Podcast transcript: practical tips to prepare your organisation for the evolution of skills

Check out the transcript from Season 2, Episode 1 of AHRI’s new podcast, Let’s Take This Offline, where global future of work thought leader Ravin Jesuthasan walks HR through some practical frameworks and ideas to prepare their organisations for the future.

Listen to the episode below and read more about AHRI’s podcast here.

Beth Hall: This podcast is recorded on Wurundjeri land. I’d like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land and the land on which you are listening today. Welcome to Season Two of Let’s Take This Offline, a podcast from the Australian HR institute that brings you closer to the minds helping to shape the future of HR. My name is Beth Hall, and I’m the general manager of HR standards and capability at AHRI. I’ve been in people and culture for over 15 years, working with dynamic organisations globally that focus on strategies to enhance workplace wellbeing and performance. I’m passionate about advancing HR to create positive work environments, and my master’s in organisational psychology has been instrumental in shaping my approach to HR. In an era of rapid technological advancement, and as the demand for certain skills rises and others become obsolete, preparing for the future of work requires foresight and adaptability. HR practitioners need to think about the evolving landscape of skills, and how best to prepare their organizations and employees for these changes. Today, I’m thrilled to have Ravin Jesuthasan join us for this discussion we’re having is a globally recognized expert on the future of work, a senior partner and global leader for transformation services at Mercer and a speaker at our is National Convention and Exhibition this year, Ravin will share his insights on how AI and automation are transforming the job market, particularly for graduate level positions. We’ll also explore what skills are becoming essential, how traditional roles are evolving, and what strategies both individuals and organizations can adopt to stay competitive. There are lots of important takeaways for HR in this episode. So let’s jump in. Welcome to the podcast. Thank you so much for joining us. First question as an HR practitioner, I really struggled to keep up with the skills, you know, there’s a shortage, we need to hunt for talent, we need to pay above premiums to be able to get the talent in. And then next thing you know, those skills are obsolete and we’ve moved on to something else. So we look after workforce planning, we look after recruitment and selection. And it’s really hard sometimes to be able to keep abreast of what’s changing any strategies for HR on how they can stay adaptive and responsive. 

Ravin Jesuthasan: Well, firstly, Beth, it’s lovely to be here with you. You know, we’ve been talking about this issue of the shrinking half life of skills for the better part of the last 15 years. And we really are starting to see things hit home hard. There are certain digital skills and certain AI skills where the half life is down to two and a half years, which is really quite remarkable when you think of things like accounting degrees that we’ve had for about 100 years. Granted, they probably aren’t going to be around for the next 100. But you know, they stood us in good stead for a long time. So there is certainly a massive premium on upskilling and reskilling more than there ever has been. And when I look at what HR needs to do the three things that really jump out, firstly, what I think of as being the design of work. So do we have sufficient and timely demand signals for how work is evolving, and what that means for the underlying skills along with an understanding of the supply of those skills, and the specific gaps that need to be closed either by buying talent, borrowing talent, through machine augmentation, whatever it might be. So there’s one sort of critical strategy right there. The second is then seamlessly connecting the assets and the space required for continuous seamless skill development for the workforce, ensuring that we’re designing the space or learning and upskilling and rescaling in the flow of work. And then thirdly, ensuring that we’ve got the mechanisms in place to take those developed skills and redeploy them rapidly to where they’re most in demand. So the design of work, the development of skills, and the redeployment of skills are three strategies that I think are going to become increasingly important to HR functions. 

Beth Hall: Yeah, I agree, and as you say, like that they’ve all been around a while. You know, a gap analysis and then developing skills to fill that gap, and then redeploying skills to be able to enable growth. But to your point, we’re having to do it faster than ever. And we’re having to do it with so much ambiguity around. What are the skills of the future? And what will those gaps be? It’s almost like, every HR department needs a crystal ball at the moment, we are really fascinated about this topic of skills, hence why you’re joining us for NCAE, because you are our keynote speaker talking about what exactly is happening in the world of skills and what’s shifting. We just did some research recently, in June of 2024. And we asked our membership base, are you shifting towards a skill centered organization? And what does that look like? are you slowing out qualifications and focusing on skills and, and thinking about the mechanisms to redeploy skills, because you’re actually in the market of recruiting skills as opposed to recruiting for roles? And you’ve got an upcoming book that is exactly on this topic, the skills powered organization that suggests this shift to the skill model. So we’d love to understand from you how can we effectively map and leverage skills in order to be able to get started into this skills powered organization? 

Ravin Jesuthasan: Yeah, so I think the starting point is having a single source of truth, Beth. So many organisations start with a common taxonomy, a common language, if you will, so that we’ve got a currency for skills that is universally applicable within the organization. And so we don’t have if I say, x is a skill, and when you see it, you say it’s y, then we’ve got alternative truths, if you will, that don’t connect up. So having a common taxonomy, or a sense of how we connect skills to work. And I think that’s another reason why you’re seeing the movement towards skills. Because as more and more AI comes into organizations, we know it’s not entire jobs that are destroyed, or, or jobs that disappear. It’s discrete tasks and activities that are either substituted, augmented, or otherwise transformed. And unless you’ve got skills, i.e. a smaller building block for work, explicitly connected to those tasks, it’s very difficult to understand what the implications are for that changing work. And so you know, once you’ve gotten that taxonomy, lets you more clearly articulate what the demand for work is, what that means for those skills, and then more specifically, what the supply looks like, of that talent? And what are the underlying strategies to either build, buy, borrow, etc. And you talked about my book, and it’s one of the reasons why I partnered with my co author, Tanner Chu is the head of strategy, as well as the Chief People Officer at Standard Chartered Bank, because they’ve been on this journey around making skills, the currency for work for quite a few years. And I think I’ve really started to bring the art of the possible to life in that organisation. 

Beth Hall: Oh, wonderful. So we’re gonna see some real practical application of the theory within that book, then? 

Ravin Jesuthasan: Oh, yes, absolutely. Every chapter is a combination of what the theory is, what the state of the art should be. And then a really practical drill down into what Standard Chartered Bank has done to bring that to life. 

Beth Hall: So really closing that knowledge skill gap. That’s excellent. So when you talk about this taxonomy of skills, it takes me back to 20 years ago, when I first started in learning and development and competency dictionaries were the thing capability frameworks were the thing. And I certainly have seen a resurgence of them. I think, you know, for a few years there, we went into let’s just do leadership competencies, because there are costs to the whole organ, it’s easy, let’s not bother with the technical ones. But what I’m hearing is let’s go back to our roots and really get clear on what are those capability frameworks. But I guess, the addition to that is how we’re connecting those skills to the work because I don’t know that we did that as effectively as we should. We always captured that taxonomy, and then focused on the learning and development initiative that closed that gap as opposed to the work. 

Ravin Jesuthasan: Exactly. And the reason I’m smiling Beth is I used to do a ton of competency based work back in the 90s. And I remember getting calls from CEOs saying, well, well done. You’ve single handedly elevated our wage base, without a commensurate improvement in profitability. You know, I think we’re done with all this competency based pay nonsense. And I think what’s different this time around is you have the tech that is making this so much easier, because the heavy lift if you remember back this notion of competency based systems are managing the organization all with the right intentions. But it was a really heavy lift to understand what skills what competencies does someone really have? Were they real? Or were they perceived? How important was it that that competency was validated. And we tended, as we often do with organizational development, to sort of index to the highest burden of proof. And so everything would have to be assessed and verified and validated. And now I think what’s been really heartening to see as more and more AI has come into the management of skills, the ability to pull down a taxonomy, there’s a ton of them out there. So they’re very widely available, the ability to sort of rapidly in first skills in first skills being demanded by changing work. And in first skills that your talent might have, at a real pace, the ability to sort of, you know, direct learning resources at scale and speed. And particularly with generative AI, we’re seeing really amazing applications of highly customised rescaling pathways, the driving of learning resources to people on a real time basis. So you’ve got real time AI coaches, nudging people with the right learning resources at scale and speed. And I think, I think it’s that technology dimension that has really made what was kind of the initial promise of competency based, you know, programs and competency based management really come to life with this notion of the skills powered organization. Because it’s, you know, what was a deeply manual and painful process is now much more nuanced. AI-enabled one.

Beth Hall: Oh, couldn’t agree more. And I think, you know, back 20 years ago, when we’re building those capability, frameworks and competency dictionaries, we would spend hours upon hours with technical experts, hiring managers really trying to understand what it is this role actually entailed, similar to when we do job descriptions, whereas now, you can see the work assets, you can feed job descriptions, you can feed adverts into AI and say, based on all of these things, Holly, what are the discrete skills that this person requires? And also, I found you can start to map skills as well or tell me from these two roles? What are the overlapping skills between these two roles, we can start to think about what is that you mentioned? If step three, is the mechanism to redeploy skills, knowing what are the white places within the organization that aren’t necessarily traditionally career trajectories that they would take is, again, enabled by AI. So it’s definitely there to do the heavy lifting for us, which is good. So you’ve done a lot of research in this area, clearly, you’ve got a lot of experience working with different organizations. What would you say is the most crucial area for us to focus on with regards to skills? What do you think is going to become the most competitive skill within the workforce? 

Ravin Jesuthasan: That’s a great question. We went in the direction of oh, it’s all about AI and technology skills. I think that’s part of the equation. You know, I talked about some of these digital skills having a half life that’s shorter than ever before. Most recent future jobs report in the World Economic Forum, predicted that 23% of jobs will change within the next five years, and 44% of the workers’ underlying core skills would be disrupted. So I do think there is this growing need to continuously upskill and rescale on the tech with regard to technical skills. But I think we are also seeing as AI increasingly substitutes and augments, there’s much greater premium on the human skills that people have creativity, having that mindset of reinvention of oneself, the ability to see connection, as between disparate domains, you know, what we’ve traditionally referred to as the classic sort of pie shaped leader, you know, the symbol pie, that person who’s deep in a couple of domains, but has the wherewithal to see this sort of see connections across different technical domains. I also think, you know, we’re increasingly seeing a much higher premium on the expression of care and empathy. As more and more, you know, routine, repetitive work ends up getting substituted. And we shift our energy and our efforts and the body of work to be increasingly around work that is relational, and work that involves the expression of expertise. So the ability to do that with real insight with care and empathy, etc. So, you’re starting to see these human skills really rise to the fore. And so I can I can see that continuing on. 

Beth Hall: Yeah, I agree. And chat GPT needs me we’d have a conversation happened, then the responses don’t have the nuance don’t have the connection to your point that human mind can connect. So whilst it can certainly help take away that monotonous work, it still requires our brain and our Power of Thinking, you got me thinking then when you were sharing about the need for human skills, and the need for empathy and the treatment of people and the EQ side of things, and when I think about school leavers coming straight into organizations, they’ll often start in those early career roles that are potentially quite manual, potentially quite process driven. And that’s their first experience of working life outside of the school grounds almost. So their EQ probably isn’t as developed within that environment or within that setting. And those early career roles really give them the opportunity to harness those skills and to be able to make those mistakes in a low risk environment. If AI is going to take that layer away, those junior roles are going to learn and we’re not as deliberate in our thinking around creating those, you know, some people call them the nursery, how are we going to come unstuck if we give too much to AI? 

Ravin Jesuthasan: You know, that’s the thing that I worry about the most Beth, because consulting firms are built on that model of apprenticeship, you’ve just talked about, right? That model of sort of learning at the knee of that senior practitioner and, and her saying, you know, I wouldn’t say it that way, I might just frame it slightly differently, or I wouldn’t do that at all, I do this and those lessons, you know, I’ll speak for myself, you know, I love those things 30 years ago, and I still remember that those things, and they still shape my response to clients. I think that’s where, you know, it’s both a challenge and potentially an opportunity. I’ve been doing a lot of work with a couple of organizations that are creating AI tutors, and the opportunity to have that real time, coach, if you will. So instead of that human being who you might interact with, when you and that person go see a client together, you’ve now got that AI coach on your phone every second. Now, the thing that’s interesting is, is it there today, absolutely not. However, I want to share an example that I think maybe sort of portends, where this could potentially go so an organization I work with is using generative AI in their hospitals. And the response from patients is that when they get a message from the physician, after the procedure, when they get a message from the physical therapist to check in as to how that you know, how they’re feeling after that session, with the equipment as as being that day, is there is this exponential gain in the perception of empathy on the part of, of the patient. Because the message is coming, the message is entirely curated by a Gen AI system. But the perception that this person is much more empathetic adopters more empathetic than she ever was when she was sitting at my bedside, because she was rushing off to the next patient, etc. But to me, the some of these systems, I think, have the potential as they develop more to provide that sort of coaching that nudging, you could argue is it true empathy or not, is really matter. It’s the perception on the part of that you know, of the recipient, I think that’s where there might be a potential option here to make up for the loss of that traditional pathway, you know, those traditional experiences in the learning, with AI actually becoming, if you think about it, what we have an opportunity to do is take all of that knowledge that the senior practitioners and sort of drop it into that smart system, so that that system is then becoming the default coach. And that’s why I sort of am not fully convinced I see the markers of progress on that front. I’m not fully convinced that we’ll get there but it is intriguing, you know, to see that that might be a counterbalance, if you will, to that issue of not having traditional apprenticeship model work.

Beth Hall: I use copilot on my emails and I’ll use copilot coach just to see how is this going to be received? What is the tone of my email? Now sometimes I agree with copilot, sometimes I disagree. I might want to be particularly assertive in that way or I might not want to soften in that way. So I do think this is judgment that you bring into that decision making when ai ai coaches you but I certainly We review that it shares, nuance and perception of others with the language that you use that you may not necessarily have intended. So I certainly think that can help us do question going straight from school to those mid level walls, that essentially is my children that are going to make that leap. What is the role of the school to bridge that gap? What is the role of parents to bridge that gap? Because if apprenticeships are coming in mid career, what is the organization’s expectation that they’re operating with them, and output and skills are expected to bring to that level?

Ravin Jesuthasan: You’re absolutely right. Because the way I’m seeing it manifest is if you think about it, let’s go back to you know, accounting firms and consulting firms, right, they were typically structured as pyramids, you know, hire about 1000 people at that low level with the expectation that maybe 50, we’re gonna get up to being a senior partner, process of the work, the learning the attrition, etc, was what allowed me to sort of Polish, you know, these diamonds in the rough, and the ones who could sort of put up with all of our culture and all of that to finally make it to the top right. And so it’s kind of a war of attrition. And now I think what you’re seeing is organizations being a lot more deliberate and go from that pyramid to that to more of a stovepipe, to say, well, you know, when I hire Beth, I want to hire her with the explicit understanding that she’s got what it takes to be that senior partner, you know, 15 years from now. And so the assessments I do, the technology, I surround her with coaching, etc, is a lot more, you know, I’m leaving a lot less to chance, and leaving a lot less to serendipity than I might have. 

Beth Hall: And in the old model, we are testing a lot more at this election base for potential competency. Post a competency. So you’re right, potentially, that testing is going to help inform what those gaps are that needed to be filled, versus what they’ve already bought to the organization. 

Ravin Jesuthasan: So that’s a really good point, ready to reveal your employees superpowers with built in AI workday helps your talent find their untapped skills, craft personalized career paths, and unlock maximum performance, workday, the finance and HR system for a changing world.

Beth Hall: So if I was looking to get started, if I’m an organisation, like one of those ones that we’ve just researched, AHRI, that have heard about this skills based organisation, but haven’t actually had a go, you’ve got a great book work without jobs that discusses the rebooting of operating systems, because it’s a whole organizational wide change. It’s not, it may be facilitated by HR, but it’s not HR changing the way organizations operate. So how would they go about winning the hearts and minds of the decision makers in the business? What are the kinds of steps that they would take are the key components that they would need in order to be able to reboot their organization, 

Ravin Jesuthasan: In our jobs, we laid out the case for why this thing called a job was no longer fit to be the singular currency for work. And we talked, as we’ve touched on here, you know, the issues of the velocity and volatility of change the rise of AI, the opportunities to democratize work and access to work that are now upon us as a result of technologies we have. And so the need for a work operating system that was built based on kind of skills and capabilities, if you will. And there were four principles that continued consistently came out to us when we tested this across the organizations my co author John Boudreau, and I work with one was ensuring that you’re starting with the work, not how the work is organized or where it sits geographically or functionally, etc. But what is the work the elemental tasks and activities that exists today and the ones to come? Once we figured out that the core work asking the question of how do we ensure the optimal combinations between humans and machines, where it is specific types of automation substitute the work, you know, potentially rules based work that is highly repetitive, where my automation and AI actually augment human creativity and ingenuity and critical thinking, where my the presence of AI automation actually create the demand for new human work, or the demand for new skills? Because the skills are changing and application as they’re increasingly machine augmented. So that was the second principle. Once we figured out that optimal combination, then asking the question of before we default to you know, it’s going to be a job designed around this now machine, augmented operating model. Are they different ways for talent? engage with the work? Should it be an employee in a job? Should it be an employee in an agile talent pool? Should it be a gig worker? From a technology marketplace? Should the work be centralized and put into shared services? Should it be outsourced, etc? What’s the optimal way for humans to engage with this machine optimized work? And then lastly, ensuring that we are reducing the frictional cost of work? By consistently asking the question of as new work emerges as the work changes? How will the talent flow to that changing demand evermore seamlessly, as opposed to the traditional response would be, oh, I’ve got to go redesign and new job because there’s this new thing that’s come about. So how do we reduce that lag and that frictional cost so that as talent sees the world changing, we’ve got an enterprise that is built to consistently reconfigure itself for that changing demand, sort of a mindset and a toolset of perpetual reinvention, if you will.

Beth Hall: So I love this concept of starting with the work again, as a capability, L&D professional, that’s where we always start with – what exactly is happening in the world of work? And how do we look to support and navigate the skills, knowledge and behaviors required to do it? When I think back to my last role, there were 350 unique roles within the organisation. So for me to go to 350 unique roles that had, you know, 35 general managers across the group that looked after those unique roles to determine what is the work? What is the demand for skills? How could we think about doing this differently? When I grappled with how I would go about that on top of my existing day job? I think that there’s just no way. So what would your advice be to someone that is in a complex business with lots of unique roles? Where’s the best place to get started? You know, do you go after the role or the area of the business that has the most amount of rapid change? Do you go after a stable area where you’ve got some consistency and some time to really practice the skill of those steps that you just shared? Like what is the best way to approach it?

Ravin Jesuthasan: We have seen this work best is where the business has an appetite for reinvention, where the tried and trued has not worked, where they’re going through a ton of change, and they can’t keep throwing talent at the problem. There is new technology that’s coming in. Often I find those triggers, you know, new tech, a bottleneck in the process, the old way of getting it done is just no longer cutting in those pain points, create the conditions for a business leader wanting to look at something different. And the beauty of it is and we alluded to some of this in the book is when I’ve worked with organizations who have implemented it, we have this great case study of Providence Health System in the book. We had examples from DHL and Genentech and a bunch of other organizations in the book. When organizations have made some of these changes along the lines of the four principles, the gains aren’t the sort of nominal, you know, 30% gain from outsourcing, right, where you might lift and shift work, arguably work still being done in the same way. It’s just labor arbitrage. But when you’ve actually reinvented the work, the gains are more than that. 70 to 80%. And that’s what makes this compelling. Yes, it’s a heavy lift to your point. The good news is there’s a ton of tools out there AI driven tools that are enabling organizations to redesign work at real scale and speed, and that that will be the focus of the masterclass that we’re doing in Melbourne in August. But there are a lot more tools that allow you to do this for entire job families and functions, as opposed to individual discrete jobs, because that really does force you to kind of narrow the aperture. Right? If you’re doing at that job level.

Beth Hall: I love that thing. We’re actually just perpetuating the old ways of working if we go by job well, because ultimately, we’re not going to see the links between actually that job isn’t even really a job and how does that connect? So I love the idea of piggyback on existing change, whether that be technological change or change of leadership or change the way that function operates, because in that time of disruption, there’s a real opportunity and an appetite to your point to think differently. So I think that’s a really great start for HR practitioners. So if I’m in a small to medium business, and I’m listening to this podcast and I’m thinking, Yes, this actually is going to enable growth for my business. This is a really good approach and operating within how would they go about not having job descriptions and and having a skill base based organization, what tools would they use to provide clarity or manage performance?

Ravin Jesuthasan: There’s a couple of things here. In the book, we talk about three ways of connecting talent to work, the fixed model, the flexible model and the flow model. And I think it starts with understanding the work. So the fixed model, ie a person in a full time job, and I think this is particularly relevant for small to medium sized enterprises, because they often don’t have the constraints of very large multinational businesses that have multiple jurisdictions. And so if you own a relatively small and mid sized business, operating in a couple of different cities, potentially, or just one city, asking the question of where are their bodies of work, where, because of compliance reasons, quality reasons, nature of the work is high risk, I need that fixed role. So like, you know, the airline pilot, or the driller on the oil rig, in a really do need them to be doing that job full time, rather than kind of driving Uber on the weekends, etc. Because there is such a premium on competence and productivity. And, and experience often becomes a really critical determinant of performance. So you know, you have those fixed roles in the very traditional, but then there are other bodies of work, where someone might be in a job, but that you want them to have the flexibility to express their skills in different domains, or the flexibility to go acquire new skills and other domains. And now that could be a person who is in a tea, who now takes on a project, standing up a new technology database for HR, or helping the accounting function, develop a new analytics module related to projections, financial projections, etc. And so this becomes a win win, because you’ve got talent that can do the work, that now is, has the opportunity to express their skills in a different domain. So you’ve got the win of don’t need to go out and hire someone or get a contract or a third party. And I’ve given someone the opportunity to get even more engaged in his or her work. So it’s kind of interesting when when. And then the third is the flow model, which I think of as being sort of agile on steroids. And this would be where instead of saying to someone you are for the skills I need across the organization, think program managers think project managers, data scientists, Scrum, masters, etc. I don’t just need them in it, I might need them in HR, I might need them in sales and marketing. And so instead of having them be captive in a function, they might all be employees, but they’re connecting to work through projects and assignments and gigs. And so that it could be something as simple as an Excel spreadsheet, that every time a project comes in, it says, oh, that’s the perfect person for this because she’s done it before, or she’s got these adjacent skills that would allowed her to do it now. And Ravin is the perfect person for that project, etc. You know, there’s obviously a lot more complex internal talent marketplaces, as you’re well aware of Beth. But for small to medium sized organisations, I’ve seen smart Excel spreadsheets do the job. But again, it lets you stretch your resources. And I helped not a small organization, but a very large global organization moved that data scientists from that fixed model to the flow model. And in an 18 month period, they got to a 600% gain in productivity. So that the outcomes here both in terms of the engagement of talent and the retention, and the lift and productivity, because you’re not just asking people to work harder. They’re just working in a fundamentally different way, I think is what makes this compelling.

Beth Hall: Yeah, it’s just working smarter, not harder to your point. So with that productivity, would you also be able to leverage cost? Would you be able to position it in the organization of reducing the cost of doing business because your fixed cost line is going to be reduced with that model year?

Ravin Jesuthasan: Because now instead of having the cost line, do that, with demand, what you’ve now got is you kind of decoupled growth from resource intensity effectively

Beth Hall: Yes, so that that’s where the leverage comes in. Yeah, I love that. So when you were talking about fixed flow and flexible, and it’s really great for me to be able to book it in that way to be able to think about it in that way. You used the role and the person interchangeably. So when you were talking about fixed and you were talking about the role of the pilot, it was about the role was fixed as opposed to the person and then when we started to talk about the flexibility in the flow, it started to be what could Beth do versus what could Ravin do Can you talk to me a little bit around how much is of this is job crafting based around an individual’s career aspirations or skill grow versus how much of it is, it doesn’t matter who this world was? A flexible while this well was a fixed role and is more, more deliberate around the work as opposed to the person that was hired to do the work. 

Ravin Jesuthasan: So that’s a fabulous question. Because what you start to see as you move from fixed to flexible flow, is this transition from jobs to skills as the currency for work. And in the flexible model, what you start to see is, I get to see this unique bundle of skills, that’s Beth, versus this unique bundle of skills, that’s robbing, they both might be in the same position, but they’ve got experiences and skills and interests that are completely unique. And if I can keep inferring what those are, and nudging them to opportunities where they get to express them in different domains, now, they both might have some cool technical skills, right? Because they’re in the same job. And if we’re both in accounting, you know, we both can probably do bookkeeping, etc. But you might have accounting skills, you might have skills in financial analysis from a previous role, or a previous certification, you know, I might have skills in in Management Information Systems from a previous experience. And now what we start to see is, as I get this fuller picture of the people I have in these positions, I’m no longer just limiting them to the headline of the job they sit in. And I think that’s where you start to see the beauty of kind of the skills powered organization come to the fore. And, and then, you know, suddenly, with the flow model, it’s all about skills, right? Because it’s continuously matching skills to work, and the domains in which those skills are applied. So I’ve got a very large software, client technology client, where they’ve gone through, they’ve mapped out all of their AI talent, because they’re trying to create a global pool that cuts across all their businesses, consumer, industry, industrial, government, etc, not for profits. And what they’re finding is lots and lots of common skills, or be applied with different nuances and in different domains. And the ability to leverage that is just absolutely massive, versus in the past, they were all captive and very discrete businesses that never connected to each other. And so now they’ve got this global pool that sits across all of their verticals, it’s you and I might be in two completely different functions. And then we get put together a project, you know, in addition to the productivity that innovation is stimulating, is absolutely mind blowing. 

Beth Hall: Yeah. And your talent pipeline, you know, it’s no longer that ladder. It’s almost a jungle gym, across the organization, when you were describing that person that was picking up all of these discrete skills, and we were almost creating opportunities that was about the work, but also about matching that unique person to the work, do we end up with single point dependencies, whereby we have people that have so much IP for working across the business, we rely on them so much in the flexible flow model, that when we lose them from the organization, they’re a lot harder to replace, because of the fact that not just the IP, but the more to the many hats that they can wear. 

Ravin Jesuthasan: And I think this is where again, AI becomes a bit of that safeguard for us. So this organization has talked I was talking about, one of the things that they have is as the algorithm is matching people to opportunities it’s looking at, and issues of risk, it’s looking at issues of diversity, equity and inclusion so that the next time I nudge someone to a project, and I map them to an opportunity, I’m actually looking at, well, you know, she’s done all of these previously. It’s no benefit to her, she’s not learning anything new. nor is anyone else developing those skills. So we’ve got that key person risk. They also used it as their di screen to say, hypothetically, let’s say all my five star Python developers or Asian men, well, the next time an opportunity comes up, that gives someone you know, is on the step to becoming a developer, let me look at who else is eligible because I don’t want to have I don’t want to perpetuate the lack of diversity. And that was another really interesting lesson learned at because they again, program the algorithm. This is that insurance company was talking about program the algorithm so that it was explicitly scanning for diverse backgrounds in the resourcing of work. But again, I got I think what’s fascinating Beth is AI as with any tool cuts both ways, right? It creates problems, but it also helps solve a lot of them. 

Beth Hall: Yeah, but what I’m hearing from you, regardless of the technology that you’re using, you’re bringing these worlds together of workforce planning, workforce development or development, recruitment. In selection, HR, and they’re all coming together in order to be able to make strategic decisions on behalf of talent for the organization. And I do think it’s really going to shift the way we even structure our HR departments at the moment, it’s very much centered of excellence that operate in silos and the HRBP is the frontline face have all of those inputs. But actually, what I’m hearing is, we need to mix all those up, a lot of organizations have started to really grow out their HR ops, and they’re throwing capability in there, they’re throwing workforce development and planning in there, not necessarily with the sophistication in tech that you’re speaking all. But potentially, that’s the start of those conversations happening around the way we utilize talent, which is really exciting. So our time is nearly up, I could then talk to you for hours, but we like to end every episode by posing a scenario. And this scenario is indicative of something that’s playing out in workplaces across Australia. And it brings together our conversation, so we’d love to hear your view on it. So in a large global company, a shift towards a skill based model has led to a significant restructure of roles. The company eliminated several traditional positions, and opted instead for agile teams that were working on project based assignments. While this transition has been extremely successful in terms of plugging the skill gaps and enabling the organizational strategy, it has caused some employees to feel a bit insecure, and to question their job stability due to the evolving and agile nature of the organization. The leadership team is looking for ways to balance the need for this skill, base flexibility and way of working, but also to provide some certainty for the team in terms of helping them understand what a career path might look like, and how do they feel secure within their workplace? What strategies can either the leadership or the HR teams adopt in order to manage the transition so that they are not impacting the culture or diluting the culture that the employees are still feeling valued, secure and equipped in terms of their psychosocial health?

Ravin Jesuthasan:  I think it’s really important, Beth, that we have really honest conversations with the workforce, you know, for a long time in all of the developed parts of the world, Australia, the US, Western Europe, etc. There’s been, you know, this promise of employment, right. And over the last 30 or 40 years, we’ve sort of in many parts of the world steadily chipped away at that, in the US what used to be defined pension plans gave way to defined contribution plans, you’ve seen more and more parts of the world where collective bargaining agreements have been rewritten for the use of automation and AI, etc. And I do think the promise now is less of the promise of employment. But it really needs to be the promise of employability, in a my promise to keep you perpetually perpetually relevant to our changing world. I had the privilege of working with Unilever in 2017 and 2018, when Alan job came in as CEO, and Lena Nyer was the chief HR officer. She’s now the CEO of Chanel, the thing that they did when we built the Unilever’s framework for the future of work was all about how do we ensure that every person has a future fit plan, that every person clearly understands how, as work changes, as it inevitably will, and it must, how they will upskill for the job that they’re in today? Because that job is going to change? If they choose not to, or they find some gap as too significant. How do they rescale for opportunities elsewhere in the organisation? So clear understanding of the skills required, I have my interests and my passions. And if that doesn’t work out, or they choose not to? How do I out skill them for continued opportunity? I have an airline client to express this really well. And airlines tend to be some of the most paternalistic organizations on the planet. But this one changed their value proposition to say, we will develop you for opportunity either within or without. And it was a really bold statement. And one of the people I’ve worked with said, you know, my father had his pension when he worked here. My pension is the skills I’m acquiring here. And the promise that I’ve got an opportunity to go acquire new skills. If I go back to school, I’m going to get a stipend. If I decide to stay to move on the promise that I’ll be placed with the travel industry with the company’s relationships and its contacts and network etc. All they choose to stay here. The requirement that I’m going to keep acquiring new skills and taking on different types of work and I’m not just going to be pigeonholed into doing this one thing with so it’s, it’s obviously a heck of a lot easier said than done. And it requires an HR architecture that is really quite different I think than the ones we’ve traditionally built and emphasized. But I do think it requires some really honest conversations because our ability to make the promises we used to make have greatly changed.

Beth Hall: Just listening to you like I’m forming an EVP in my mind in terms of actually being really transparent and honest to your point and I love that employability versus employment because employees aren’t as loyal as they once were. Employees are moving roles more frequently than they used to. And that’s not just in transient workforces in sectors. It is across the board. I think there is a generational shift that’s happening that actually Prime’s this opportunity to really drive the EVP of employability over employment. We have a large business here in Australia that has an ebp of Start Here, Go Anywhere. And it really is talking to that concept of we will enable you and facilitate your growth for however long you’re with us. So that was why I’m so glad we asked that question. That was really great. Ravin, thank you so much, it’s been wonderful to meet you. And we’re looking forward to spending more time with you in August this year. 

Ravin Jesuthasan: Same to you Beth, I really enjoyed it.

Beth Hall: Thanks for listening to this episode of Let’s take this offline. If you enjoyed this episode, don’t forget to follow us wherever you listen to podcasts, and share with your colleagues and network. To learn more about the Australian HR Institute, visit our website, ahri.com.au.

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