What we can learn from AT&T's talent overhaul
In the past decade, AT&T had to evolve to survive.
Their industry changed at warp speed, moving from “cables and hardware to the internet and the cloud,” rendering tens of thousands of jobs obsolete.
They had a choice. Hire new people or retrain the ones they had.
AT&T’s primary challenge lay in the fact that of their 280,000 employees, most “got their education and foundational job training in a different era.” Rather than searching for talent elsewhere, AT&T invested in their people and chose to “rapidly retrain its current employees while striving to engender a culture of perpetual learning.”
Spoiler alert: it’s working.
AT&T’s dilemma and approach is emblematic of the problems facing many companies today. Jobs are evolving at dizzying speed, and AI and machine learning stand to automate significant number of jobs. What these companies have realized is that reskilling and upskilling their people saves money and builds a strong, agile learning culture equipped to handle the inevitable uncertainties of the future.
Here are some of the key takeaways from AT&T’s radical, billion-dollar investment in its people:
Reinvention is an antidote to the “skills gap”
Rather than make wholesale changes in the workforce, AT&T gave their current employees the opportunity to reinvent themselves. Not only that, they equipped them with the tools to do so every four years, a forward-thinking plan that has helped to make the workforce (and the company) much more agile.
Learners need to be empowered to take control of their own learning
By putting the learner squarely at the helm of their own career development, AT&T has empowered their workforce and reaped the benefits as a result. Training has become more relevant and more efficient, and their anytime, anywhere approach means their employees can take training when it suits them.
Measurement and metrics help define success and shape future learning programs
Because AT&T have implemented performance metrics as part of their new, role-based approach to learning and development, they can focus more directly on how individuals contributed to business goals and better recognize the market value of jobs. These metrics also help them better plan for the future and boost the return on their training investments.