15 February 2022

Workplace Stories Season 4, Skills Odyssey II: Building Planes with Cake Decorators

Dani Johnson
Co-Founder & Principal Analyst
Stacia Garr
Co-Founder & Principal Analyst

TL;DR

  • This is the third episode of our podcast: The Skills Odyssey II, Season 4 of Workplace Stories.
  • In this episode, Stacia Garr and Dani Johnson of RedThread Research, and Chris Pirie of The Learning Futures Group talk to Guillermo Miranda, Digital Transformation Executive and CLO at Boeing.
  • Guillermo gives us all a glimpse into the future of work and how every day is a learning day at Boeing.
  • “You have to create journeys that are filled with experiences. People learn when they experience something new. … The whole core of how you do L&D is not about programs and content, it is about journeys, experiences.”
  • Cookies, brownies, and cake – trust me, it’s relevant.
  • Don’t worry, Guillermo explains everything about the Skills Odyssey; it takes flexibility, enablement, and creating journeys full of experiences. Climb aboard a plane, not a boat, and get ready for the future of work.
  • A special thanks to our sponsors, Visier and Degreed, for their support of this season!

Listen

Guest:

Guillermo Miranda, VP & Chief Learning Officer, Boeing

DETAILS

We came off this recording session thinking, Have we just literally seen the future of work? A world where how Skills has become the core to everything, and instead of performance management, we do performance enablement? And where the employee is the one that triggers the conversation, and salary is never just based on what I did last year but for the future of what I can do for you? And where the very praxis of making stuff is not about one company’s team coming together, but many actors and partners and even ‘employees,’ but in a very different sense of what that means now? You can tell we’re feeling it; you might even say we’ve been drinking some of the heady wines Odysseus plied the monstrous Cyclops with to enable him and his companions to escape its clutches. But like proper Greek heroes, we never let these spirits overpower us. Instead, we want to focus on the insights and best practice of what today’s guest, Guillermo Miranda, Digital Transformation Executive and CLO at Boeing, tells us about the future. A future that he and his team are building right now … and which, charmingly, perfectly, and hard-nosed business fittingly, involves cake decorators. We always knew we needed them: boy, how little we knew.

Resources

  • Guillermo’s LinkedIn profile is here.
  • All three previous seasons of Workplace Stories, along with relevant Show Notes, transcriptions, and links, is available here.

Webinar

As with all our seasons, there will be a culminating final live webinar where we will share our conclusions about the show’s findings. As ever, we will share details of that event soon as it is scheduled in early 2022.

Partner

We're also thrilled to be partnering with Chris Pirie, CEO of Learning Futures Group and voice of the Learning Is the New Working podcast. Check them both out.

Season Sponsors

 

 

We are very grateful to our second ‘Skills Odyssey’ sponsors, Visier and Degreed. Visier is a recognized leader in people analytics and workforce planning; with Visier, organizations can answer questions that shape business strategy, provide the impetus for taking action, and drive better business outcomes through workforce optimization. Visier has 11,000 customers in 75 countries, including enterprises like Adobe, BASF, Electronic Arts, McKesson, and more. Degreed is the upscaling platform that connects Learning to opportunities; they integrate everything people use to learn and build their careers, Skills, insights, LMSs, courses, videos, articles, and projects, and match everyone to growth opportunities that fit their unique Skills, roles and goals: learn more about the Degreed platform at degreed.com. We encourage you to show your support for their involvement by checking out both websites—and thanks once again to both organizations.

All three previous seasons of Workplace Stories, as well as our series on Purpose, which was a co-production with the ‘Learning is The New Working’ podcast, along with relevant Show Notes and links, is available here. Find out more about our Workplace Stories podcast helpmate and facilitator Chris and his work here.

Finally, if you like what you hear, please follow Workplace Stories by RedThread Research on your podcast hub of choice—and it wouldn't hurt to give us a 5-star review and share a favorite episode with a friend, as we start to tell more and more of the Workplace Stories that we think matter.

TRANSCRIPT

Five Key Quotes:

Every day is a learning day at Boeing: that’s the promise that we have for our team. But to make that a promise, it's not about the corporate function of learning—it’s how in the business units, the concept and the opportunities to really make this a reality are enabled. So we have a federated system, and there is a corporate learning function within the HR team, and we create the basic backbone of how things operate, but then you have to run more of an orchestration. Our role is to orchestrate and help to co-ordinate all these investments.

Learning is as much as content opportunity to get your hands dirty, and so absolutely there is a culturally stewardship role that you need to play, and you have to help others to play around.

The content of the job is also changing. That requires that the whole architecture of your talent processes needs to change and switch from fixed roles into Skills and capabilities. This is what the business needs, and that requires a different HR organization, a different role for the managers managing those processes, and a different working arrangement in order to get the final products and services in front of the clients.

L&D needs to lead by example—we have to eat our own cookies. We cannot come to the engineer, the finance team, and say, let's do it this way if you are still working in a sequential, traditional bureaucracy. And that requires a set of different Skills in the L&D organization that the traditional learning designers or learning program managers or facilitators. Remember, our traditional and the organizations comes from this academia world, where we created corporate universities and somebody is the owner of the curricula, somebody is the owner of the scheduling, and it was like an old traditional university. So you need to move that model and say, Hey, no, we are no longer that. We are the Skills engine of the company.

When we switched to carbon fiber, you need a very steady hand; it’s different than when you are working with carbon pipe. And we were transitioning all of our production of the 787 to North Carolina, and we had a shortage of mechanics and technicians. And one of our brilliant young managers down there say, okay, what is the real skill that we need… don’t tell me this, the description of the mechanic role—what is the real skill? ‘We need steady hands’—and the best pool of talent for steady hands were cake decorators! So the whole Boeing recruitment team in Charleston was ransacking the local cake decorator talent pool, because they are good at that, they know how to sustain and create discipline—what you need when you are working with carbon fiber. So you have to open up your mind and say, where is this talent set, where is this skill, and how you can extrapolate and put it there.

You are listening to Workplace Stories, a podcast by RedThread Research about the near future of work.

Stacia Garr, RedThread:

I'm Stacia Garr, co-founder and principal analyst at RedThread.

Dani Johnson, RedThread:

And I'm Dani Johnson, co-founder and principal analyst at RedThread.

Chris Pirie, The Learning Futures Group:

And I'm Chris Pirie from The Learning Futures Group.

The team would like to thank Visier and Degreed for their sponsorship of this podcast season, The Skills Odyssey II. Degreed is the upskilling platform that connects learning to opportunities; it integrates everything people use to learn and build their careers including skill insights, LMSs, courses, videos, articles, and projects, and matches everyone to growth opportunities that fit their unique Skills, roles, and goals. Visier is the recognized leader in people analytics and workforce planning; with Visier, organizations can answer questions that shape business strategy, provide the impetus for taking action, and drive better business outcomes through workforce optimization. Visier has 11,000 customers in 75 countries.

Guillermo Miranda, Boeing:

The market that things are moving from this are a talent architecture based in roles and professions to a talent framework based on Skills capabilities, and a very agile way to get things done. And that will change the whole dynamic of how we run enterprises. So what we are doing in a company like Boeing is to help to unleash the energy of the people, and help to reinvent the way that we work.

Chris Pirie, The Learning Futures Group:

Today's guest is Guillermo Miranda; he’s the VP and chief learning officer at Boeing, and he serves as the global head for learning and leadership development of that company. Boeing, as you probably know, is the world's largest aerospace company and the leading manufacturer of commercial jetliners, defense, space and security systems, both a builder and provider of after-market support.

What I really love about this episode of The Skills Odyssey is the explicit link between business undergoing profound and radical transformation, and how the concept of Skills facilitates a necessary rethinking about how job roles work and work itself gets done. Imagine a future where designing planes happens in virtual meta-environments; materials for building planes shift from aluminium to lighter and stronger composite plastics; flying planes moves from the use of hydraulics to software-based controls, and selling the moves from transactional to a lifelong provision of services; components are built by a massive, distributed, global manufacturing network, and the process of assembling them takes less than a few days.

For Boeing, this future is already here and this technology-driven transformation has been a profound shift for almost every part of their business—not least how that change gets implemented and the work gets done. It's been far from an easy transformation, with many lessons learned, but in this episode, Guillermo explains to us how taking a Skills-based approach was a critical step in building the modern Boeing workforce. Let's get right to it—oh, and by the way, you're also going to learn how Rosie the Riveter’s contemporary counterpart might just have a background in cake decorating. So listen carefully to our conversation with Boeing’s Guillermo Miranda.

Chris Pirie, The Learning Futures Group:

Guillermo, welcome to Workplace Stories; it’s really fantastic to have you on the show today to talk about Skills, and the incredible changes going on at Boeing. Could you quickly give us an overview of Boeing, its mission and its Purpose, and perhaps touch a little bit on the demographics of the workforce—what’s going on in terms of changes in the workforce?

Guillermo Miranda, Boeing:

It's a pleasure to be here as well, Chris. And first, Boeing is in the aerospace business, mainly, and we have three big areas of business: our commercial business—these are the airliners that you fly every day, the Dreamliner, the 737, the freighters; we have then the defense and aerospace business, so F-18, 87, Chinook, the products that we do for the defense, including stars as well, and the Starliner going to space, all our projects with NASA is very well linked with all the capabilities that we have in our aerospace business; and the third part of our business is services, so how we help both commercial and defense fleets maintain, manage, and give all the support that is needed across the lifecycle of the approach and services. And there is a big emphasis on data: what is the late data threat of how you use a plane? What is the data threat to do preventing maintenance? What is the data threat to do insights around saving fuel on the trajectory, on the different ways to get to one point to the other?

So these are the three main businesses of Boeing. And then in terms of demography, we have 145,000 employees; we are hiring and growing back to our levels of production pre-pandemic, and I will say there are three big areas of our demographics. One is all of our mechanics and technicians, the people in the shop floor that help us and work on the day-to-day to get the planes out. Then there are a little bit more than 50,000 engineers, so the whole backbone of what we do in Boeing is engineering excellence across the whole lifecycle of our products and services. So there are engineers on the very early design and getting the data and at the very end of the process, when we are maintaining or recycling the products.

So engineers all the way, in some cases with very deep specialization, how you predict the right payload for different flights. There is a specialty of payload engineers that we have, and more and more software engineers, because everything in the plane is run by software, so you need to be sure that the whole design process, building process, maintenance process is across this thread of the software that is already for them. And then the third part is all of the more traditional business workers: sales, finance, human resources, project management, quality facilities, health and wellness, so all the other corporate functions that work.

So this is the way that we are organized. We have a global presence, we have a big footprint in the US, but we have also a relatively large presence in countries like Australia, India, the UK, Poland, and growing in more places.

Chris Pirie, The Learning Futures Group:

But let's talk about you a second: what attracted you to work at Boeing, and what is your job title and what do you do typically—if there is such a thing as a typical day? 🙂

Guillermo Miranda, Boeing:

Yes—there is not a typical day!

Chris Pirie, The Learning Futures Group:

I knew that 🙂

Guillermo Miranda, Boeing:

Basically, what attracted me to Boeing; I have a background basically in technology and financial services in terms of industry, always in the talent management and workforce optimization, people operations area. And when the opportunity arise to make a switch from the more traditional technology industry, Boeing really came strong in terms of what is new on how businesses shift in priorities —how our every day, I think that everybody can relate somehow to a plane, because you have been transported to a plane because the next package that will get to your door was flown by a Boeing freighter, because all of our defense systems are attached to how planes are at the forefront of defense and the areas against cybersecurity.

So it's a company that has fingertips in the rhythm of life and how the demographics behind build that. Because in a traditional business space, you have people interacting in laptops, and that was in a way, the more bureaucratic business office workforce that I was using, the tech industry, consultancy, financial services. But in Boeing, we have people that are building real products and services or people that are designing the future on how we are going to move around. So that was the core of the attraction, and the role is basically learning and leadership development: how we accelerate the transition of capabilities and Skills for the future, and how we do it in a way that is centered on the learner and not on the process? And then how we create and build the leaders of the future. What are the habits? What is the full person that needs to come to work to be a leader, so leadership development learning is the core of the responsibility and the things that arise, but in this space, sometimes you have to be a little bit more of a finance person to do your project plans and investments and go with investment proposal. Sometimes you have to be a little of a cheerleader, because you have to create a new sense of purpose and a new sense of why we are doing this. Sometimes you have to be strategic, what is the right ecosystem to operate? What are the right platforms that we need to use to operate and to bring this to reality? And sometimes you have to be a HR person back into the trenches: last weekend I was doing calls in the COVID hotline. Because we have a peak and everybody was hands on deck, so I was calling to my teammates, how are you doing? We need to report this, are you quarantine? etc.

Chris Pirie, The Learning Futures Group:

Hmm, interesting. Perhaps before we dive into the excitement that your work is and the change that's going on at Boeing, perhaps we could just finish off the picture here: can you tell us where learning fits, organizationally? And I imagine that there is a ton of—particularly given the transformation—a lot of cross-organizational collaborations, so are there key partners that you work with in your day-to-day work?

Guillermo Miranda, Boeing:

Let me start by saying that every day is a learning day at Boeing–that’s the promise that we have for our team. But to make that a promise, it's not about the corporate function of learning—it’s how in the business units, the concept and the opportunities to really make this a reality are enabled. So we have a what I will call a federated system, and there is a corporate learning function within the HR team, and we create the basic backbone of how things operate, but then you have to run more of an orchestration. Our role is to orchestrate and help to coordinate all these investments.

Chris Pirie, The Learning Futures Group:

And I'm also guessing that given you said every day is a learning day at Boeing, you have a sort of cultural role as well to set that tone.

Guillermo Miranda, Boeing:

Yes. And be sure that the kind of space in order to have learning as an opportunity is there for a leadership and an organizational enablement capacity and for an opportunity capacity. Because learning is as much as content opportunity to get your hands dirty and try new things, and so absolutely there is a culturally stewardship role that you need to play, and you have to help others to play around. Building communities is very important; the whole engineering team is built around communities, and how we learn together and help them to accelerate their execution.

Dani Johnson, RedThread Research:

So Guillermo, we had a call with you earlier, and it sounded from that even before that pandemic, there are some pretty significant forces working on your company. I think when most people think of Boeing, they think of a traditional manufacturing company, but we know you mentioned a little bit earlier that technology is playing a pretty big change and some business models that are playing a pretty big change as well. Can you talk a little bit to that?

Guillermo Miranda, Boeing:

Absolutely. So look, I think that the market is driving a change of how we all work across all industries, and the availability and the price point of technology is now accessible at every layer. So those forces are pushing the more traditional industries and the more advanced industries to change and to move. The core of an airplane 30 years ago was the hydraulic systems and the engines; the core of an airplane today is the software and all the connectivity to make things work.

Let me give you a real and concrete example. The traditional planes have all the electricity that runs the systems inside generated by an engine connected with the turbines. The Dreamliner, the 787 does not have that, because the efficiency is not there, so the turbines go basically with propulsion and the 787, the Dreamliner, has batteries that run all the systems internally so you don't have to waste energy and fuel to generate the electricity that runs your entertainment systems, runs their air conditioning system, the information system, everything—it goes with batteries. And the batteries of a Dreamliner can basically power a small neighborhood for the whole day without interruption. Think about that switch, how you build things for the future. And in order to do that also, the way that we work has changed. It is not a silo, fully integrated, solid manufacturing approach: this is more of joint ventures, providers, and network. A plane is made of millions of pieces, and to come back to the Dreamliner: the wings are done in Japan, the central body is done in Italy, the after fuselage and the cockpit are done in North Carolina, in Charleston, and then we have the final assembly line also in Charleston.

But you need to integrate all of those things. So the marketplace has created a different dynamic of how you work and the availability of technology has created [an] intrinsically different approach. And that has changed the expectation of the consumer in every aspect of our lives: so when you get into a plane, or when you get into a branch office of a bank, your expectation is that you can do click, click, and click, and things work. You are not expecting somebody to do it for you, you are not expecting a very slow interface with typing—no, you just need click, click, and click, and everything needs to work. So the consumer is getting a very important space on how products and services are created. So all these forces come together and you go back to your basic products and service said, we need to think differently, we need to do things differently. And then you have the additional sustainability component, the component of—and by the way, we need to do it in a way that our footprint on our planet is not the same like we did in the core of the industrial era—we need to optimize all of that, and technology can help you. The whole game of airliners is how your footprint in sustainability goes down [and] we consume less and less than what it used to be few years ago.

Dani Johnson, RedThread Research:

You’ve talked about the way that manufacturing has changed and the way that partnerships have changed on the outside: how is that changing your internal talent workflows? Like how, how you train people, and how you hire people and all those types of things—I’m assuming that's changed as well?

Guillermo Miranda, Boeing:

Well, I think that the change is related with how you structure work. I think that in a more traditional industry environment, you structure fixed roles, and you are hiring a mechanic for wings, you are hiring an accountant for costs, you are hiring a recruiter for technology. If you keep that mentality, you are boxing yourself out of flexibility. We are changing the planes to be [made] of carbon fiber, no longer metal, so you need to know how to work with carbon fiber, but there are pieces that are still metal so you need to know that flexibility. Instead of fixed roles that box you with [no] ability to pick and go down, you have to hire and structure the work in a way that gives you flexibility. And that it gives you also content and purpose for the mechanic, or for the engineer, or for the financial analyst, because spending your day in/day out for years doing calculations about cost can be very boring, so maybe you think about innovations, algorithms, insights for the future. So the content of the job is also changing. That requires that the whole architecture of your talent processes needs to change and switch from fixed roles into Skills and capabilities. This is what the business needs, and that requires a different agility in the HR organization, a different role for the managers managing those processes, and a different working arrangement in order to get the final products and services in front of the clients.

Stacia Garr, RedThread Research:

I think that’s a wonderful lead into really how Skills is rolling all through the talent system. So can you talk to us a little bit about what exactly you're doing—what are some of the programs or experiments that you're using to bring all of this to life?

Guillermo Miranda, Boeing:

What we are doing is we are working around centering Skills on the way that we hire, the way that we train the people, the way that we promote the people, the way that we pay people, the way that we prepare them for retirement or to go back to the market. So the thread is Skills: the thread is not roles, the thread is not jobs. The thread is the Skills.

And in order to do that, you need to start with the basic things of how you interview people, how you onboard people, how you decide your annual performance review, how you create opportunities for promotion and structure—the whole process of leadership development. So we moved everything to the cloud; so we have an HRMS that is in the cloud, and is helping us to structure all these key moments during the lifecycle of the employee to be structured around Skills. And then you have to help the transition of the mindset of the managers, of the professionals to understand that this is not about checking a box on requirements for a role—Java+++, Python 123, front-end developer, check, check, check, hire the person. No, no, no, no: this person will come to a team and the team has a personality and there is a culture, and there is also the expectation that this person will be able to evolve from a front-end developer to be a scrum master. And you need to interview for that at the basis, and then create the pathways to develop people.

This sounds nice and poetic if you want. Now, the trick is on the everyday interaction with employees, with managers, and how you are able to change [and] transition the way that you manage that life thread. And probably it's important also to understand that the transformation to a digital space is more cultural and mindset than the tooling. Because there are very good and different tooling that are available, but sometimes in our organizations, we tend to say, we are doing digital transformation in the way that we work because we are adopting a new tool. We are not changing fundamentally what we are doing! We are doing the same in a different tool.

Dani Johnson, RedThread Research:

I like that a lot, Guillermo. I started my career as an engineer at Ford Motor Company, and when I was in engineering school, I actually took an airplane design class, and we talked a lot about steel and rivets and all kinds of things. And you're telling me now that planes are made out of composites—

Guillermo Miranda, Boeing:

Fiber, carbon!

Dani Johnson, RedThread Research:

And I'm thinking back there were classes offered but I never took those! And so if I were hired at Boeing, at the beginning of my career I would've had to evolve my career in order to understand how that works, as well as all the digital stuff that's going on. I'm fascinated with this idea of Skills in manufacturing, and especially as digital is coming in, it's requiring everybody to have a different mindset. And especially, like I'm outdated as an engineer, I couldn't go back and be an engineer now and so how are you, how are you taking people with maybe more traditional requirements and figuring out what they can do well, and putting them in positions where they can learn those things? I’m particularly thinking about a story you told about cake decorators in our initial call.

Guillermo Miranda, Boeing:

The first thing is, you have to sell the purpose; you have to sell the issue. Our chief engineer, Greg Hyslop, is very clear about, Guys, we need peak shape engineers, shape profession. That means you have to have dexterity, you have to be very good on a subject matter expertise. I am very good about nuclear-resistant materials—but at the same time of this expertise on a specific topic, I need to be very good on the technical side, how to use the software and the tooling in order to have these nuclear-resistant materials that are part of the design and maintenance of the planes, not tested with hammering a metal sheet. I test that in the metal; I go to the right software; I put the right ingredients, and then I said, yes, the way that this titanium landing gear will react in case of a nuclear event will work this way. And I reproduce the event, I run back and forth, I get the data. And then I design the right titanium landing gear that is nuclear-resistant; I don't have to assemble the titanium gear, put it in a bomb and try it because I reproduce all of that in a digital way. So if I am an engineer that is on nuclear-resistant materials, I need to be an expert not just on how material resist, but how I can simulate, design, and make a reality in a digital environment so then when it goes to production, it's flawless.

So let me give you an example the T-7 trainer—the newest plane that we are creating for the US Air Force—was assembled in 32 minutes. Usually to assemble a plane, main body, wings, it takes one day, 24 hours or something. And you use something that we call shins—little piece of metals that cover the difference. The small difference that may be in the process when you design fully digital, when you produce fully digital with laser precision, you just get the pieces and get it together. It took 30 minutes, no shins on the T-7.

Chris Pirie, The Learning Futures Group:

Like Lego!

Guillermo Miranda, Boeing:

You have to have the right engineers to do that magic.

Dani Johnson, RedThread Research:

So talk to us about the switch in Skills: so you've taken manufacturing, engineers, and all kinds of engineers that were specialized in those types of things, and you've created these new mindsets. How are you doing that with Skills?

Guillermo Miranda, Boeing:

I think that there are some basic Skills in terms of how the work is done and what is the ability to collaborate, to be self-driven, and to iterate. So we come from a work where things were sequential, right, a typical working station. The model T4 was the big revolution in that now it's sequential: you put it in a working trail and you assemble, and it's all sequential. So we created on the industrial era, we created sequential workflows, and we structured the roles to be part of the sequential workflow. The moment that you unstructure that sequential workflow, the moment that you infuse the ability to preview what is going to happen in the next working state and prevent [it], you need to work differently.

And you need to have this ability, first to collaborate in a way that is not ‘I have done my job now it’s your time,’ so it's not passing the baton, because we run together. Second, it has to be the mindset of being in therapy because you have the ability to have a digital twin. You can be in therapy before building the real thing. OK. And then you have to be self-driven; you cannot wait until the direction from your manager, should I do it? Should I not? ‘I am waiting for the click approval.’ No–you have to be self-driven!

So those are the personal traits that we infuse and we help our teammates to adopt. And again, I am not trying to sugar-coat; this is not magic wand that it happens. It requires the right tooling, the right psychological safety space from managers to allow for those iterations. And if the managers know that the fail attempt is in a digital twin, it's okay, we are not wasting any material, we are just running simulations, right? So there is a whole fabric of how work is organized based on this ability to be collaborative, to be imperative, to be self-driven, different than the traditional sequential. Also that requires a different level of empowerment, because when you have a sequential process, you can have a controller that puts the right amount of money and materials in the different moments of the sequence. And a single person can do that deciding at the end of the trail, this is the right mix. When you give power to the different work stations, then you need to be sure that there are going to be tweaks, there are going to be a different level of ability to make decisions or to stop. If there is a problem on safety of security, and that requires a strong organizational safety net.

Chris Pirie, The Learning Futures Group:

You've created this amazing picture of what is essentially the future of work. And it's very, very different; it’s not sequential, it's more collaborative, there are some meta-Skills that we need that are very different from the meta-Skills we've had in the past, and there is a leadership model that's different from what we've had in the past.

I'm interested if we can bring this round to what this means for L&D —what does this mean for the practitioners in Boeing, your team, that are chartered with helping people develop this new mindset and build the Skills that are relevant for this new way of working? And I'm particularly interested in, when you talk about Skills, it's almost analogous to how an airplane is now essentially software and it used to be mechanics—now work is Skills, when it used to be job roles, and I'm interested in how that's playing out and how that's changing the nature of how you do L&D. So are there any examples of programs that you are running that are different now because of your Skills thinking than we perhaps think of in the past?

Guillermo Miranda, Boeing:

I think three things are clear. First one, L&D needs to lead by example—we have to eat our own cookies. We cannot come to the engineer, you cannot come to the finance team, and say, well, let's do it this way and you are still working in a sequential, traditional bureaucracy. So that's very important upfront—we need to eat our own cookies and work in an open collaborative space with agile screens and adopt what we are saying.

And that requires a set of different Skills in the L&D organization that the traditional learning designers or learning program managers or facilitators. Remember our traditional and the organizations comes from this academia world where we created corporate universities and somebody is the owner of the curricula, somebody is the owner of the scheduling, and it was like an old traditional university. So you need to move that model and say, Hey, no, we are no longer that. We are the Skills engine of the company. And that's the way that my CEO describes you have to be the Skills engine of this company. In order to be the Skills engine of the company, you need to work different yourself, and you have to have different set of Skills than the traditional, just learning Skills: so you have to have people that know about design thinking, people that know about the signs of learning, the cognitive science, what is the right moment, what is the right iteration, et cetera. So this is one area you have to reinvent your own thing.

The second thing that is important is that you don't structure your offer in a way that are programs with content.

Chris Pirie, The Learning Futures Group:

Tell me more, tell me more!

Guillermo Miranda, Boeing:

In a traditional L&D approach, you create programs, and you put content. You have to create journeys that are filled with experiences. People learn when they experience something new. People don't learn when you throw a PowerPoint and a talking head for 45 minutes and say, this is your level! So the whole core of how you do L&D is not about programs and content, it is about journeys, experiences, multi-modal; you are touching at the right moments and you are creating the looks of reflection so the learning is internalized. And that requires technology. Instead of sending the people to a classroom, you create this journeys with a platform that allows you have something like virtual, something like a lab in person, something like a structured mentoring experience, something like a project to practice this, something like a stretch assignment to do the new job without being in the new role. So you have to structure all these experiences in a different platform that tracks that. And you have to create brownies along the way; human behavior requires motivation, so we adopted the whole stackable credentials, digital badges, and that start to prove that conceptually, you are starting to move along these journeys.

So that's the second piece. And the third piece is, what is the business impact? We always go to, What is the ROI of L&D? And that question is at the core of how we justify our budget, but the business impact is on capabilities and how these capabilities transform the output of your business. So instead of measuring what the Skills I acquire, how many completions do I have, how many learning hours do I have, I have to use the learning metrics. So in Boeing, that means I have to reduce ‘foreign objective reads’ in my product. That means safety: that means no travel at work. That means on a scheduled delivery, that means on a scheduled budget. That means a lot of things that are business metrics. And then you have to find what are the Skills, what is the Skills impact in these metrics and prepare those Skills to happen. And then internally you can have a lot of insights on traffic consumption, but this is your own shop.

Dani Johnson, RedThread Research:

So let me ask you, Guillermo, so we've talked about, overall, the Skills that you need in the organization in order to do some of this agile stuff that Chris was talking about; we’ve also talked about changes to the L&D team that need to happen. I'd love to understand with this change in focus, what does the focus on Skills rather than roles or something else, allow Boeing to do that they couldn't do before?

Guillermo Miranda, Boeing:

This allows us to have flexibility. In order to first do our work to design, do our work to produce, assembly, to have a level of up-and-down flexibility you don't have if you havea fix problem. Second it is helping us to embrace the digital age, because if you don't help the people first to change the mindset, second change how you work and third, the leadership to embrace this space of psychological safety to try iterate, et cetera, you are not impacting the business. So, creating this set of Skills is allowing us to have that flexibility and have this output that is closer to what the customers expect and is closer to what society expect in terms, if we come back to the point, of sustainability.

Dani Johnson, RedThread Research:

And I love this. And when we were talking earlier, you used an example of, since you're focusing on the Skills, and because your business is changing so much, if you're working on carbon fiber, for example, it requires a different skill than if you're working on metal—because you were focusing on Skills, you were able to go after specific groups of different talent. Can you talk a little bit about that? ‘Cause I thought that example was really good.

Guillermo Miranda, Boeing:

Yes. So look, when we switch to carbon fiber and how to assemble in the mechanics, you need a very steady hand; it’s different than hammering, it’s different than welding than when you are working with carbon fiber. And we were transitioning all of our production of the 787 to North Carolina, and we have a shortage of mechanics and technicians. And one of our brilliant young managers down there say, okay, what is the real skill that we need? Don't tell me this, the description of the mechanic role, what is the real skill? We need steady hands, and the best pool of talent for steady hands were cake decorators! So the whole Boeing recruitment team in Charleston was racking the cake decorator talent pool, because they are good at that: they know how to sustain and create discipline—that’s what you need when you are working with carbon fiber. So you have to open up your mind and say, where is this talent set, where is this skill, and how you can extrapolate and put it there.

Chris Pirie, The Learning Futures Group:

In your opinion, what's next for a Skills-based approach to talent management in general?

Guillermo Miranda, Boeing:

I think that the future of the Skills-based approach is based on this vision of professionals and how they need to have this dual competency. I need to be very good on a subject matter expertise; I need to be very good on managing technology and tooling around how that subject matter expertise is manifested on the day-to-day. So that is important; Skills are not just hardcore Skills, it is also the tooling. And there is a component of personal traits in order to work in the morning space.

The second thing that I think is very important is the way that we structure jobs. That's an excellent idea because now most of our architecture in the organization is based in roles and fixed descriptions of those roles. That needs to evolve, and it's not going to be a one moment transition. You are going to see pockets, and then everybody moves right after a transition, everybody moves. And the third thing is how Skills become the core to all the decisions that were traditionally tied to a different concept. For instance, the concept of performance management in Boeing: we have put these upside down, and we don't do performance management, we do performance enablement. And the employee is the one that triggers the conversation; it’s no longer the role of the manager; it’s what do you need in order to perform, and the employee triggers the conversation. So how you pay for Skills, that can be a long lengthy philosophical conversation. But if you are still making salary adjustments and paying based on pursuit performance, then you are paying for last year instead of paying for the future. That definitely will require a mindset and a change; and yes, you need to recognize last year, of course, but probably this is the role of the bonuses, or this is the role of something else. But how it permeates the HR processes is going to be different.

Chris Pirie, The Learning Futures Group:

So clearly there's amazing thinking going on at Boeing about the future of work and the digitization of the production line and so on and so forth: are there other organizations outside of Boeing that you admire, particularly in terms of this thinking around Skills or are there books that you are reading? Where can you point us to get the level of enthusiasm and depth that you have on this topic?

Guillermo Miranda, Boeing:

I think that definitely, there are a very good example on how different organizations are different. There is a bond of intellectual intelligence, if you want, which comes from our relationship, deep relationship with MIT and, and all of those sources that we work close with academia and we learn how they are researching for the future. There is also a very good doses of open up for the market what we can learn from our partners, what we can learn from our joint ventures, what we can learn from other industries that are doing things differently. And as I said, there are pieces that are working very well in other organizations that I can say, well, curiosity as a driver of learning is something that many companies have adopted, and we are working in that. The structuring digital journey experience is something that we can definitely take a page from all the digital platforms out there. The piece of psychological safety management as a coach is something that we are working with The NeuroLeadership Institute and David Rock. We can take a picture of what the transformation of Microsoft has been, of how the soft space of Adobe and the whole recreation of the product line can be.

So we are learning from the market, we are learning from our network of providers, and we are learning from our own employees—our own employees have a lot of good ideas that when you are in a traditional geographical organization network don’t surface, so we need to unleash the power of the collective our 145,000 people.

Chris Pirie, The Learning Futures Group:

A learning organization in the true sense. Guillermo, we ask everybody who comes on the podcast this question, and it's pretty simple: why do you do the work that you do? Has anything or anybody inspired you? What motivates you to get up and think about and practice in the area that you do?

Guillermo Miranda, Boeing:

I deeply believe that education can change life. And I have seen that in many examples in my life. If you emphasize the opportunities to learn, new opportunities to get new Skills, you are helping to change life. And that's what at the end of the day, is my motivation.

Chris Pirie, The Learning Futures Group:

I love it. Hey, thank you so much; there’s so much we could have talked about today—the time flew by for me! We really wish you a lot of luck in your journey at Boeing—it’s a company that's undergoing tremendous change, and your enthusiasm and energy for the future of this company and of work in general is really infectious. So Guillermo, thank you so much for being on the podcast.

Guillermo Miranda, Boeing:

Thank you for having me, and have a wonderful rest of your day!

[All:]

You too. Thank you. Take good care.

Guillermo Miranda, Boeing:

Thank you to everybody that is listening as well.

Chris Pirie, The Learning Futures Group:

Thanks for listening to this episode of Workplace Stories. Dani and Stacia, how can our listeners get more involved in the podcast?

Dani Johnson, RedThread Research:

Well, they can subscribe and rate us on the podcast platform of their choice.

Stacia Garr, RedThread Research:

They can also share this, or their favorite episode, with a colleague or a friend.

Dani Johnson, RedThread Research:

You can check out the beautiful handcrafted transcripts at redthrearesearch.com/podcast, and see what else we have to offer as far as research goes.

Chris Pirie, The Learning Futures Group:

Or Stacia, they could…?

Stacia Garr, RedThread Research:

Consider joining the conversation and community by joining our RedThread membership.

Chris Pirie, The Learning Futures Group:

A big thanks to our guests on all our podcast seasons for sharing their insights and thoughts. Of course, we should thank our beloved listeners: thank you!

[Stacia Garr, RedThread Research & Dani Johnson, RedThread Research:]

Thank you.

The team would like to thank Visier and Degreed for their sponsorship of this podcast season, The Skills Odyssey II—a big thank you to our season sponsors. For more information you can find links to their websites in the Show Notes for this podcast.

This podcast is a production of RedThread Research and The Learning Futures Group.

Dani Johnson

Dani is Co-founder and Principal Analyst for RedThread Research. She has spent the majority of her career writing about, conducting research in, and consulting on human capital practices and technology. Her ideas can be found in publications such as Wall Street Journal, CLO Magazine, HR Magazine, and Employment Relations. Dani holds an MBA and an MS and BS in Mechanical Engineering from BYU.

Stacia Garr
Co-Founder & Principal Analyst

Stacia is a Co-founder and Principal Analyst for RedThread Research and focuses on employee engagement/experience, leadership, DE&I, people analytics, and HR technology. A frequent speaker and writer, her work has been featured in Fortune, Forbes, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal as well as in numerous HR trade publications. She has been listed as a Top 100 influencer in HR Technology and in D&I. Stacia has an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree from the London School of Economics.

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