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Skills-based organization strategy: Latest fad or real transformation?


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HR Tech Conference Virtual: Keynote - Learning & Development's Next Chapter: Skills as the North Star


Company Culture is the Foundation for Skills Readiness

by Dani Johnson and Stacia Garr | February 7th, 2024

According to Gina Jeneroux, company culture sets the foundation for skills readiness. If a company culture isn’t supportive of innovation and creativity, is it ready to support an initiative to focus on skills? Skills should be infused into everything you do in your organization and supported from the top down.  

Gina has spent over 30 years in the financial services and learning industries. She spent the last few years running BMO’s corporate university and serving as Chief Learning Officer. In this conversation, she shares why a focus on skills is necessary, why company culture plays an important role, and how to get buy-in from company leadership. 


Why a focus on skills is necessary 

Gina points out that when you focus on skills, you level the playing field. You’re able to understand what people bring to the table and match their capabilities with the work that needs to be done to drive results.  

A skills focus is a win-win for corporations, customers, and employees. It gives them a way to create vast opportunities for diverse talent. It enables people to meet career aspirations. It enables businesses to focus on advancing their bottom line.  

Can we move too far toward skills? Gina doesn’t believe so. Skills open the door to help us understand what people are bringing to the table. Looking at human skills, technical skills, and cognitive skills is looking at what sets “us” apart from technology.  


Company culture sets the foundation for readiness  

Every organization has a unique culture. It’s a culmination of people, systems, and processes. Is it focused on developing skills and enabling people to do their best? Is the culture diverse and representative of an environment where everyone can feel included and belong? Does it stoke curiosity? Does it focus on the future?  

Culture indicates how equipped and interested leaders are in leading from the front and being ambassadors for cultural change, skills development, and human success.  

Organizations trying to implement skills—but who don’t have a culture that can support success—won’t be successful. The culture creates the conditions for whether or not people can develop and apply their skills successfully. A focus on innovation and curiosity creates the conditions for success.  


Tapping into the skills people develop 

Organizations are encouraging their employees to develop their skills but once they do, organizations aren’t connecting the dots and tapping into the newly learned skills. If you aren’t using the skills, what’s the value?  

Gina emphasizes that to be a skills-based organization, skills must be connective tissue. It must be infused into how you define work, how you hire, how you manage performance and development, how you recognize and reward people, mobilize talent, and get work done. If a skills focus doesn’t permeate through the entire organization, it won’t be successful. 

But it must be adopted and advocated for by the leaders in the organization. At BMO, they engaged with the CEO and their direct reports. They implemented everything from the top down. They introduced the conditions for success in terms of leader advocacy and easy access for all.  


Framing a skills focus in terms of ROI and business impact

How do you get further company buy-in? By framing skills in terms of ROI and business impact. According to Mercer, the average voluntary turnover rate (from 2022 to 2023) was 17.3%. That can have real business implications. It takes 1.5–2x the salary and benefits to replace each of those people. A-5,000 person organization probably spends close to $170 million a year on voluntary turnover.  

According to a recent LinkedIn Workplace Learning Report, 94% of people who leave would stay if they had the opportunity to build their skills and develop their careers. Things must be framed in real business numbers. If done right, it will open the door to greater funding and support from business leaders. 

Gina is passionate about companies working with external partners—such as educational and government agencies—to transform systems from a young age. Listen to hear her unique thoughts on creating change from the ground up. 


Connect with Gina Jeneroux 

Resources & People Mentioned 



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