Squared Online Reviews

‘Innovation comes from the bright minds we employ’: Google and iProspect on how to build the best digital talent

Jenni Armstrong

Former Brand and Content Manager, Google

In our recent digital transformation webinar with Google and iProspect, our participants advised us about the state of digital in their organisations.

  • Almost 50% are currently not addressing the skills gap they’re facing
  • 22.2% were in the process of seeking digital transformation solutions
  • 28.4% said they were actively working to overcome the digital skills challenge

CJ Morley, Global Director for Talent and Development for global performance marketing agency iProspect found the third stat particularly encouraging.

‘I think that’s something we’ll all spend an awful lot of time doing over the years to come,’ says CJ, ‘and as digital continues to develop we’ll address one challenge, and then start looking for the solution to the next.’

Taking a look at those numbers, there are two key questions that organisations need to ask themselves:

  • How do you get started, and go from awareness to making impactful digital transformation happen?
  • Once you’re on the road to digital capability building, how do you ensure ongoing, futureproofed digital skills development?

We teamed up with Google and iProspect to answer those questions through insights and practical advice from their experience creating digital skills L&D programmes that drive business results. Here are the key takeaways.

How Google are tackling the digital skills challenge

It might be fair to assume that Google have digital skills all sewn up, but as Carole Stewart, Lead L&D Business Partner at Google, explains, the challenges are much more familiar than you might expect.

‘In the last five years we’ve moved from a single product to multi-platforms, there’s much more competition and we’re working with much more sophisticated and digitally-savvy customers. So as a business, we’re going through the same changes and transformations as everyone else.’

In this period of transition Carole sees building digital skills, organisational culture and operating model as completely interconnected strands – ‘it’s really impossible to split out the three of them’ – and when it comes to digital skills development, focuses on social learning through two key pillars:

  • Ensure everyone has a solid platform of product and digital knowledge
  • Use the power of the tacit knowledge in the organisation to add in the know-how

They do this by:

  1. Creating a culture of learning
  2. Hiring for learning agility
  3. Focusing on who needs deep expertise, and who needs broad expertise

As a practical example, Carole shared a case study of a recent digital skills development programme at Google.

The challenge

As Google brought in more products and platforms, they’d ended up with lots of really specialist teams. As a result, the frontline customer-facing individuals were turning round to multiple product specialist teams, which only increased the complexity in the organisation.

The solution

Bring expertise as close to customers as possible by:

  • Setting up EMEA communities of product/solution knowledge
    • Building an operating model that facilitated social/community learning
  • Avoiding the sheep dip: building bespoke capability and development for individuals
    • Knowing who needs to know what – and to what depth of knowledge – for their roles

Here’s what that looked like in practice:

‘You can’t expect one person to be a deep technical expert and a deep expert in a customer’s business,’ Carole explains. ‘The speed at which the products change, at what the customer needs changes, at what the competiton is doing – it’s just not feasible for one person to do all these things, no matter how brilliant, or motivated they are.’

Moving linearly across each level of the triangles you can see how the level of expertise and knowledge – ‘the who needs to know what, and to what depth’ – was set out across R&D, Specialist and Account Director roles.

Drilling down further into the learning path for Specialists, here’s how their social learning plan played out:

Plans for the future

Everyone faces the same challenges in terms of investing in and recruiting digital talent, so how do Google retain and continually engage their brightest and best?

‘What you can do as a business’, Carole advises, ‘is take them away from a streetview of their career – where they can only see 6-12 months ahead – and zoom out to a Google Maps view, so they can see where these specialist digital skills can take them longterm, and how they can keep building and adding to them to bring more out in your business.’

How iProspect launched a global digital leadership programme

‘Our people are our heart and soul of our business,’ says CJ, ‘we’re nothing without them, but that does pose a challenge in terms of how we attract the best people, and keep them engaged and part of our global family.’

iProspect is made up of about 3500 people based in 71 countries, the majority of whom are millennials – digital natives – typically aged between 24 and 27 years. They’re deeply ambitious, evagelical about digital and dedicated to building their careers.

The challenge

iProspect knew that their digital natives, their critical target audience, were the most at risk when it came to attrition.

iProspect also knew that what this millennial workforce wanted from their jobs was the chance to learn, to be inquisitive and to have new ideas, in addition to a following a clear career progression plan.

‘So what we needed to do was ask ourselves,’ CJ explains, ‘was ‘how do we engage them? How do we give them new ideas? How do we ensure that they see that through learning they can develop their careers.”

The solution

From these questions,iProspect drew up a tickbox set of requirements for a development programme that would address this challenge:

  • Global: iProspect are a global organisation, and it was key for their millennials to feel part of something bigger
  • Social: iProspect knew their digital natives were looking to network and share knowledge with their peers across the world
  • Virtual: Modelling their programme on the skills they were trying to develop and delivering the learning via a digital platform was essential
  • Practical: For the learning to stick, participants needed to be able to take it and actively use it to improve digital solutions for their clients
  • Structured: The L&D team knew that for their millennial workforce it was important to set our a clear plan for skills development
  • Incentivised: Participants needed to understand that learning would lead to bigger and better things and further development opportunities within iProspect

As a result of their needs analysis, iProspect partnered with Google and Squared Online to create NEXTGEN: a scalable global development programme designed to improve digital skills, build leadership potential and provide a network for employees to learn from their peers around the world.

As an agency that measures performance, identifying the impact of the NEXTGEN programme was essential for iProspect – ‘it really has been a game-changer for us,’ says CJ:

Plans for the future

iProspect and Squared Online have continued their partnership to roll out a second global bespoke NEXGEN cohort, 80% of the participants of which were signed-up through internal word-of-mouth from the the first programme.

‘Our innovation comes from the bright minds we employ,’ says CJ, ‘and NEXTGEN has provided me with the blueprint for our management development, our leadership development and our graduate development. It’s given me a very clear idea of what we need to do.’

Now that you’ve got some tips and suggestions – and hopefully a few new ideas sparked – about your organisation’s digital transformation journey, what’s next?

If you’d like to chat about how Squared Online can help upskill your teams, please get in touch.

Related articles