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Three Takeaways from AT&T's Talent Overhaul

by Simon B
Aug 8, 2018

“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” 

In late 2016, John Donovan and Cathy Benko wrote a terrific article in the Harvard Business Review about AT&T’s talent overhaul. The article outlines the approach AT&T took in response to rapidly shifting technical demands driven by the move to cloud services.

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.

We liked this piece because the ethos and approach align with much of how we at SureSkills approach competency based learning. For that reason, we have put together three interesting takeaways from the article (although we still recommend you read the whole thing).

1. 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.

2. We must empower the learner to take ownership of their 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.

3. 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.

Check out our collection of resources on competency based learning if you would like to learn more about what's happening in learning and development!



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We deliver learning and enablement services to the worlds leading technology companies and global organizations.

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