurity skills to prevent breaches and that all developers can benefit from upskilling on more secure coding practices. 

Here are some fast facts from our market research:

  • Cybersecurity skills remain one of the top 10 most in-demand tech skills to-date.
  • Preparing developers for security risks has never been more pressing for enterprise businesses, i.e., 2020 was reported as the “worst year on record” for security breaches. 
  • Burning Glass has predicted 164% growth in application development security over the next five years, among other skill areas associated with building secure digital infrastructures from the ground up. This underscores businesses’ shift from retroactive security strategies to proactive security strategies.

Step 2: The Skills Needed

What skills do our developers need to be able to walk away from our course in order to prevent these breaches? We looked at job descriptions for the role itself and worked with a subject matter expert (SME) who is a real-world practitioner and expert in the field to validate our research. Here are some of the skills we identified: 

  • Input Validation
  • End to End Encryption
  • Prevent Injection Attacks
  • Develop and Implement Security Policies + Headers
  • Logging
  • Threat Modeling
  • Hashing
  • Evaluating 3rd-Party Libraries

Step 3: The Finished Product 

Using the instructional design concept of backward design, we sequenced the material for the skills needed and researched into these five units, which can be delivered in a 1-week accelerator course or a 10-week part-time course:

  • Cybersecurity for Web Applications
  • Front- and Back-End Security
  • Threat Modeling and Logging
  • Additional Security Features
  • Applied Practice

As students progress through the course, we have embedded guided demos and walkthroughs of key concepts followed by labs where students can try them independently. This is a key instructional design concept:  “I do, we do, you do,” meaning that first, an instructor walks the class through a concept via a demo, and then the class tries it together. After that, students try things on their own in carefully developed labs.

Lastly, we work to simulate the real world as much as possible, especially for something as specific and high-stakes as cybersecurity. To this end, we developed a project that students work on throughout the course as they learn new concepts. In the case of the Cybersecurity Accelerator, we developed a purposely buggy fictional application where students need to spot the vulnerabilities and use the skills they learn in the course to patch and fix those vulnerabilities to prevent a security breach. 

Now that I’m on the other side of this project, what’s most exciting to me as an instructional designer is that we can get really robust courses for in-demand skills — for both employees and employers — out into the world.  As things inevitably change and the world shifts, we’ll continue to build solutions that bring integral skills to your organization.

Want to learn more about our Cybersecurity Accelerator? Reach out here

Two Refreshed Skilling Solutions To Access In-Demand Engineering Skills

By

It’s no secret that technology has forever changed the way we approach and do work. However, while budgets and headcount on technology teams continue to rise, technology leaders still have a hard time finding engineering talent with the right balance of skills.

Prior to COVID-19, businesses were already thinking about transformation initiatives that would help them transition from legacy systems to allow technical teams to work in more flexible, efficient, and secure environments. Post COVID-19, these attributes are more important than ever. However, just like with any transformation initiative, these transitions require hard skills, which are in high demand but short supply.

In fact, leaders report that Cyber Security is the number one skill shortage and top investment priority, made increasingly urgent due to moving to a fully remote workforce, which has increased the likelihood of malware and phishing attacks.

From becoming cloud-native to defending against cybersecurity attacks and breaches — organizations need a wider range of engineering skills on their teams than ever before. In order to solve skill gaps and talent shortages, businesses need to consider upskilling their existing engineers on must-have skills, such as cybersecurity and rethink engineering talent acquisition and onboarding strategies to ensure they get the right balance of skills and knowledge on their teams.

Two Refreshed Programs Help to Upskill Your Engineers

Over the last ten years, we’ve been helping organizations, such as Disney and Humana, acquire and build the engineering talent they need to compete in today’s digital economy. Through deep customer, industry, and market research, we’ve updated two programs to help more organizations meet their engineering talent goals.

Get a sneak peek of what those programs entail below:

  • Java Developer Immersive: Expand your Java development workforce with experiential training in the most in-demand skills. Participants will build core skills in Java, Spring Boot, test-driven development, troubleshooting dev ops, cloud, and agile development. Use this program to reskill junior engineers or onboard fresh computer science graduates to your teams. 
  • Cybersecurity Accelerator: Bulk up your cybersecurity practices by training existing developers on best practices. Participants will learn how to add security features to their web applications to minimize the chances of an attack. Use this program to upskill existing engineers to increase cybersecurity skills and knowledge within your engineering team. 

These refreshed programs allow you and your team to:

  • Access Transformative Tech Skills: Level up your engineering team by embedding must-have cybersecurity and java development skills.
  • Learn From Real Industry Experts: Give your people practical, hands-on training created and taught by leading subject matter experts.
  • Build and Develop Engineering Talent: Invest in existing and new talent by offering them learning opportunities that move your business forward.

As Always, More to Come

We’re working on more exciting things that we’ll be releasing over the next few months, such as useful workforce insights and updated skilling solutions. Keep your eyes on the GA blog or get in touch with us to hear the latest.

Want to learn more about how we can help your organization build essential engineering skills? Download the full catalog of GA’s tech skilling solutions here.

Data Literacy for Leaders

By

For years, the importance of data has been echoed in boardroom discussions and listed on company roadmaps. Now, with 99% of businesses reporting active investment in big data and AI, it’s clear that all businesses are beginning to recognize the power of data to transform our world of work.

While all leaders recognize the needs and benefits of becoming data-driven, only 24% have successfully created a data-driven organization. That is because transformation is not considered holistically and instead leaders focus on business, tools and technology and talent in silos. Usually leaving skill acquisition amongst leaders and the broader organization for last. It’s no wonder that 67% of leaders say they are not comfortable accessing or using data.

We’ve worked with businesses, such as Bloomberg, to help them gain the skills they need to successfully leverage data within their organizations & we haven’t left leaders out of the conversation. In fact, we know that leaders are crucial to the success of data transformation efforts & just like their teams, they need to be equipped with the skills to understand and communicate with data.

Why Should I Train My Leaders on Data?

When embarking on a data transformation, we always recommend that leaders be trained as the first step in company-wide skill acquisition. We recommend this approach for a few reasons:

  • Leaders Need to Understand Their Role in Data Transformation:  Analytics can’t be something data team members do in a silo. They need to be fully incorporated into the business, rather than an afterthought. However, businesses will struggle to make that change if every leader does not understand his or her responsibility in data transformation.
  • Leadership Training Shows a Commitment to Change: According to New Vantage Partners, 92% of data transformation failures are attributed to the inability of leaders to form a data-driven culture. In order for your employees to truly become data-driven, they have to be able to see a real commitment from leaders to organizational goals and operational change. Training your leaders first sends that message that data is here to stay. 
  • Leaders Need to Be Prepared to Work With Data-Driven Teams: Increasingly, leaders are expected to make data-driven decisions that impact the success of the organization. Without literacy, leaders will continue to feel uncomfortable communicating with and using data to make decisions. This discomfort will trickle down to employees and real change will never be felt. 

Just like your broader organization, leaders cannot be expected to understand the role they play or the importance of data transformation without proper training. 

What Does Data Literacy For Leaders Look Like? 

Leaders need to be able to readily identify opportunities to use data effectively. In order to get there leaders need to:

Build a Data-Driven Mindset:

While every leader brings a wealth of experience to your org, many leaders are not data natives, and it can be a big leap to make this shift in thinking. Training leaders all at once gives you the opportunity to get your leaders on the same page and build a shared understanding and vocabulary.

So what does building a data-driven mindset look like in practice? To truly have a data-driven mindset leaders must be aware of the data landscape, as well as the opportunity of data, be mindful of biases inherent in data with an eye towards overcoming that bias, as well as being curious about how data can influence our decisions.

Leaders should walk away from training with a baseline understanding of key data concepts, a shared vocabulary, knowing how data flows through an organization and be able to pinpoint where data can have an impact in the org.

Understand the Data Life Cycle

Leaders are responsible for having oversight of every phase of the data life cycle and must be able to help teams weed out bias at any point. Without this foundation, leaders will have a hard time knowing where to invest in a data transformation and how to lead projects and teams.

All leaders should be equipped to think about and ask questions about each phase of the life cycle. For example:

  • Data Identification: What data do we have, and what form is it in? 
  • Data Generation: Where will the data come from and how reliable is the source? 
  • Data Acquisition: How will the data get from the source to us? 

It is not the role of the leader to know where all the data comes from or what gaps exist, but being able to understand what questions to ask, is important to acquire the necessary insights to inform a sound business strategy.

Get to Know the Role of Data Within the Org

In an organization that’s undergoing a data transformation, there’s no shortage of projects that could command a leader’s attention and investment. Leaders must be equipped to understand where to invest to put their plans into action.

Based on existing structure, leaders need to understand the key data roles, such as data analysts or machine learning engineers, why they are important and how they differ. Once a leader has the knowledge of the data teams, they will be able to identify the opportunity of data within their team and role.

Make Better Data-Driven Decisions

Leaders who rely on intuition alone run the huge risk of being left behind by competitors that use data-driven insights. With more and more companies adjusting to this new world order, it’s imperative that leaders become more data literate in order to make important business-sustaining decisions moving forward. 

Leaders should walk away from training with a baseline understanding of key data concepts, a shared vocabulary, knowing how data flows through an organization and be able to pinpoint where data can have an impact in the org.

Getting Started With Leadership Training 

Including data training specifically for your leaders in your data transformation efforts is crucial. While leaders are busy tackling other important business initiatives, they, just like the rest of your organization must be set up with the right skills to successfully meet the future of work. Investment in data skills for leaders will help you to forge a truly data-driven culture and business.

To learn more about how GA equips leaders and organizations to take on data transformation get in touch with us here.

A Product Management Career Map Developed by GA’s Product Management Standards Board

By

Businesses have shifted from traditional ways of operating to truly becoming customer-centric digital organizations — and the global pandemic has accelerated this inevitable shift. Product managers, who sit at the nexus of customer needs, business strategy, and technology, play a critical part in building their companies’ digital fluency so organizations can evolve and transform their products to meet market and customer demands. 

That said, product management is often ill-defined as a function, especially in traditional companies, and business leaders and managers have a responsibility to precisely understand product management skills and careers to help these nascent leaders succeed and unlock their full potential. 

By developing and integrating product managers as strategic thinkers who help evolve organizations into being customer-centric, leaders and managers can tap into many benefits:

  1. Improved leadership pipeline and succession planning: Product managers are responsible for many things, but skills development strategies to level-up their subject matter expertise into leadership roles are not often clear. By connecting product management skills to a long-term and articulated career path, you can improve your leadership pipeline and increase career satisfaction for your product managers.
  2. Clear hiring objectives: Evaluating candidates against a documented set of skills can decrease bias and help recruiters make vital distinctions between hiring project managers, product managers, and product owners. 
  3. Increased product management talent pipeline: Creating consistency around what early-career professionals understand a product manager to be and what they must learn creates access to product management careers for people who don’t already have product managers in their networks.

We formed the Product Management Standards Board with a wide-ranging set of product management leaders across the consumer goods, technology, finance, and education sectors. We’ll channel our collective experience into increasing clarity of and access to product management skills and careers so that the next generation of product management talent can maximize their impact in organizations and the world.

We’ve crafted a career framework as a valuable tool for:

  • Product leaders who want to build capable, well-balanced teams.
  • Aspiring product managers who want to understand what skills they need to enter the field and help lead organizations.
  • Mid-career professionals who wish to understand their career options.
  • HR leaders who want to build transparent, consistent career pathways.

What Defines an Excellent Product Manager?

We drafted a career map that captures our collective thinking about what makes a product manager and the career paths and associated skills required for an employee to one day become a product leader.

Let’s break down each section of the framework and see how they’re used to guide
career progression. 

Associate Product Manager 

To begin a career in product management, individuals often move into associate product management roles from within or outside an organization with some existing understanding of the business, product, and/or customer base. While we firmly believe anyone can become a product manager starting at the associate level, we commonly see analysts, software engineers, designers, project managers, or product marketers moving into this role. In this stage of career development, product managers learn to use data to make decisions, influence without authority, and understand the balancing act of prioritization.

Product Manager

Product managers learn a mix of skills based on their particular product, area of responsibility, and expertise. Product managers in charge of a new product or feature may heavily focus on research and development. In contrast, product managers responsible for improving the quality and efficacy of an existing product or feature may focus more on data analysis to understand what drives an improved experience.

Squad leadership is critical to ensuring all people understand the goal they are working towards and what success will look like. Product managers at a large organization have the opportunity to either specialize in a single domain or can work with their managers to rotate ownership over product areas to develop a breadth of experience and skills.

Product managers at a startup will likely get to experience all of these skills in rapid rotation as their teams iterate quickly to identify product-market-fit and the right set of features for their product.

Senior Product Manager

The senior product manager level is where product managers start differentiating between becoming “craftmasters” in the individual contributor path or people managers on the leadership path. While craftmasters still need to provide inspiring team leadership to those working on the product, they often become particularly versed in a product domain, like product growth and analytics.

In contrast, a people manager in this role largely focuses on team management skills. Either way, this role is a critical step in someone’s career as it allows them an opportunity to practice developing and sharing a vision for a product with their team and working with more moving parts to guide people towards that vision. Understanding and prioritizing these moving parts become a key skill to develop at this level.

Additionally, the responsibilities to make decisions related to product growth also increase here. This level is a product manager’s opportunity to demonstrate an understanding of how business, market, and product intersect to inform the direction of the product and distinctly articulate how they expect that product to impact the company’s financials.

Director of Product

At this career point, directors of product are making a critical transition from manager to leader. They have to bring the threads of the product strategy and the product roadmap together and take ownership and responsibility for their decisions and impact. The Director of Product also starts to gain ownership of the cost side of their decisions – at some companies, this can extend as far as P&L ownership for project and product costs. They move into managing a portfolio of products and connecting the dots between how they work collectively for users and guide teams to work through complex problems to develop goals on a longer, future-driven timeline. 

VP or Head of Product 

Once an individual reaches this leadership level, they have mastered the key functional skills of product. They are now the pivotal connection point between the rest of the company’s leadership plans and the product team. They have to get beyond “product speak” and help connect the dots between technology, customers, and business goals with other leaders and employees across the business. There is a fair amount of time spent aligning resources and plans with other leaders to drive the strategy forward. As product leaders, they are also driving innovative thinking and are responsible for either the entirety of the product or a significant portfolio in terms of the company’s financials. 

A Few Notes

We’ve had many rich discussions while building out the career map and teased out some nuances listed below that may come to mind as you work your way through this framework.

What about a product owner?

While product owners play a critical function, we do not see this as being a distinct job title for someone. If you’re curious about the distinction and who might play a product ownership function in your teams, read Product Dave on Medium

What about the difference between startups and large organizations and everything in-between?

Product leaders at a large organization should consider rotating their product managers between a few different areas before moving them into more senior roles to build a range of skills sustainably. Product managers at a startup will likely get to experience all of these skills in rapid succession as their teams iterate quickly to identify product-market-fit and the right set of features for their product.

Does the framework change for “craftmaster” vs. “leadership” paths?

We have focused this framework more on the leadership path, but there is a continued path as an individual contributor, especially within larger organizations. Senior product managers, principals, and distinguished product management roles often see product managers tackle increasingly complex problems and mentor their colleagues on critical product skills while remaining in the “craftmaster” path.

Where do tangential functions fit in?

Some roles work closely with product managers to enable the full execution of products, but they are excluded on this map as they are adjacent to a product manager career path. A few of these functions include pricing analysts, product marketers, and product operations. 

What happens after VP of Product?

The next step after VP of Product is very dependent on the organization. Some VPs of Product already report to the CEO or a business unit owner, in which case, those roles would be the next step. In other organizations, a Chief Product Officer role exists and becomes the next step. Data from Emsi shows that there has been a 140% increase in CPO postings from Nov 2019 to Nov 2020; a clear reflection of organizations’ increasing awareness of the value of the role of product leadership in aligning customer needs, technology, and business strategy, and the increasing number of opportunities for advancement to the executive suite in this field.

Next Steps: Putting Words Into Action

We formed the Product Management Standards Board to increase clarity of and
access to skills and careers so the next generation of product management talent can maximize their global impact in organizations. Our career framework is a first step toward achieving this goal, but it’s only effective if followed by action.

To put this theory into action, we have started using this framework within our
organizations to:

  • Explain career progression and roles across our teams to guide development conversations and linking individual activities to strategic objectives on our product teams.
  • Guide high-potential employees on how to maximize their leadership skills.
  • Evaluate job candidates based on their skills match with the function for which they are applying, rather than exclusively what schools they’ve gone to or previous roles they’ve held. 

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

This is a living document, and we’ll be seeking feedback from 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, please let us know at cheers@ga.co.

By coalescing on what it takes to succeed in product management careers, we can begin to solve some of the pertinent talent challenges facing the profession and better prepare the next generation of leaders. We look forward to working to standardize product management career paths together.

Five Ways to Build Organizational Data Literacy

By

Data is everywhere and in every part of your business; however, data is often left for technical teams to figure out. In recent years, data has been prioritized in digital transformation efforts, with an increasing amount of businesses striving to be data-first. Hoping to leverage new tools, technologies and hiring data analysts and scientists are often overlooking one essential fact: data is for everyone, and every employee can benefit from acquiring data skills.

Businesses who leave skills out of the equation in their data transformation efforts are further widening their skill gaps. In fact, according to Accenture, 74% of employees report feeling overwhelmed when working with data. According to Deloitte, contributors aren’t the only ones; 67% of leaders say they are not comfortable accessing or using data. It’s time to change all of this.

Perhaps this anxiety and discomfort stem from businesses misunderstanding the role every employee has in leveraging data: 

  • Leaders set the vision and use data to ensure that they are making the right business decisions. 
  • Data practitioners solve complex problems with a blend of technical ability in analytics and data science. 
  • The broader organization uses data to understand impact, communicate results, and make decisions. 

All roles can benefit from upskilling to shift mindsets, gain fluency, and build efficiencies across the business, with building literacy across the broader organization being the most urgent priority.

What does data literacy look like?

Data literacy is the ability to create, read, and analyze data, and then communicate that information and use it effectively. To do this, people must understand how data is collected, where it comes from, what it shows, how it can be used, and why it’s important. 

Being data-literate means understanding:

  • Data Culture
    • Literacy Goal:  Understanding the data lifecycle, data roles and responsibilities, and how data flows through an organization. 
  • Data Ethics & Privacy
    • Literacy Goal:   Explain why ethics and privacy are essential and understand the role each employee has to play. 
  • Data Visualizations
    • Literacy Goal:  Learn why common types of visualizations are chosen to promote certain comparisons and interpret the information. 
  • Statistics
    • Literacy Goal:  Describe data and spot trends in visualizations. 
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI)
    • Literacy Goal:  Identify opportunities to integrate AI and data science tools within your workflow.

Giving data skills to all employees will help businesses meet their loftiest data transformation goals. Training all employees comes with many benefits, such as higher decision quality and improved cross-functional communication. According to Deloitte, in companies where all employees train on analytics, 88% exceeded their business goals.

Five Ways to Build a Data-Literate Organization

1. Understand How Data is Being Used in Your Business

Shifting mindsets at the top of the org chart is essential to becoming a data-literate org. Being a role model for your employees helps build trust with your new skills — they will help you form a data-driven agenda. With the right skills, you’ll be able to prioritize projects with the most business impact.  Data literacy also helps you effectively communicate with data practitioners within your organization and help focus your contributors on the data points that truly matter.

2. Define Preferred Data Usage in Your Business 

Data is plentiful, so narrowing that data down to only the most essential points is imperative to success. Understand what data you wish to collect and track, how that data will be used, and what tools and skills are needed to leverage that data successfully. 

3. Get Leadership Buy-in Across the Business

Getting buy-in from leaders across  the business is essential to establishing a data-first culture. Any strategic initiative starts at the top, and leaders that understand the power of a strong data culture will be willing to make the tools, training, and people investments necessary to build one. 

4. Create a Training Plan

Once you know what data you wish to use, consider which skills would be the most beneficial. Remember, everyone can benefit from training. We recommend building literacy skills where there are definite gaps among leaders and across the broader organization.

5. Put New Skills Into Practice

Your plan is in place! Now, give your teams learning opportunities and explain why these skills will matter to the business’s success.After training, provide team members opportunities to practice their new skills by giving them goals directly related to using, communicating with, and becoming more data-proficient.

Continue to offer learning opportunities for those employees who wish to advance past literacy and into hard skills. Consider upskilling your data practitioners to become more efficient.

In an era of increased digitization, many businesses still don’t know how to use data to gain  critical insights and information on goals and objectives. From the intern to the C-suite, it’s more important than ever for all business members to create, read, analyze, and communicate data pertaining to these objectives. Data literacy at all levels can and should be encouraged to future proof the organization and support overall business goals. Investing in upskilling to ensure that everyone is comfortable bringing data to the table has ROIs well beyond cost. 

Thinking about building your teams’ data literacy? Learn more about how our data curriculum can help your business make this powerful pivot.

What Is Digital Transformation?

By

We are in the midst of a grand economic experiment catalyzed by COVID-19 to accelerate digital transformation efforts in almost every business. The days of arguing whether digital transformation is the right path are over. Simply put, companies that don’t modernize will fail. That said, not every company is on the same journey. By the end of 2019, nearly 20% of enterprise organizations had not started digital transformation efforts. Another 40% said they were currently undergoing it, and budgets are rising to match. IDC forecasts global spending for digital transformation rose by about 17.9% in 2019 to $1.18 trillion. Partially due to COVID-19, that number is expected to increase by another 10.4% in 2020.

If you asked businesses before the pandemic about the importance of digital transformation, most would agree that it was important, but not all would prioritize it in the same ways. However, digitization becomes crucial very quickly when tens of millions of people must work from home, and non-essential businesses are closed to foot traffic.

Look at the shift in global consumer sentiment in the first week of May:

Source: McKinsey

While some of these shifts were temporary, many are not. We see fundamental changes in the way the economy works. A recent IDG survey found that 59% of IT decision-makers have accelerated their efforts with spending likely to grow by more than 10% in 2020. Demand for skills in technology, data analysis, product, marketing, and UX are higher than ever as companies shift to a new model that emphasizes  remote operations.

Time is no longer a luxury for organizations that had not yet started or been in the early stages of planning digital transformation efforts. The new normal requires businesses to be agile and digital.

What is a Digital Transformation?

Digital transformation is the process of remodeling existing business processes to meet the current market — specifically, the needs of the customer. Until recently, that included banks implementing mobile apps and investing heavily in FinTech, or healthcare organizations digitizing records and connecting devices and people seamlessly across a large network, etc.  Digital transformation was previously about supplementing existing offerings with new technologies that met consumers where they were most likely to engage.

Post-COVID-19, digital transformation is still about these things. One of the many challenges large organizations have with digital transformation is that they attempt to implement small efforts within silos in a much larger company infrastructure — digital transformation is bigger than that. It’s about recognizing the core ways to interact with customers and making smart investments to address specific challenges.

Why is digital transformation different from simple digitization? The latter is about shifting away from paper-based and analog processes. It’s about making data accessible to everyone in an organization and connecting employees at all levels. Digital transformation is about leveraging those changes to improve the relationship between your company and your customers with things like personalized messaging, configurable products and services, and more accessible, catered customer service offerings.

Of course, these efforts can be difficult to execute. To date, less than 30% of them have succeeded, and only 16% have improved performance and resulted in long-term changes. While smaller businesses (those with fewer than 100 employees) are significantly more likely to succeed, enterprise organizations are challenged to realize demonstrable returns. However, it’s not the concept that’s flawed; it’s the process. Too many organizations start from the top, thinking of the technologies and tools and not the people who will implement them.

Digital transformation relies on people at multiple levels. Not only are highly skilled individuals in marketing, IT, and product required to implement new initiatives, the entire workforce must buy into these changes. Without high levels of adoption, large investments in new software and processes can quickly look like mistakes.

Why Are Digital Transformations Important?

More than 80% of decision-makers in technology and engineering see a mismatch between the skills workers have, and the skills companies need. The biggest gaps are in strategic thinking and analysis: data analytics, data science, innovation strategy, and web development, among others. That talent gap with organizations is growing as more companies are eager to bring on top-tier talent to steer their efforts into the next decade. Digitization addresses this by leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning to support internal workers and enable the development of the right skills for the necessary work.

Furthermore, companies should be looking at the staff they already have to see how they can help support digital transformation goals. The Build vs. Buy Approach to Talent allows companies to build internal competencies that support digital transformation. We know that 75% of digital transformations fail because companies focus on systems instead of including talent as a critical enabler. Of the large chunk that fails, 70% are due to a lack of user adoption and behavioral change. Digital transformation isn’t only about buying the flashiest new tools. It’s about crafting a strategy that your employees are willing and able to implement. You need buy-in from every level of an organization. When employees embrace the concept of digital transformation, technology becomes secondary. As employees work in ways they never have before, this is more important than ever.

This might all sound like a lot of work. Coming into 2021, many companies had long put off this process because of that perception. But, the growth potential is staggering. MGI estimated that an additional $13 trillion could be added to global GDP in just 10 years by implementing AI, automation, and digitization. Despite that, only 25% of the economic potential of digitization has yet been captured. And that’s the average. In some industries, the digital frontier gap is significantly larger — especially in revenue generation, automation, and digitization of the workforce.

Despite the delays before this year, many chief executives now see the value of digital transformation. Two-thirds of CEOs expect to change their business models due to digital technologies, and 77% of digitally mature companies are more likely to grow digital roles in the next three years. These trends have only continued in light of COVID-19.  A July survey showed that the number of days spent at home by employees had grown four-fold. Ultimately, all remote employees require technological support. Think about all the technology that we rely upon that needs adequate support, too: Cloud-based applications. WAN modernization efforts to support a dispersed workforce and maintain network security. Improvements to active directory and identity management.

The impact of digital transformation efforts leads to fundamental changes in departmental models as well. Marketing, for example, is leveraging AI to improve the customer experience across the board. With 80% of companies now using AI chatbots and 84% of customer-focused companies spending heavily to improve mobile experiences, the way organizations engage with prospects and customers has fundamentally changed in the last half-decade.

The Impact of Digital Transformation (Done Right)

Over the past six months, workforce digitization has accelerated faster than at any point in the last twenty years. For organizations ahead of the game, it was a chance to put their innovative efforts to the test. For those who had delayed digital transformation initiatives, it was a major challenge. With limited resources, a highly competitive talent pool, and an uncertain future reshaped by the events of 2020, it’s more important than ever to develop a strategy that guides your business forward. This is a massive opportunity for leaders who understand the moment we are in, to arm their organizations with the tools, resources, and processes needed to succeed.

Where are you observing digital skill gaps within your organization? Learn more about how we can help.

Four New Skilling Solutions for Powerful Data Transformation

By

Data is integral to every business. It helps organizations set strategies, report on wins and losses, make smarter business decisions, and is the connective tissue between leaders and teams. However, as businesses lean into a data-first future, through digital transformation, they must also take into account the skills needed to successfully leverage data.

According to New Vantage Partners, only 24% of organizations have successfully become data-driven. Organizations undergoing data transformations don’t typically fail because of tools or technology but because of talent-related challenges, such as cultural resistance and lack of leadership, contributing to a general discomfort communicating with and using data. A study by Accenture confirms that 74% of employees feel overwhelmed or unhappy when working with data.

It’s time to change all of that. Investment in data upskilling for existing talent is a step in the right direction for businesses hoping to benefit from the full use of data and AI. From mindset training for leaders to upskilling functional practitioners on modern practices to fluency for the broader organization, businesses must begin to see the opportunity and importance of data transformation in the context of employee skills.

Introducing Four New Training Programs to Embed Data Skills Into Your Organization

We’ve had the pleasure of helping businesses, such as Guardian and Booz Allen Hamilton, build data-driven workforces from within through upskilling and reskilling. Our work with the AI & Data Science Standards Board and our customer and industry research helps us to understand what training each employee — from leader to contributor— needs to successfully leverage data within their roles.

As the digital landscape continues to evolve, we saw an opportunity to further enable teams to transform into data-driven organizations. Over the last few months, we’ve been hard at work refreshing existing training programs for leaders and functional practitioners and building new ones for the broader organization, all connecting to the most emergent data-skilling needs.

Here’s a quick overview of those programs:

  • Data Literacy On Demand [New]: Data literacy for all employees has become a must-have for businesses striving to build a data-first culture. This flexible training solution fits right into your employee’s workflow and gives them the foundational knowledge they need to start interpreting and communicating with data. 
  • Building Data Literacy [New]: For deeper, more targeted data literacy training, we created a brand new workshop, Building Data Literacy. Use Building Data Literacy to train smaller cohorts of employees or as a deeper, more hands-on follow-up to Data Literacy On Demand. 
  • AI for Leaders [Refreshed]: We refreshed our AI for Leaders workshop to better focus on giving organizations a place to start when considering AI. This approach for getting started with AI was validated by our AI & Data Science Standards Board members. 
  • Advanced Analytics Accelerator [Refreshed]: Advanced Analytics Accelerator is one of our most popular data programs. We used client feedback to develop a new assessment approach and refresh the curriculum to better meet learner needs. New assessments help show learner uplift and mastery of concepts covered in the program.

These new programs will allow you to: 

  • Take the First Step With Data & AI: Move transformation initiatives forward by giving every audience in your business foundational data and AI skills. 
  • Stay on the Cutting-Edge With Content Validated by Experts: Give your people real world, actionable insights with training programs that are created with and delivered by subject matter experts. 
  • Reach Employees With Relevant Training: Maximize learner retention with curricula designed and delivered in the right format for your learning objectives.

More to Come

Over the next few months, we will be releasing more useful workforce insights, updated training programs, and more. Keep your eyes on the GA blog or get in touch with us to hear the latest.

Want to learn more about how we can help your organization lean into a data-first future? Download the full catalog of GA’s data skilling solutions here.