People leaders at companies of all sizes face an acute challenge: How do you ensure your employees understand, embrace, and utilize the emerging technologies your company will need to understand to stay competitive? As the market changes rapidly, supporting employees’ ability to gain new skills, stay flexible, and strategically incorporate new technologies is a must. However, with shrinking budgets, shifting hiring strategies, and competition for employees with in-demand, cutting-edge skills has put additional pressure on HR teams.
Fortunately, there is a proven solution to this challenge already utilized by industry leaders: investing in internal employee training and development. Companies like Amazon and Capital One have built industry-leading employee training programs that have enabled them to remain ahead of the curve in an evolving tech and economic landscape and reduced their need to compete for scarce external talent. To help people leaders leverage strategies to develop their workforce, we talked to two experts who have a long history of investing in internal training and running successful upskilling and apprenticeship programs at these companies.
Carlye Greene served as Director of Tech College at Capital One where she led the enterprise strategy to train 15,000 employees as part of Capital One's Data Transformation efforts. She also served as a Start-up and Innovation Lead at Deloitte focusing on the Future of Work and as Sr. Director at SVB where she led talent enrichment programs for the Global Services organization.
Nick Curry is the Senior Manager, Emerging Talent Pipelines at Amazon where he has built and runs large-scale apprenticeship programs across the company and its subsidiaries, including the Amazon Technical Apprenticeship and the User Experience Design and Research (UXDR) Apprenticeship.
In this post, they share the best practices they have developed running these world-renowned programs. Their insight can guide other companies who want to ensure they are prepared for a rapidly changing workplace and world by investing in their employees.
Workplace skills are becoming obsolete faster, no matter the industry or role
“It doesn’t matter what role you’re in, the skills that you need for your job are changing,” says Carlye Greene. Greene explains that the shelf-life of a tech skill before it becomes obsolete is less than two years and for non-technical roles the shelf-life is about five years. However, she reassures employers and employees, “Your career will be there as long as you continue to learn.” Despite rapid technological and economic changes, there is opportunity and the chance to build a satisfying and lucrative career. However, to seize the moment, employees, and their employers, must invest in training and development. It’s a nonnegotiable.
Internal training is the cost-effective way to future-proof your workforce
Internal training and apprenticeship programs don’t just enable employees to upskills into jobs that exist now, but can prepare them for roles that will exist in the future. This approach to employee training is a focus for Nick Curry at Amazon. He explains, “We want to create programs that ladder into the needs of our workforce and also the jobs of the future. We aim to train our apprentices with the right skills and expertise they need to be successful in the initial role, and their careers, whether that’s Amazon or elsewhere.”
With a mission to empower anyone to explore a technical career, Amazon’s apprenticeship and skill-building programs redefine pathways to technical roles and build pipelines of technical talent from historically excluded populations. These programs are not static, but also evolving to meet the needs of Amazon and the economy as a whole. Curry explains, “We’re constantly evaluating the skills our employees will need for jobs and that informs what we teach in our programs and the types of courses we offer. We want our employees to be prepared for the jobs of today, and also the jobs of the future.”
Greene emphasizes that internal training is also a cost effective way to develop the skills you need, instead of buying talent from the outside. She explains that at Capital One they took an approach of, “If we’re going to compete for talent, let’s not compete for that tiny pipeline the other companies are competing for.” Instead, building an internal bootcamp and on-the-job training program enabled the company to train skilled software engineers that had higher retention rates, longer tenure, and better performance than a traditional hire from a computer science program.
Develop an employee training program now
Company leaders who are ready to invest in their employees and prepare for the future can take concrete steps to build buy-in and create a program that can remain effective, and flexible, as technology and company goals evolve. Greene and Curry break down the steps to take.
Step 1: Build a business case aligned with company goals
Greene emphasizes the importance of starting with data and building a business case: How much money does your company stand to lose if you do not invest in, retain, and develop talent? In building SVB’s tech training program from scratch and the core of the bank’s tech-talent strategy company, Greene focused on the company’s overall goals to make the case for, and build the internal learning programs. “What’s your modernization goal?” She asks. For example, if a company is moving into the cloud, could they boost cloud certifications among employees by a certain percentage? Offering credentialing programs can be one way to help employees upskill while bridging the gap between what a company needs and the skills employees have.
Step 2: Understand employee needs and how training serves their future goals
Don’t just focus on what the company needs, however. Also understand employee interest and needs and how training can help serve them wherever they might be in their career. Curry explains, “Everyone who comes to Amazon has access to the career development and training opportunities they need to build their career. Regardless of where employees are on their professional journey, we offer opportunities to continue their education, and to learn new skills for technical roles. As a result, our skills training programs like our apprenticeships are a powerful attraction and retention tool, and continue to have a meaningful impact by building talent pools prepared for the future of work.”
Step 3: Build an adaptable program
Step 4: Take a risk on new technology
Finally, Greene encourages employers to take a risk when looking to the future. “Don’t be afraid of the trends,” she advises. “For example, look at companies who embraced Chat GPT versus those who locked it down. Those who embraced it now have a more AI-literate workforce.”
She acknowledged there’s a tipping point with new technologies where they quickly develop from “brand new and scary” to “this is something we need to figure out how to have our workforce learn.” She emphasized that the opportunity to learn with the technology, instead of having to learn after the technology has already been fully deployed, means the difference between innovating and being left behind. She stresses, “You can't innovate with it if you pick it up too late.”
Inramp is your skilled partner to quickly build flexible, forward-looking employee learning inhouse
Onramp is excited to announce the launch of Inramp, a program designed to meet the needs of HR and people leaders for flexible, future-oriented employee training. This innovative upskilling program is uniquely designed for companies looking to train existing employees for specific roles on their technical teams. It enables companies to foster internal career mobility and grow internal expertise while reducing reliance on outside experts when it comes to integrating critical new technologies into their workforce.
Inramp’s pedagogy and cohort learning model is based on Onramp’s proven apprenticeship program, which is certified by the U.S. Department of Labor. Working with Inramp enables you to quickly build up your in-house training with a cost-effective program that is customized to the needs and technical requirements of your company and employees. Inramp reduces the burden of internal training on HR leaders and people teams and enables you to effectively support your employees and reach your business goals.
If you are looking to give employees an opportunity to upskill while building future-readiness and resiliency, reach out to us to learn more about Inramp today.