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May 9, 2017 - No Comments!

Are Millennials Taking Over?

As Millennials, we grew up in a world surrounded by technology, a known social stigma for a love of taking selfies, and we are infamously known to “steal” jobs away from experienced Baby Boomers. According to a recent Pew Research Center study, Millennials surpassed Generation X to become the largest share of the American workforce - which means that Millennials are here to stay. But how can Exec Millennials gain the trust of older, skeptical peers?

In a recent WSJ article, it discusses multiple instances where our young generation is taking over Executive-level roles in organizations. Although this can be seen as unfair, and perhaps unwarranted, I think that many organizations understand the need for innovative leaders with new and fresh ideas to change their company in the direction of the future workplace. Nobody understands the Millennials like Millennials, ourselves.

-Ashlee Sutherland

Published by: Sherry Benjamins in Blog
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April 11, 2017 - No Comments!

Corey’s Story

thumbnail_OneOc Event-1thumbnail_Sherry and Alison2thumbnail_Stand and Deliver March 11th

What I have always admired/loved about SBC is the authenticity of relationships that are created with clients/candidates/community members. Although the majority of our work is done virtually, there is still a very personal connection we make with those we interact with. Whether it’s the pro-bono work we do for non-profits or the recruiting work we do with Fortune 500 companies, our hearts are focused on the people side of business. I find that you can most prominently see the results of these personal relationships at our learning events – there are endless hugs, personal conversations and cutting edge thoughts being exchanged. It’s rare to find an organization that puts such an emphasis on long-term connections!

April 9, 2017 - No Comments!

Helping Others Drives Success

We launched our second HRoundtable this past week with the help of my long-time friend and wonderful consultant, business owner Sonya Kemp. Sonya believes in the notion that giving to others and allowing a group to learn from each other strengthens the outcome for everyone.  Adam Grant talks about this in his giving book, "Give and Take."  We have eight wonderful managers in this group from premier companies and they are already demonstrating their passion to give to each other and learn.

They are energized to be sitting at the table with their peers from other companies and industries.  The range of perspectives is broad and fascinating.  They will meet quarterly to focus on forward looking ideas in order to build their influence as new managers and strengthen their strategic points of view. hroundtable logo 3blue

The idea of a peer learning group is not new.  We have seen many models like this across the executive suite and beyond into other functional areas.  What is exciting about this group and our HRoundtable in general is that we build the notion of giving from the start and it becomes the norm for the group.  People carry it forward in their interactions and ultimately this improves the process and how they contribute overall.  The bar is raised on who fits in the group and how they will build enriched networks and collaborate too.

It dawned on me that the HRoundtable that Sonya is now leading is embracing the four attributes that contribute to being a giver.  As Adam Grant writes about this in his book he states that "givers rise to the top."  The have a unique approach that includes; networking, collaborating, evaluating and influencing.  Adam also explores  how givers, takers and matchers build networks.  It is quite different.  The taker might be described as a self promoter or self absorbed. The giver looks at the world in abundance terms and in generosity.  Givers gain.  Thank you Sonya for being a part of this newly formed group and giving your generous spirit and experiences to this team.

March 2, 2017 - No Comments!

SBCo March Newsletter – Future Leaders

Great leaders often go through a process of figuring out who they are and what they want to achieve for themselves, their people and their customers. We spoke with Tammy Heermann, SVP in Leadership Transformation for Lee Hecht Harrison around the world. She shared her process of self-discovery and her work to help other leaders discover their path to navigate this high stakes business environment.

Sherry Benjamins: Tell us about your personal leadership journey?

Tammy Heermann: It started when I built the learning and development function from the ground up at a global software company. I started thinking about what goes into creating a strategic, people-centered plan. Then I had the opportunity to build a leadership development practice at a consulting company. During this time I was able to live my own journey as I taught others how to live theirs. Through 360 feedback research, I learned that women were perceived as less strategic then men. I saw it in my own 360 data. It required me to reflect and then shift my mindset and behaviors which resulted in successful promotions over the years.

SB: What did you do differently to make those promotions happen?

TH: I pushed my comfort level to delegate more to create the space for me to work “on” the business, not just “in” the business. I started to show up in meetings differently in how I communicated. I found better results when asking questions in a way that showed my thought process. I also learned how to speak with a point of view that was informed, assertive and confident. It was a very different way of just giving an opinion. I also dramatically shifted how I spent my time. I was better at what I said “yes” and “no” to. And finally, I started building valuable relationships. Leadership is about relationships and we shouldn’t feel guilty about doing coffees and lunches to build important relationships around, within, and outside of the business.

SB: What holds women back from self-awareness and making this shift?

TH: The biggest barrier is making the mental shift ourselves. A leader has to be courageous and be just as dedicated to their own personal leadership as they are to their teams and their customers. We are no good to others, if we aren’t good to ourselves. You can’t please everyone. You have to be OK that people may get angry or disagree with you. You have to let go of perfection and taking everything on yourself at work and at home. That’s the biggest shift that has to happen first.

SB: What has changed to make the advancement of women a front-and-center topic in businesses today?

TH: There are three things converging at this point in time. First, from an organizational standpoint, there have always been sectors that are proactive in advancing women such as tech, consulting and financial services. But there are many others that are being driven by grassroots efforts – speaking in town halls and challenging their leadership teams to create change. Customers too are challenging their suppliers to achieve diversity goals if they want to get or keep the business. Secondly, there’s political factors. There are news stories of gender reform: female leaders are being elected and women around the world are demanding change. Lastly, there are societal influences. For instance, for the Super Bowl, GoDaddy had new ads celebrating women in computing, which was very different from their earlier content. Society is expecting to see change. Everything is converging and it gives me hope.

SB: How can we accelerate progress? What can I do to start things with some teeth to it!

TH: If you want to have some teeth to your initiatives you have to treat this as a cultural shift in the organization. It’s common for companies to create networking events or implement policies just to check the box. These things don’t have a true impact because they don’t create real opportunities that women need to advance. You have to create a culture of accountability towards a diverse and inclusive workforce. Leading companies expect their leaders to be accountable for developing talent at all levels because it is just as important to the future of the company as it is meeting sales and financial goals. All the development programs and flex policies mean nothing if women hit conscious or unconscious barriers that are engrained in the culture.

SB: Looking back, do women want something different now than they did 10 years ago?

TH: I’m not sure that the wants of women have changed. I think it’s just more acceptable to push, to protest, to vote with your feet. Women in every generation have desired financial and educational freedom, fair treatment and equal opportunity for advancement. Today we are talking about it more, fighting for it more, and making different decisions about where we choose to work.

SB: Is there a reinvention of how we develop future leaders?

TH: There’s a big movement right now in how Millennials are pushing the way we work differently; work-life flexibility, choosing to work at organizations where they feel connected to a cause, or finding a culture that values feedback is high on their list. Millennials have gotten negative press for being demanding, but I think that other generations needed the same things too. It’s not that we have to do anything different; it’s that we have to do what we said we were going to do all along. Build accountability for giving feedback. Provide development opportunities and transfer knowledge. None of this is new. Today’s successful companies are modeling talent practices that should have been in place all along and now the rest of us are trying to catch up.

SB: Are there examples of earlier stage companies taking development seriously?

TH: I’m seeing it happen in pockets, but not nearly enough. Talent is a long game and when companies are in start-up mode, people investments are about getting the right technical talent to get the business off the ground and keep it afloat. It’s when they reach a size of around 100-200 that they realize that they need structure and great people leaders, which often the tech experts and entrepreneurs aren’t always great at. Early stage companies that “get it” understand that a longer term view is needed from the beginning, not just about the business plan, but the people that need to be brought in, developed and retained for growth. They are always asking, how can we make sure that great people see they have a future here?

September 17, 2016 - No Comments!

Get Over it – New Workforce “Rules”

Are we over it yet?  Half of the workers in  your organizations will be under 30 and by 2025, everyone under 25 will be a digital native.  They grew up with all things tech. Innovation inside our companies will come from the digital natives.  So, why are we hanging on to old structures and ways of thinking about work?  Do we have leaders who just don't see this coming or chose to stick to models they grew up in?

It was great to see an LA Business Journal article last week about nontraditional work in LA.  There is an astounding number of workers who are self employed and data shows it is one in five or upward of one million people in this county.  They work in non-traditional jobs and are part of the underground cash economy.  They rule and love the entrepreneurial life.

There is a concentration in entertainment and creative however, this trend is spilling over into other sectors.  We are about 50% higher with number of self employed compared to other states in the country.   We are on a "fast - forward" when it comes to contingent workers, says, Manuel Pastor, professor of sociology and American studies at USC.

Remember our story about the creative economy that Otis College of Art and Design created?  Their 2015 report spoke about 166,000 non-employee arrangements and now we see that number increasing rapidly.   The government agencies will eventually have to deal with this new reality. It is not going away anytime soon.

Great talent is all over this -they don't need the structures of legacy systems.  They want to work in collaborative networks where skills matter.  Our clients are willing to pay for the skills they need, however, they are still hanging on to old models.  Now, we just need our Hiring Managers to get over it and think more about work, the plan to get things done, how to use technology and ensure that everyone understands the respected cultures in their network.  I know that is not easy.

What are the skills that will allow us to let go of controls that used to work but don't now?

  • Empathy - what do you want for the future and ask your workers what they value.
  • Anticipate Future - get the big picture and translate that into quarterly deliverables and ideal resources with options.
  • Match Maker - willing to look at the match up of resource and need in a variety of scenarios and factor in the cost of speedy or slow solution.
  • Piloting ideas - be okay with trying out an idea or new work arrangement. Tell others you are testing out feasibility and criteria for success.

Let's open up the conversations so that we can get over it and move forward.

April 20, 2016 - No Comments!

April Newsletter 2016 – Catching up with Chip Conley, Futurist for Airbnb

Chip Conley Head ShotHotel guru. Armchair psychologist. Traveling philosopher. Author. Speaker. Teacher. Student. Chip Conley has lived out more than one calling in his lifetime. Many of you know of Chip from his best-selling leadership books and TED talks. He is an inspirational entrepreneur and the founder and former CEO of Joie de Vivre hotel group. During his nearly 24 years as CEO, he grew the company to become the second largest boutique hotel company in America. After selling the company, he joined Airbnb in 2013 as Head of Global Hospitality and Strategy to share his hospitality methods with hosts in nearly 200 countries.

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to speak with Chip about leadership and what fuels his passion within Airbnb.

SB: I just read your book Emotional Equations and immediately saw the power of practical strategies for leadership. Tell me more about your view on leadership today.

CC: Leaders are the emotional thermostats for the business. Whoever is the top dog conveys mood and tone. How they talk is amplified across the organization. It is contagious and sensed by employees.

Today, anxiety is the number one emotion felt across organizations. According to Abraham Maslow’s “psycho-hygiene”, we can sense stressors in our environments. People don’t do their best work in anxious circumstances and lack of confidence impacts our work. I’ve observed that the best companies allow for vulnerability and they consciously strive to build trust.

SB: Are you seeing leaders today that are more in touch with their authentic self?

CC: Yes, and I think there are influences working in our favor. There are more women in the workplace and with that there’s a better reading of the room and emotions. Secondly, coaches have become a normal part of leader development. We also offer feedback through multi-rater tools. And the issue of diversity is now part of the Board conversation. This adds to a CEO’s understanding of the environment and ultimately themselves.

SB: What prompted you to join Airbnb after selling the largest boutique hotel group in the west?

CC: It began when the CEO asked me to be his coach. This was my first tech startup, and I found the organization so intriguing - it was a total immersion. It wasn’t what I anticipated at that stage in my life, but I found it fascinating and it was a great work-life fit for me.

SB: What have you learned at Airbnb?

CC: I am beginning to understand tech. Today we know the face of our mobile phone better than the face of an actual person. At Airbnb our workforce is intergenerational. Prior to working in strategy, I was the head of learning and development where I was teaching twenty-five year olds how to manage twenty-three year olds. I was able to help people through great emotional growth. Now I work on public policy and help our clients all over the world be the best hosts they can be. I am proud to say that our guest satisfaction is the highest it’s ever been.

SB: How do you find top talent?

CC: Success breeds success. Now Airbnb is the leading world hospitality company and our culture and values drive our decisions. We have 2,700 employees and 100 recruiters on staff. Of course it helps to have thousands wanting to work with us, but we start our talent assessment with core values - every candidate goes through a core values interview.

SB: How do you continue to disrupt your industry?

CC: We have to disrupt ourselves before we can disrupt the industry and that begins with looking beyond where we are right now. My advice would be to talk to people outside the industry you’re in and find your blind spots. Be evangelical about what you do. You don’t succeed by meeting customer expectations – you have to go beyond and imagine their unrecognized needs. Highly successful companies know how to increase the intimacy of their customer relationships, and they surprise and delight them with something unrecognized. Reinforce the emotional connection between you and your customers to help them meet their highest goals.

SB: What’s next?

CC: I am constantly curious. I was curious about tech so I joined Airbnb. In 2013, we were booking 8 million room nights a year and now it’s up to 150 million. I was drawn in by the combination of home-sharing, tech, and startup culture. I will continue to work at transformation and coaching others to find their path, always reaching for new work-life fit experiences.


Many of us are working in virtual teams and organizations across the globe. Chip’s reminder is an important one: to be smart in today’s workforce means not just understanding people but to also understand ourselves. Are you investing in you and the intangible relationships inside and outside of your organization? Are you caught up in the tangibles of day-to-day? What are you curious about? Let us know what you are learning!

April 20, 2016 - No Comments!

March Newsletter 2016 – Leading From the Inside Out: Update with Jeremy Hunter

JeremyThis month we sat down with our friend and thought partner, Jeremy Hunter, to explore ways leaders develop themselves while retaining their humanity in the face of monumental change in the workplace.

Jeremy Hunter, PhD is the Founding Director of the Executive Mind Leadership Institute as well as Associate Professor of Practice at the Peter F. Drucker Graduate School of Management at Claremont Graduate University.  He creates and teaches The Executive Mind, a series of demanding and transformative executive education programs. They are dedicated to Drucker’s assertion that “You cannot manage other people unless you manage yourself first.”  He also co-leads the Leading Mindfully Executive Education program at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business.

Jeremy balances a full portfolio of teaching, writing, speaking and consulting with the most important role, being a new dad!  He has designed and led leadership development programs for Fortune 200 and Fortune 50 organizations in aerospace, banking, research, finance, accounting, the arts and civic non-profits.

S. Benjamins:  Jeremy, it has been some time since we caught up with you! What are you up to in 2016? 

Jeremy Hunter: It has been an exciting year so far! More leaders are realizing that to positively face all the demands and distractions coming at them, they must learn new skills. They are learning to focus better and help their teams stay focused. They are learning to better manage their reactions to all the “incoming” coming their way. Executives handle challenges and take on more work than ever while also wanting to maintain a healthy personal and family life.

As Founding Director of the new Executive Mind Leadership Institute, I am focused on the practical inner development of executives. It is the first of its kind on the West Coast and builds on the Drucker School’s leadership position of helping executives learn skills to up their game to be more productive while also enjoying greater well-being. The institute is supported by a team of Drucker faculty who believe in the power of human development for organizational success. Our goal is to cultivate the inner skills of executives and offer public and niche programs to help them thrive in an increasingly arduous environment.


SB:  What do you hope the Executive Mind Leadership Institute will provide? 

JH: The Executive Mind Leadership Institute is built on idea that leaders have to cultivate their minds in a different way to flourish in this turbulent environment. I have been teaching executives for 13 years and at the core of that is something called mindfulness, which is now recognized as a powerful solution for facing an unrelenting and chaotic business environment. Many talented leaders work hard but would like more tools to meet demands in this pace of change and more effectively address the contemporary business environment.


SB: In regards to your consulting, what do you think makes clients call you for help? 

JH: A few things come to mind. First, leaders now realize that their quality of self-awareness impacts the success of their organizations. To be effective now, they have to be more than just skilled at the technical aspects of what they do. They also want to increase their capacity to stay focused in a distracting environment, or approach challenges in fresh ways to be more competitive. They also know how important it is to create a culture that attracts and keeps talent. Managing is no longer just about the kind of work people do, but it is about the “why and how” as well.

Secondly, forward-thinking leaders see the nature of work is changing. Good work now demands the ability to connect to one another in more sophisticated ways. Better solutions arise from better connections with one another. My last client was a highly technical organization that understood through enhancing their ability to have higher-value conversations they gain a competitive advantage. The work we did improved the tenor and quality of their meetings which resulted in clearer communication and forward-moving action.

Lastly, work has become more stressful and firms want useful ways to deal with it. I hear so many people describe their work by using war metaphors. They walked in the office braced for battle and already exhausted.


SB: Are you seeing changes in leadership development? 

JH: Yes, and part of that is the new generation of leadership. When I first started this work 13+ years ago it was not a foregone conclusion that leaders had develop themselves internally to be effective externally. Now, we know that research supports the idea that healthy leaders who understand and manage themselves lead more effectively.


SB: We see in our search work that Hiring Managers want a long list of skills; however, more place equal importance on “fit”. Are your clients doing this? 

JH: Yes, it’s the “do they play well with others” question. To answer the “fit” question, you need a set of tools that give employees the opportunity to display strengths and improve weaknesses. A “diamond in the rough” candidate can survive and thrive with a strong set of tools to help them develop. Survival is about continually adapting to change, not about perfection.

I’d personally love to see companies replace their fit assessments with a real life situation. Instead of measuring someone’s ability to be flexible via an assessment, take them to lunch and have the waiter mess up their order. Then you would really see how they handle situations that require flexibility!


SB: Between being a new father, teaching, consulting, writing and the Institute how do you keep all the balls in the air? 

JH: I have to practice what I preach! Every morning I meditate for 40 minutes to an hour. It is a way for me to set the tone of the day and let things unfold more calmly. I also take vacations where I get to decidedly disconnect from work.


SB: I love that. What have you learned about yourself this past year?

JH: Beyond practicing what I preach, I have learned to take paths that challenge me. It allows me to actively practice adapting and staying in the moment with the challenge. We all go through difficulties and many of us prefer to take the path most easily traveled, but I have found taking the path outside comfort zones offers better solutions in the end.

We can thrive and have a high quality of life and performance, but it does take work. Right now we live in a world where people think the answer to productivity is technology. The root of productivity is not technology. Productivity happens because people develop capacities between and within themselves to perform better.


Our final considerations. . .

Just as medicine is shifting from reactive treatments to pro-active wellness, more organizations are shifting to well-being at work. Jeremy has worked with enlightened CEO’s who are now seeing that building a healthy culture starts with the leader. Those that self reflect know how to shift attention and get better results. 

The conversation at the leadership table is changing. When it is more human and honest – the research shows better results.  The human agenda is now more centered than ever on values, leadership, talent management, motivation and learning.  This is a huge sign that leading indicators for success start with leaders who understand what matters from the inside out.


March 2, 2015 - No Comments!

SBCo February Newsletter: Taking Talent Global with Edwards LifeSciences

Globalization and growing talent continues to be a hot topic, so we decided to get the first-hand perspective from an ex-pat on assignment in China with a highly successful U.S. based organization. This month we talked with Thomas Hopson, Business Unit Director Greater China and Korea, at Edwards Lifeciences about the unpredictable nature of working global.

Sherry Benjamins: How did you end up as the Business Unit Director in Shanghai, China for Edwards? 

ThomasHopsonThomas Hopson: Fifteen years ago I did an international assignment in England with a different company and loved it. After I completed my EMBA in the states, I was working at Edwards and wanted another global challenge.

I approached Edwards about an international assignment and they asked if I would be interested in going to China. At the time, Edwards was struggling to bridge the gap between what our corporate office in Irvine wanted and what was actually happening in China, so I was sent to train and develop the sales and marketing teams.


SB: Wow, what a fascinating start! Now that you have been there for a few years, what is your number one objective for 2015?

TH: I really want to create the building blocks for the future. We need a stable and sustainable foundation to continue our growth. For Edwards, sustainability starts with investing in employees. We have a young tenured staff in China, so it is important to establish a culture of Edwards investing in employees for the long term.

SB: What major learnings have you had working with your team in China versus your team in Orange County?

TH: The biggest thing has been to be very clear on the message being stated and ask for confirmation of understanding. In the Chinese culture it is very difficult for people to say “no”. They end up saying “yes” even when they don’t understand because they don’t want to seem disrespectful or incompetent. I am learning the language to help ease some of the complexity, but right now it takes two times as long to deliver a message to my team through translators or translated materials.

The other learning was that the environment over here is young, vibrant, and the economy is growing. We find individuals hooked on finding the “next best” opportunity. I have had to be flexible and let go of any preconceived notions of how this workforce should think, act, or perform.

SB: You mention employees searching for “the next big thing”. How are you learning what that means?

TH: We train on everything from product, to organization development and skill building. Most importantly, I try to empower my team to have a voice and an impact. We created an Executive Sales Panel where employees have an opportunity to voice any concerns to management and we respond. The answer is not always “yes”, but at least they know they have been heard. Through this effort we learn what is important to each individual.

With such a young team, we also run into issues where employees are promoted at a rapid pace, but lack the skillset to match their new title. We have to make sure we evaluate our talent in a way that is logical and also makes the employee successful.

SB: In the U.S. we talk about the exit of Baby Boomers, the new Millennial workforce, and lack of leadership in middle management. What are the talent issues in China keeping you up at night?

TH: There is a huge leadership gap here. The workforce is young and lacks experience, which is why you see mostly ex-pats in leadership roles right now. The one child policy in China is beginning to have an impact on talent. From a business stand point, the aging population is beneficial, but it makes for a very tight talent pool.

At Edwards, we want to be seen as a career destination, not a transition company for strong talent.

SB: It sounds like you have consistently been the pioneer for people-driven initiatives.

TH: I have always loved leadership and watching people grow. I have worked harder in this role than ever before, but I have also never been more excited about my work. I can really see the effects of what we are doing here from a business and talent perspective.

On the personal front, I am learning that persistence, perseverance, and flexibility serve me well. Being in China has meant constantly learning and being comfortable with being uncomfortable. Everything from the food, to the internet, to the way work is approached is different here.

SB: I actually worked at Edwards Lifesciences at the beginning of my career. That is really where I learned how to be strategic, but at the time there weren’t global opportunities. What advice do you have for someone looking to go on a global assignment?

TH: Going global just for the sake of career advancement is the wrong reason to go. You really need a high level of curiosity, adaptability, and some thick skin to succeed in a global role.  It can also be complex as it relates to family or significant others. They need to be a part of this commitment to adventure and personal change.

SB: It seems like we could be doing more “at home” to help our leaders have a global mindset.

TH: You really have to live it to understand it. One week trips to global locations doesn’t provide you the same understanding as living it for 2-3 years. I encourage everyone to take on a global challenge. It’s been one of the best experiences for my personal and professional development.  These experiences have definitely rounded out my skillset and fine-tuned my business and people transformation skills. I am more understanding of the impact of cultures, motivators, and the unique business aspects in cultures such as China.

I was so taken by my discussion with Thomas that I could actually see myself considering an expat assignment! He creates a vision of this incredibly important work in a fascinating culture where he is learning every day. His positive perspective and commitment to learning inspired me. His family is right there with him, learning language and navigating in this unfamiliar global community.

Let us know what you are doing to develop or grow talent in China or overseas. Thanks Thomas for sharing your story of year three in Shanghai. You are clearly energized by this impactful work and we can’t wait to hear how this evolves. Unfortunately, my husband says China may not be in our plans just yet.

January 30, 2015 - No Comments!

SBCo January Newsletter: The Inside Perspective on Innovative Learning at Qualcomm

For the New Year, we sat down with one of the most inventive people in Global Learning and Development in California, who also serves asGeoff Stead a thought partner to L&D professionals around the globe. Geoff Stead is the Senior Director, Mobile Learning at Qualcomm and leading the way in Mobile Learning not just at Qualcomm, but industry wide.

Sherry Benjamins: How did you navigate into learning technologies and specifically Mobile Learning?

Geoff Stead: I was a Computer Science graduate and after 2-3 years of classic coding work I wanted to move into something with more “soul”, and found learning technology. I’ve spent the last 20 years in Learning and Development - initially on the vendor side. My primary focus was inventing new technology to reach potential learners that were not being well served. Our goal was to help employees get the best possible support with entirely new approaches to learning.

SB: So who tapped you for the Qualcomm role?

GS: Tamar Elkeles, the Chief Learning Officer at Qualcomm. She had spent months looking for vendors that could provide the technology for her vision at Qualcomm, but couldn’t find anything suitable. We connected online and after a few months, she persuaded me to join Qualcomm. Initially I worked out of the Qualcomm UK offices and later moved my family to San Diego County. I joined the team 2 ½ years ago and formed a new Mobile Learning team. We now have a team of fifteen who work with employees and vendors to improve mobile performance and engagement.

SB: Qualcomm has received many awards (Gold: Brandon Hall (Best Advance in Mobile Learning and Gold: CLO magazine.). What has surprised you about this global recognition?

GS: We have really been surprised by the appetite and enthusiasm for this kind of learning. Both from our employees, and peers in the industry. We’re also surprised by how difficult some other organizations are finding it to go mobile. We’re trying to help the industry along, by publishing our success stories, and guidelines on

SB: What do you think is the end goal with Mobile Learning?

GS: On the employee side of things, we want to offer the best possible support to our people, to help them succeed. We now have over 50 apps ranging from learning to productivity tools. Employees can download them for free and we plan to grow this capability.

From an industry perspective, there is enthusiasm in this space, but not great tools. We want to help peers and vendors embrace mobile, which is great for Qualcomm from a business and partnership perspective.

SB: You and Tamar have been hosting Qualcomm events across the world. What is the purpose of those?

GS: We were both being asked to speak at an increasing number of keynotes and could not attend them all. We decided to bring organizations together (with minimal vendor influence) as an open forum to discuss new ideas in this space. There is no financial gain for us, but there is great intellectual gain for everyone in the room.

We also want to use these events to help push vendors forward; Qualcomm has a multiple-vendor policy, and are always ion the lookout for new and exciting products. We are sometimes a bit harsh to long-standing vendors that are too slow to move to mobile, swapping them for smaller, hungrier businesses with a clearer mobile ambition.

SB: So where do you see the most adoption?

GS: I think Qualcomm has one of the most mature mobile learning initiatives, though others like Apple, Google, IBM, GE and Abbvie all have internal app stores for their employees. If I had to guess, I would say 5% of organizations are at a similar level to Qualcomm, and tghese organizations. And 10-20% want to be at this level, but aren’t yet. At all of our events, I have yet to see a dedicated team like ours.

SB: Are there markets this technology works best in?

GS: To be honest, I don’t know the answer to that question. It works for our company because we are a mobile technology company. We also like risk and we’re bold with experimentation; that is part of our culture naturally.

SB: I love that Qualcomm knows that something’s will work and some won’t, but still want to experiment and re-invent failures to make them successes.

SB: How does your technology look and feel for new employees?

GS: We believe in self-service; find what you need without any restrictions. With that in mind all our apps are available to employees from the start. We also have features that allow you to see what your colleagues are learning. Within our on-boarding process we recommend three to four apps including a campus map and a game that helps new employees get familiar with terms that are common in the office and with our technology.

SB: What is your prediction on where mobile learning is headed?

GS: I think there is a perfect storm brewing. There is the relentless rise of mobile and cloud based technology, a blur between work and home, and a shift in employees’ expectation on learning and career growth. Adding to those factors is an expectation of immediate gratification, the immergence of digital communication, and a demand for digital access to information 24/7. These things are coming whether we are ready or not. Mobile learning can address all of these storm factors.

SB: Do you think organizations are still in denial about Mobile Learning?

GS: Maybe. I think the real “denial” is the difficulty of reframing Learning and Development when faced by the storm, mentioned above. Historically, L&D has been defined by one mode of learning, yet employees want ever increasing ways to improve their skills, via multiple modes. This requires collaboration and management alignment across departments, geographies, and employee levels. For instance, we work closely with IT, Legal, and Communications to make our initiatives thrive across all markets. This desire by employees to have options won’t go away, so Qualcomm decided that we would rather be at the beginning of this trend than try to catch up.

SB: What do you like most about your role?

GS: I like the breadth of this role. I have the ability to span across all departments. We have the flexibility to invent which is rather unique. In fact, we just launched an interactive mural, which you can learn about in an upcoming blog post on Qualcomm's website.

SB: So what can you tell us about the 2015 plan for Qualcomm?

GS: We are enthusiastic about new vendor partnerships. We are also excited about ways that phones can boost interaction based on where you are and what you are doing. We have 19,000 employees interacting with our apps. In 2015 we want to understand better what people are doing, be able to segment groups and follow their narratives.


Geoff shared that more than 90 percent of Qualcomm senior executives use this enterprise technology. He is passionate about how mobile is changing enterprise learning and communication at all levels. The time is right for leaders in HR and L&D to be bold. Wouldn’t you want to be the “go-to team” for learning transformation in your company? Your workforce is ready for a new way to interact and learn. Let us know about your adventure and we will include you in our 2015 newsletters!

January 17, 2015 - No Comments!

What is being done to close a Skills Gap?

The Wall Street Journal article today (Saturday, January 17th) starts by saying four in ten U.S. college students graduate without skills in "complex reasoning, communication and problem solving."   There is some progress for sure, but the author points out there are big gaps to address.  The conversation about this is not new and it is easy to overlook those that are tackling this head on.

I have just joined the Advisory Board of the California State University Fullerton (CSUF) Center for Leadership.  I am impressed with the creative approach that Dr. Jay Barbuto and his team of impressive "leadership scholars - the students" are taking to enrich Business student educational experiences and build these critical skills.  There are 22 of  us on this growing Advisory Board and we come from consulting as well as premier and respected Orange County corporations.  We discussed ways to support the students and offer development in corporate settings too.

Training and leadership development is a big investment for many of the Board member companies for they see the shift from hiring on the outside to developing on the inside.  Communication, influence and problem solving skills areas remain a priority.  Partnering with the Universities accelerates this development initiative and you see first hand the skills of undergraduate and senior business students.  I was impressed for sure with the CSUF students attending our meeting.  At lunch I was able to talk more in depth with a few students and here is what I experienced;

- commitment to their program

- enthusiasm for learning and eagerly seeking exposure to companies, interning and shadowing

- polish and great communication skills

- smiles and positive presence which was refreshing

So, according to this WSJ article, many business owners might not be seeing these attributes in recent college graduate interviews but maybe they have not met the students from the Mihaylo College of Business and Economics at CSUF.

We are all eager to see an increase in the availability of top talent from the Universities and from the experienced labor pool.  Our clients are starting to consider selecting on potential vs. performance and we have a long way to go, however, this leadership center and their work with students in Orange County moves us much closer to that goal.  Thank you Jay!