Want to upskill your workforce? Time to rethink your corporate partnerships.

How corporate partnerships can help in upskilling
Darren Scott
6 mins

The world has changed dramatically in my 25 years’ working at large technology firms around the globe. Yet one customer question has remained consistent - and consistently tough to resolve: “I just need to talk to someone who knows about …”

Finding the right person, with the right experience, at the right time - to help customers, partners or even our own staff - continued to be mired in complexity. What’s the exact problem? Who can help? Are they available? How much do we charge? Is there a contract in place? Should I check with the account manager...? The challenges were the same when helping a CIO at a global bank as they were for a network engineer at a small business.

Organisations love complexity. People just want to matter.

An organisation is a complex entity and getting two organisations to work together in any sort of integrated fashion often seems an insurmountable task, entangled by a web of rules. Statement of Work based agreements, Managed Services, Partner Go-To-Market agreements, Service Contracts, Governing Structuring - each define complex project or time-bound agreements and deliverables. Most are crafted by lawyers to share risk, solve problems or determine how decisions are made.

This complexity of ‘working together’ seems counter-intuitive to the inherent nature of the people that make it happen. People are naturally collaborative - especially when it comes to developing skills and helping others do the same. We tend to be much better at it in our personal lives, each curating an ever-changing network of unofficial advisors on a multitude of areas from cooking and gardening to sport.

When these exchanges do happen at work, you often see a much more engaged and effective employee.

A teammate dropping what they’re doing and helping a colleague, an industry peer giving you a call to share ideas, or one of your customers giving you some unsolicited advice - these exchanges aren’t contractual but rather tap into our human need for connection and belonging. Rather than just spontaneous or impromptu, exchanges like these should be encouraged, nurtured and rewarded as part of any partnership, whether internal or external.

The missing piece in digital transformation? - People.

Never has there been a more urgent time to encourage this exchange of expertise between people.

The continuing wave of digital transformation efforts, built and enabled by contractual complexity, are for the most part not living up to expectations. The most optimistic success rates in this area top out at 30% (1) with about half of those successes unable to sustain the value returned.

While strategy and technology decisions are critical drivers of organisational success, the gargantuan task of involving and evolving their human capital (people) continues to be the key challenge. Companies that are unable to drive that change with the necessary empathy and at the required pace, find themselves with a disengaged workforce, without the necessary skills they need to support any transformational effort.

This challenge is only growing. In 2018, the World Economic Forum predicted (2) that by 2022, no less than 54% of all employees will require significant reskilling and upskilling. How are we doing now? The Sloan Review (3) reports that in 2019/20 $1.2 trillion was spent on digital transformation efforts, yet only 13% of leaders say their organisations are ready for the digital age.

Upskilling. It’s not only about content.

The corporate learning market is massive. North America e-learning alone is estimated to be $200+ billion (4), growing roughly at 10% annually. But while substantial effort and money is being invested in redefining the learning approach, it’s still centred around ‘content’. Wherever you have content, you have a teacher - producing material of their choice for the masses - you also have a time lag between new ideas, emerging challenges and the ability to embrace and tackle them.

The result is impersonal content, not aligned with your current knowledge, the way you learn or your specific challenge. You’re left to cherry-pick the useful bits.

The way forward. One-on-one exchanges and experiential learning.

The unique learning that occurs when two people come together to work through a challenge is currently underserved. One-on-one coaching, mentoring and advisory services have been steadily growing online, but only the lucky few get access to such luxuries. Cost, the relevance and depth of knowledge and the aforementioned complexity in using external providers are just a few barriers.

‘I hear, I know. I see, I remember. I do, I understand.’

– Confucius (551-479 BC)

These one-on-one ‘experiential learning’ approaches repeatedly outperform other forms of skill development in effectiveness, retention and speed to applicability. According to EaglesFlight (5), experiential learning can help people retain as much as 90% of what they’ve learned, compared to other learning methods that result in as low as 5% retention.

But questions remain. How does that work at scale? Can it work for highly specific or emerging challenges? Is it a solution for every employee, not just leadership? Who are these all-knowing mentors and coaches? And when is actual work supposed to get done if we’re all in coaching and mentoring sessions?

Sharing the world’s experience, one personal connection at a time.

The answer comes back to the original customer question, haunting my career, from Cisco to Adobe: “I just need to talk to someone who knows about …” I’m so confident in that answer, that I left ‘big tech’ back in 2018 to pursue the solution.

The challenge isn’t that the skills and expertise we all need don’t exist, or even that they only exist in specialists or experts. They simply exist in the minds of anyone that has walked that path before you. The challenge is finding these people and unlocking their knowledge to expand that of others.

I’ve teamed up with Shane Grove - also formally at Cisco - to launch a new way to share the world’s experience. TEX (The Experience Exchange) is based on the idea that everyone has things to learn and everyone has things they could teach others. We match people based on their skills so they can either share or gain the expertise they need. One-on-one, people work on their specific challenges together - with a peer, colleague, mentor or coach by their side.

For businesses, this breaks down organisational, hierarchical and geographic borders, not only by allowing employees to connect internally, but by giving you a platform to unleash your collective expertise on the world. To your customers perhaps, for free or for a fee. To your non-profit organisations, with skills-based volunteering. To graduates joining your industry. It’s easy to see how far-reaching the simple act of helping each other prepare for the future can be.

It also means you can tap into the minds of the people behind your technology and industry partners, by linking up your employees to learn new skills and approaches. Ask yourself, which of your partners would you love to connect with on a personal, skills-exchange level?

Down with complexity. Let’s put people and relationships first.

The time has come for organisations to really start working together, sharing expertise and allowing their people to connect and exchange ideas in a more comprehensive, less contractually governed way. I believe TEX truly has the potential to rewrite how businesses, organisations and individuals work and upskill together.

We’ve designed TEX to tackle the aforementioned complexities of establishing agreements between corporations, education institutes and non-profit organisations. The commercial structure on TEX is up to you and you can track the impact you’re having at a business and individual level.

New ideas, challenges and skills are emerging all the time, so TEX evolves too using the world’s largest database of skills from Burning Glass Technologies and the insights and experience of everyone that joins. You get full visibility of the skills and skills gaps that may exist for the role you have now or the role you aspire to achieve.

For the individual, the benefits are all the more powerful. Spending time helping someone to achieve something important to them - strikes the heart of our innate need to share, help and collaborate. We’ve brought together the most effective forms of learning - one-on-one and experiential - but taken away the restrictive idea of ‘teachers’ and pre-created content. On TEX, you work as you learn, and learn as you work. The subject is your work.

Take the connection between your employees and your customers. Having employees talk to and spend time directly with customers accelerates understanding, expertise and empathy on both sides.

The most critical part of TEX is human connection and the ability for individuals to curate an ongoing community to help when the next challenge comes along, or to lend a hand when others need it… a living, breathing, evolving tribe of expertise, for everyone.

I left ‘big tech’, not only to help organisations grow skills but to give everyone equal access to expertise and opportunity. More than that. To give everyone a direct connection with their purpose and allow people to reconnect to one of their most human traits - helping another person.

If you fancy having a chat about anything I’ve touched upon here or you want to find out more about TEX, feel free to send me a message or email me at Darren@tex.inc

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#skills #mentoring #upskilling #coaching

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