Making Talent Transformation A Priority

Carol Baxter Headshot
c/o Carol Baxter
Upskilling your workforce can be key to boosting productivity and mitigating risk. Organizations just need to broaden their scope, according to Carol Baxter, SVP, head of HR for Revature.

Especially in the ever-changing tech field, failing to provide employees opportunities for advancement doesn’t just limit growth, it opens organizations up to unnecessary risk. But talent transformation can look like more than just new skills in the toolbox.

As senior vice president, head of HR for Revature, a company that provides specialized tech talent for leading companies including seven of the world’s largest banks and eight of the 10 largest global system aggregators, Carol Baxter knows the importance of upskilling. She spoke with StrategicCHRO360 about how organizations can strengthen their workforce from within.  

How can organizations attract talent who are ready and able to make an impact?

There are two critical things organizations should consider when seeking to attract tech talent that can make an impact from day one: competency and culture.

Oftentimes, interviews focus heavily on qualifications. While ours also begin with asking a candidate about past experiences, we spend as much time talking with candidates about their core competencies as an indicator of what they can do and will do going forward. It’s important to understand how a person works, how they approach problems, make decisions, communicate, approach leadership and so on.

Additionally, understanding whether someone is a culture fit is of the utmost importance. Ask candidates where they’ve done their best work and what kind of workplace cultures that they’ve thrived in. Of course, to determine if a candidate is a culture fit, your company must have a very clear sense of its own.

At Revature, for instance, our main goal is to create opportunities for people, while our values include an attitude of gratitude, lifelong learning and grit. We focus on those components when talking to candidates about whether they would excel as part of our team.

Regardless of the ins and outs of your company’s culture, the key—especially when dealing with entry-level talent—is to bring it up throughout the interview process to generate a sense as to whether it resonates with a potential employee.

How can organizations improve talent mobility?

Training and growth opportunities are so important both for attracting talent and improving talent mobility. The best upskilling programs are about more than teaching new skills, they focus on talent mobility—helping employees navigate career progression within their current organization through hard skills, soft skills and leadership skills.

In a 2022 Pew study, 63 percent of respondents said they left their job in 2021 because there were no opportunities for advancement. When employees have a clear career progression laid out for them, everyone benefits.

To that end, we’ve created a comprehensive professional development program that helps our associates—the tech talent we train and place—with both hard and soft skills. We’ve established eight fundamental dimensions of leadership and have a team dedicated to training our associates in those areas.

For employees on the corporate side, we use a performance management program in which we work with managers to identify where employees currently excel and chart out what capabilities should drive their career progression.

The head of our training organization, for instance, started with Revature as an associate and moved all the way up to become a senior director on the corporate side. It was evident early on that he was a natural leader, so we offered him some stretch assignments—and support—to help him develop those skills.

He was handed a brand-new, ill-defined project within the first 18 months of his tenure. Despite numerous challenges and moments of conflict, he steered the ship smoothly, communicated well with stakeholders and took accountability. Giving employees the chance to handle tasks a bit outside of their comfort zone is so crucial to talent mobility.

How can organizations improve “talent transformation”—the upskilling to move talent to enterprise-ready and staying relevant to a company’s roadmap?

Talent transformation simply must be a priority, especially for organizations that can’t afford to increase headcount. It can be tempting to put off investing in upskilling programs until absolutely necessary, but the risks may be apparent only after it’s too late—for example, a cyberattack that demonstrates tech employees’ out-of-date skills.

Additionally, skills that are relevant today may no longer be relevant tomorrow. According to Gartner, the total number of skills required for a single job is increasing almost 6 percent annually. Meanwhile, the half-life for tech skills is just 2.5 years.

Companies need to know what skills their employees have today and what skills they will need in the near-term, which is why it is critical to build upskilling programs that are aligned with their company’s roadmap.

When building a plan to support talent transformation, make sure the leadership team understands, appreciates and agrees with the initiative. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day, especially during tough times, and to have a myopic focus on business objectives, whether organizationally or departmentally.

Many people may also have misconceptions about talent transformation, assuming that it’s too expensive or too difficult. In reality, talent transformation boosts employee retention and productivity at a low cost to the business and with a low impact on managers. Communicating this internally is key to generating buy-in and success.

Get the StrategicCHRO360 Briefing

Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CHROs in every industry