Remote Work & Virtual Environments
At the beginning of 2020 and COVID-19, working in a remote work or virtual environment was a native language for some, but for many, it was completely foreign. Instead of having that gradual introduction, we were forced straight into immersion learning, relying only on the webinars, self-help articles, and how-to guides while scrolling through LinkedIn. Many of those articles and webinars address employees specifically, covering tips and tricks to making the day feel normal by getting out of your pajamas, going on a quick neighborhood “commute” before settling back into your home office (or at your kitchen table), and staying engaged with your coworkers by scheduling video calls regularly.
Here at Kahuna, we do know that those are all important aspects of navigating this new remote work environment. However, one theme that really has been brought to the forefront as we’ve talked with our customers, and one that we feel has not been addressed enough, is: How do you navigate this remote work and virtual environment at the organizational level? How do you understand the capabilities of your workforce without having that visibility? How do you know where your workforce is, what they’re doing, and how they’re getting their work done?
Tom White, Kahuna’s VP of Product Management said, “So in the learning world, we want to do two main things. We want to use data to make informed decisions around what training we need to put on and where our people are developing AND we want to drive the business.”
We recently took a poll asking participants, “Is your organization using skills and competency management to keep track of the remote work employees?” The results? Over 60% said no.
In the learning and development world, the skills and competencies of your workforce are those key insights that help you understand how to drive your business. No matter where you’re working or how you’re working, those skills and competencies provide you with the data you need to understand the capabilities of your workforce.
Recently, Tom sat down with David Holberry, VP of Engineering at OneSubSea, a Schlumberger company, for insights into how you can use skills and competencies as invaluable data to drive the business and empower your workforce, all while in a remote work or virtual environment. There are three key messages we drew from this discussion: consistency, visibility, and quality. Now, let’s dive into the Q&A.
Implementing Your Skills Program
Q: Tom White, Kahuna Workforce Solutions
Share some insights around the original drivers that led you to implement your skills program at your organization in the first place. And then for further discussion, we’ll pivot to how that’s working.
A: David Holberry, OneSubSea
We’ve got approximately 1,200 engineers and they are separated. They’re spread out around 15 different countries. And obviously, as you can imagine, different time zones and so on. And so what was important for us, was to have a consistent approach to identifying the kind of skills that we had in the organization and to understand from a mobility perspective how we’re moving around to cope with the demands of the business – who we have where and what they’re capable of doing. When you’ve got such a large, diverse organization, as you can imagine, prior to doing that, each manager might have had their own spreadsheet, their own system, and each location may have had a slightly different approach to doing it. So I think from my perspective, one of the biggest things was consistency. That’s really what drove us to implement Kahuna, to get a consistent approach, irrespective of location.
Q: Tom White
Did you implement it in 2015?
A: David Holberry
Yeah, and obviously everyone’s focused on COVID at the moment. Remote work. Which for a lot of companies, is perhaps, you know, very new. And back in 2015, we may have not worked remotely in terms of people working from home, but our team has been spread out in different locations. Certainly for me as an engineering leader, I was so used to traveling and jumping on an airplane, meeting talent face to face in different locations. But for the most part, most of my interaction was perhaps remote work and we already had a sense of it. I was used to interacting with the team remotely, just like this. But what we didn’t have was a system that gave people the sense that even though they were remote, their career world was still spinning, you know, even if one of the senior leaders wasn’t visiting that particular location, if that makes sense.
Identifying Skills Gaps & Creating Development Plans
Q: Tom White
It does. We’ll kind of dive into this more later by the way, but the nature of your business kind of gave you some good preparation for the moment. Right? Kind of having that global footprint and having to understand the capability in different geographies that you’re not part of…maybe a blessing to get you to this point?
A: David Holberry
I think from our perspective, we take that and we try and simplify career development for people and people development for people. And we really split it into two camps. So we’ve got the technical development of our people and then we’ve got the behavioral development. Also, of course, when you look at what product experience they’ve got, what technical expertise they’ve got, then, you know, how many hours with the upfront investment in developing that competency matrix, that was key. Because when we finally implemented it all, it was seamless and it rolled out so easily. That took care of the technical competency, but then we still have the behavioral piece, which we also manage and combine the two. That’s kind of the equation, you know, technical and behavioral is people’s career development, and it’s so important for people to be able to use a system like this one to demonstrate that they can demonstrate their career progression, their competency development. It’s been huge so far.
To add to the points I would make, would be one around training. In any organization, training is critical. But as we all appreciate, it’s time-consuming and I’m sure it absorbs quite a budget for such large organizations or any organization. But one of the things we found was, historically, once we ran great training, we could never equate that to “Is it really hitting the spot?” With a system like Kahuna, we’ve really been able to pinpoint exactly what training people need – whether it’s on the job training, instructor-led training, that kind of thing – to really help enhance people’s competency. And so we can really look for the gaps, look for critical areas, and we see that as a valuable business need to train and really use the investment in training in the most efficient way. So yeah, that’s been a big one for us.
Standardization, Consistency, and Visibility Into Workforce Capability
Q: Tom White
Awesome. Perfect, thanks, Dave. One thing I want to kind of put a pin in and double click on is the comment you made about consistency and the amount of effort you put into the taxonomy. Having that consistent set of skills, abilities, knowledge, and the same language that can be used throughout the organization is really key. Consistency, standardization of approach, and everyone using the same language in the same kind of known area of skills…that’s the key. And you talk about the language of the business. It’s always so important with L&D initiatives to understand the business impact you’re having, and it’s quite often huge as well. If you can get your head around it and have that thinking process going into the program, the outcomes are great.
Dave, what impact have you seen from remote work and COVID on your business, and what changes have you had to make from the L&D perspective and skills base to support that?
A: David Holberry
I think one of the things that we started to move towards was online training and that training was tied to what the competency assessments said. And I think it’s made it a lot easier to identify where people need support, where they need training. And I think overall, it’s given us a much clearer picture of how we can serve the business and the organization to have the right resources to execute the projects. We’ve had a lot of shifting priorities with COVID – a lot of challenges with our customers, the ability to move people in and out of different regions and countries to support our customers – and knowing who you’ve got available with the right competencies that could pick up something that somebody else should have been dealing with, that’s been a real success for us.
I mentioned consistency, that was the approach we had to ensure everybody had the same opportunity. We have the same approach to assessing people. But that visibility from a management perspective with Kahuna has been probably one of the biggest pluses during COVID. You know, we know what we’ve got, we know where they are, and we know what they’re capable of helping with as our business has had to shift its priorities.
Making an Impact on Career Progression
Q: Tom White
In your world of highly technical engineers, you manage the profession – from junior engineer all the way to principal and executive roles. There’s a lot of training that goes into that. And I’m sure the traditional model was that a lot of that had to be hands-on. It had to be hands-on mentorship.
So I think one of the really interesting things you’re saying is that through the skills program, you can identify where the online training will make the biggest impact. So that might be gaining awareness to new engineers. Rather than becoming an SME somewhere – it’s hard to do with online training – but trying to upskill your early engineers and targeting those skills gaps, it sounds like that’s a big win for you guys.
A: David Holberry
Yeah and I think the terms I would use: consistency – I’ve already mentioned that – and visibility from a management perspective. But then quality as well. We want to make sure that our team members are receiving the right mentorship and training that’s going to add value to their careers and help them accelerate their careers. You know, that’s what helps our teams stay engaged. They see the investment that we’re making in them and naturally, we see the return on that investment with the quality of what they do for our business. I guess the oil industry generally, but certainly as a result of COVID, we’ve had to make changes in our organization to weather the storm. And where we relied on experienced people, that’s in the past. We don’t necessarily have that same level of experience, but we need to make the most of the experience that we have. And again, it all comes back to how can we replace the experience that we’ve lost and how can we accelerate people’s development. And you can only do that if you have that consistency and that visibility that we mentioned before. So yeah, it’s been working for the last 5 years, and thankfully it helped lay the foundation. I think we’d be experiencing more challenges if we hadn’t had the system we’ve got and the data points that have helped us steer and navigate, not just through COVID, but just generally as a business through the challenges we’ve seen over the years.
Skills and competencies are the business insights you need to understand the capabilities of your workforce in remote work environments.
- Consistency: A consistent set of skills, abilities, and knowledge that can be used throughout the organization is key. It helps you pinpoint exactly what training people need and enhances their competency, which all adds value to your business.
- Visibility: From a management perspective, the visibility into skills and competencies gives a clear picture of who, what, and where resources are, and helps you shift priorities quickly to execute projects.
- Quality: Up to date skills and competency data ensures you’re giving the right training and mentorship to the right employee so they can develop in their careers and produce quality work for quality business results.