Building a culture of learning with AI

Developing your organization’s digital sense is a key priority for CIOs today. You won’t be ready for the future by simply hiring people with the sharpest skills – you also need to create a culture where everyone is continually working to develop and evolve their skills together.

I often tell my IT organization that the half-life of an IT professional is around 18 months because technology is constantly changing; it is therefore essential that we are all continuous learners. This is true not only at Johnson & Johnson; I have observed this in other companies and industries as well.

To support the strengthening of the digital sense of our IT organization, we have implemented a program that uses artificial intelligence to assess our skills. Not only has this given us great transparency into the strengths and shortcomings of our organization, but it has also allowed us to keep our team members marketable and empowered. When you have an empowered team, they’re more likely to be motivated to perform at their best.

Use AI to assess skills

The methodology we applied uses a three-pronged approach, assessing approximately 40 technical and leadership skills in our IT organization.

[ Also read Artificial intelligence (AI): 7 roles to prioritize now. ]

The first element is an AI model, which uses internal and external data to assess skills against a core set of skills that we seek to assess and develop; for example, a full-stack engineer.

It compares employee skills to someone in a similar position or title in the external market on a scale of 1 to 5. We also pull internal data sources, such as Jira and Workday, which contain information from their CV, for example. This helps to increase the accuracy and correlation of the model.

The second element used to assess skill sets is an employee self-assessment. Employees receive the results of the AI ​​model and validate if they think their skills meet the AI ​​assessment.

The final component is the Manager Assessment, in which the manager assesses the skills of that individual employee.

This approach to assessing skill sets has proven valuable for several reasons. First, it ensures the use of objective information in the appraisal process, reducing the influence of subjective opinions that managers may have, based on limited interactions with employees. We can see if someone has much stronger skills in a particular area than we knew they were, or if someone’s skills aren’t as strong in an area as we might have thought.

However, we do not use this data in a punitive way, and we have been very clear about this from the beginning. Rather, it gives us a baseline of how we can develop our team members for the future.

This data also provided greater insight into skill areas that are important to our future state, but where we are less evolved. It got us thinking about how to increase opportunities for learning and experience so that we can work to develop those desirable skill sets.

Having data-driven insights into our skill strengths and gaps has allowed us to focus on how we can double down and leverage those.

The data also gave us insight into employees with strong skills that we didn’t know until we had the results of the assessment. We are now able to tap into them for their expertise and for new opportunities, allowing them to develop and share these skills with others. The data also revealed development opportunities for managers to advance capabilities and continuously improve.

[ Increasing digital acumen across the organization is a key priority for CIOs, according to a report from Harvard Business Review Analytic Services. Learn more. ]

While we learned a lot about the composition of skills in our organization, the data also allowed us to identify and prioritize skills for the future. To be ready for the future, we know we must continue to focus on skills in intelligent automation, data engineering, data management, data science, full-stack development, architecture, AI and product leadership. We discovered that we had very good skills in areas such as lab integration, Scrum, and developing product teams.

Having data-driven insights into our skill strengths and gaps has allowed us to focus on how we can double down and leverage those. We encourage everyone to create a learning development plan, and to support this we have developed several learning modules that individuals can leverage for training.

Create opportunities to apply skills

The feedback we received from team members inside and outside of our organization has been phenomenal. They see that we are investing in their future and they have a clear vision of their positioning within the organization. They want to develop their skills so that they can be viable, useful and marketable.

While it is important to develop and learn new skills, the key is to create opportunities for them to apply and benefit from these new skills. One of the ways we’ve supported this is through what we call our Gig Marketplace – a forum where teams can advertise specific skill sets and individuals can apply to fill them.

For example, a team working on a technology solution supporting our cancer treatment may need a full-stack developer. If you are qualified for this project, you can apply to participate in the team and put these skills to good use.

We also use the tool to build successful teams from diverse backgrounds to solve a common problem. It’s another way for individuals to amplify the type of work they want to do while interacting with different people with different skill sets.

Learn more about artificial intelligence

Make it work for you

We got tremendous value from this skills assessment, and it helped our wider organization understand the importance of developing our digital savvy. However, it is important that CIOs do not do this alone.

CIOs need to create partnerships within the C-suite for this to be effective across the organization – leading the technology arena while HR leads the overall approach to talent and business leaders execute their strategies.

With persistence, you can show your progress along the digital talent journey over time. Tie it to the heart of the company, to the mission, and get everyone on the path. That’s how we set out to improve our digital acumen so we can continue to drive results and serve the patients and customers who rely on us every day.

[ Get exercises and approaches that make disparate teams stronger. Read the digital transformation ebook: Transformation Takes Practice. ]

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