More great news for paternity leave: it can benefit moms’ health

Originally published on Medium (by Jenny Dearborn)

It was déjà vu all over again.

Earlier this month, I shared a legal victory for paternity leave that echoed an article I wrote in USA TODAY in 2016: then, few took full advantage of trendy new maternity/paternity leave policies, reflecting pressures on parents to return to work early.

In this recent case, JPMorgan Chase agreed to a tentative $5 million settlement in a class action suit brought by a father given just two weeks paid parental leave, vs. the 16 weeks the bank officially offered, because he was not the “primary caregiver.” That father held his employer accountable, and I hope others follow his lead.

Now it seems there’s even more cause for celebration, and for companies to take leave policies seriously. The New York Times reports that men taking leave can benefit mothers’ postpartum health. Stanford economists studied the impact of a 2012 Swedish law enabling new fathers to flexibly take up to one month’s leave after the birth of a child.

Comparing mothers of babies born pre- and post-policy in the first six months post-partum, the economists identified a 26% drop in anti-anxiety prescriptions and a 14% decrease in hospitalizations or specialist visits.

It seems allowing fathers to take unplanned paid leave days is key. You know, when there’s a family health situation and a parent drops everything? (Raise your hand if you see working moms doing that more often than working dads…) Sometimes the new mom just needs a hand, or a break, especially during what’s sometimes called the fourth trimester, when the baby still needs near-constant care and the mother’s body continues to go through changes.

Other benefits when dads take paternity leave:

  • Dads stay more involved with their kids and domestic tasks long into the future, which helps working mothers in many ways.
  • Moms earn more over their careers and are less likely to experience less post-partum depression.
  • And of course, more, and more lasting, father-child bonding happens.

Sadly, the US is one of only five countries that does not mandate paid maternity leave, and while most industrialized countries guarantee paid leave to new fathers, we don’t. States have taken the lead but it’s not enough.

We must step in. In addition to lobbying for national parental leave legislation, let’s hold companies accountable for letting people take the leave they have been promised. It’s not enough to put leave (or vacation) policies on the books. Transparency through regular reporting is the way forward. Transparency is also key to ending gender pay disparity, which I challenged companies to reveal in 2015, and diversity, another critical issue in Silicon Valley. Companies can’t manage what they don’t measure, and they can’t measure what they refuse to see.

The Real College Scandal and How I Got Into Stanford

Originally published on Medium (by Jenny Dearborn) — The college admissions scandal is back in the news with the first prosecution. But for me, what’s shocking isn’t just that wealthy parents were gaming the system to help their kids get into top universities, or that the convicted Stanford sailing coach received a slap on the wrist relative to those incarcerated by our terribly broken criminal justice system. Or even the difference those millions in bribes could have made for our country’s many underfunded schools.

The real college scandal in my view impacts millions of Americans and our economy: higher education costs have more than doubled in the past 30 years and student loan debt has ballooned to $1.5 trillion. Yet US high school graduates are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as Americans with college degrees, even with jobless numbers at record lows.

We need better options. I can speak to one of them personally.

You see, I have a Masters in Education from Stanford University. And while my family didn’t have money to bribe anyone even if we’d wanted to, I did game the system in a way: I started my post-secondary education at a community college.

Yep, my journey to Stanford started at American River College in Sacramento, and I owe what I am today to the community college system. Without owing a fortune in student loans.  

In 2018–19, the average published tuition and fees for a full-time student at public two-year institutions in the US was just $3,660, vs. $10,230 at public four-year colleges. But with grants and tax benefits, the average net cost was -$400.

And while 60% of students at public four-year schools and 82% of students at for-profits borrowed money, only 36% of all community college students had taken out at least some loans in 2015-2016. Just 12% had borrowed more than $13,500.

It’s a great alternative. Today, 29% of University of California graduates and 51% of California State University graduates are community college transfers. We are a scrappy bunch. Most work, many full time. Nearly a third are the first generation to attend college, 15% are single parents and 20% are students with disabilities. If you want to hire someone who is determined to succeed, this is the right candidate pool.

Indeed, California community colleges educate 70% of our state’s nurses and 80% of firefighters, law enforcement personnel and emergency medical technicians. These schools offer associate degrees and short-term job training certificates in more than 175 fields, training 100,000+ individuals annually in industry-specific workforce skills.

Community colleges also support our economy by partnering with businesses to provide apprenticeships, a critical alternative to earning a degree that may just save the tech industry from a dangerous and growing skills gap (read my series here).

Community college gave me the start I needed and helped me earn a BA from UC Berkeley with far less debt. I was then prepared to apply to, and be accepted, fair and square, at Stanford.

Doesn’t everyone who’s willing to work hard deserve the same chance?

5 Ways to Shape the Future of Employee Development

Originally published on Entrepreneur (by Tammy Perkins) — Investing in employee development seeds your business’s health, success and future. Fostering the physical, emotional and intellectual space for employees to thrive is foundational. But not all approaches are created equal.  

Another table stakes to healthy culture is employee learning and engagement. After all, once we’ve hired the best people, we want to protect our investment by motivating and developing them. Engagement requires ownership. When employees recognize the company’s challenges as their challenges; its success as their success; its future as their future – they become true ambassadors for the business. 

Consider these five ways to shape the future of employee development:

Activate Your Team

The future of employee development is a broader conversation around personal and professional growth for employees. It’s employee-driven, mobile-first, global in nature, and highly collaborative and interactive, says Katie Burke, Chief People Officer at HubSpot.

The next generation of employee development is about activating talent; the engine of business growth. When leaders inspire employees’ best work and cultivate leadership, we maximize our advantage.   

Build From Within

Your team is your asset, your secret recipe for success. No one is as versed in the complexities of your business as the people who finesse its nuances daily. Listen to them. Invite them to co-build. Take chances on people by giving them opportunities to solve complex problems, devising solutions that have a real impact. Develop talent to scale with the company.

Institutionalize a spirit of innovation, and it will electrify your employees.

Jenny Dearborn, EVP of human resources at SAP advises: “Give people purpose. We spend more waking hours of our lives contributing to our company or organization than doing anything else. When we can see and feel that these efforts are worthwhile and can tie what we do to the value our employer is trying to bring to the world, we’re motivated to innovate, to collaborate effectively, to make a difference and work toward meaningful goals.”

Knowing that they have the opportunity to evolve reminds employees of the vital role they play—a key emotional dimension of job fit. Get leaders onboard. Dearborn recommends, “Use data and facts to prove that employees’ lack of readiness for the future of work is a significant competitive disadvantage to your company.”

Champion Leadership Skills  

Foster an authentic culture where employees can ask the hard questions comfortably and regularly, coach leaders to invite fearless discussions, and thank employees when they have the courage to pose tough questions. This builds confidence and trust while setting the standard for cultural communication. 

Leaders hold the dual role of leading teams and modeling cultural values for future leaders they shape by example. Lisa Price, EVP of human resources at Nordstrom explains: “Values help us in the interview and selection process and are then reinforced through onboarding, recognition and performance. Driving results is an important aspect of our success but just as important is how you get there. We make sure that ‘the how’ (behaviors and values) are clear and embedded in our talent practices.”

Leaders as Career Guides

Know your team. Understand their strengths. While employees are responsible for executing their own career plans, leaders can connect, support and foster opportunities. “The future of employee development is purposeful and targeted experiences (stretch assignments and rotations) and structured relationships (mentoring and coaching). Experiential development is the only thing that will cut through the clutter and noise of distraction that bombards employees in their work environment,” says Dearborn.

Lead purposeful development discussions that include action items. Solidify each effort, forging time-bound plans. Encourage employees to increase self-awareness through ongoing development activities such as individual reflection and mentoring. Provide exposure to other disciplines within the company that give employees the chance to learn about various careers. Offer perspectives on building support networks at different career stages. Be persistent in measuring the impact of your results. 

Leaders Develop Leaders

Give employees the spotlight and opportunity to stretch into projects that challenge and grow their confidence. Tailor each employee’s experience. Make sure employees have the projects, scope and feedback that prepares them for the next level. Invest in new muscle by creating new capabilities. Shift the influence of capabilities with an increased scope.

Price explains: “Ultimately, talent will make or break an organization’s ability to achieve its ambitions, so getting clear around the functional and leadership capabilities needed for the future should then help inform an employee development strategy.” 

Taking deliberate risks on your employees bolsters your internal and external brand; it makes your company an exciting place to work, to evolve and to stay.

Original article available here:

Four Enticing Benefits To Support Working Parents In Your Company

Originally published on Forbes (by Mary Beth Ferrante) — As 2018 comes to a close, I’ve been reflecting on the current state of affairs for working parents and how cultural norms surrounding work and family life are (slowly but surely) shifting. We’re seeing companies scramble as they attempt to attract and retain top female talent by offering paid parental leave (take a look at some of the best and worst policies of 2018), as well as, enticing benefits.

When companies support working parents, they are not only committing to helping them integrate both their professional and family lives but are also advancing their own bottom line. By increasing paid parental leave, companies not only attract better talent but reduce attrition rates and improve productivity. When Google, for instance, expanded their leave from 12 weeks to 18 weeks, the rate at which new mothers quit dropped by 50%, which translates into millions of dollars saved for the company. Working parents, in particular mothers, who feel supported are not only retained at higher rates but are happier for it. And in a recent discussion with SAP’s Chief Learning Officer, Jenny Dearborn, she highlighted that it not only is paid leave important for the men and women taking parental leave but goes further to increase overall employee engagement. Dearborn shared,

When other employees notice their colleague, their neighbor, their work shift partner is being taken care of during this critical time, that treatment affects them as well and in turn, creates an overall family-friendly culture.  And that matters, not only to our culture but to the bottom line.  SAP has seen that a one percent increase in the employee engagement index correlates to $75M in net operating profit.

Paid parental leave is the foundation and a sure way to ensure that employees feel valued, however, family-friendly benefits do more than just look good on paper; they represent the ongoing commitment of companies who wish to see working parents thrive both at home and the office. Offering these benefits individualizes the work experience and sends a clear message to employees that their personal needs and desires are being heard and considered.

As companies continue to develop new policies at record speed, we wanted to pause and acknowledge some exciting benefits worth highlighting. These benefits across all industries are giving working parents peace of mind while allowing them to perform at their very best. Here we dive a bit deeper and share why parents find these benefits vital to their success at work:

  • Maven Clinic is a digital clinic that connects women to vetted healthcare practitioners. Their Maven Maternity program is a one-stop-shop that covers everything a busy professional might need when they start a family, including IVF support, partner support, adoption, surrogacy, and pregnancy. Maven’s 15-month maternity program was standout, focusing on the entire maternity, postpartum, and return-to-work experience. Its unrivaled network of over 1,200 highly vetted health providers, including specialists like lactation consultants, career coaches, and sleep coaches, has a practitioner for every user. As one employee on their platform shared:

This is an exceptional benefit! Women’s health is underfunded and undersupported out there in the world and I love that my company is providing me with financial assistance and other resources to achieve my ultimate goal of becoming a mom.

  • Helpr, the brainchild of two friends who met in college, provides high-quality and affordable childcare for those with gaps in coverage, all from the convenience of your phone. Parents can peruse profiles of highly-vetted babysitters and choose from a selection of top-notch providers. And while any parent can access the service with the app, forward-thinking companies nationwide are subsidizing backup care for their employees with kids. According to their website: Helpr empowers hard-working parents to balance their professional growth with raising a healthy family. A mother at a major tech company had this to say about the service which was subsidized by her employer:

It’s been a critical service on a couple of days where my youngest’ preschool was closed. Helpr was invaluable to my sanity, as it allowed me to get to a meeting down in Cupertino with Apple that I absolutely could not reschedule.

  • Best Upon Request or BEST provides on-site concierge services to organizations across the country.  BEST helps employers increase engagement and commitment while easing the stressors of employees’ everyday lives. Teresa Tanner, Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer of Fifth Third Bank tapped BEST to help develop the Maternity Concierge program for her company. She had this to say about its impact:

We launched our Maternity Concierge program to help our female employees during what many see as the most difficult time in their career – the time when they choose to start a family and that transition back to work. The free program provides support for employees from pregnancy through their babies’ first year and includes assistance with everything from finding child care to baby shower planning. We want to increase the number of women we have in our top leadership roles, and this is one way to help. Our initial results are encouraging, showing that women who enrolled in our program were almost 25 percent more likely to remain at the bank six months after returning from maternity leave than women who didn’t use the program.

  • Milk Stork – Historically, when new working mothers were asked to travel for work and wished to continue providing breastmilk to their child, their options were limited and they often sought formula as the only viable choice. Which is why Kate Torgersen created Milk Stork, the breastmilk shipping service for traveling mothers who pump on the go and needed a way to send their breastmilk home to their babies. Within ten days of launching her company, Torgersen got a call from one of the largest pharmaceutical companies that wanted to offer the service to their employees:

I took the call from my minivan in a parking lot, and I said sure, we can launch in 30 days. From there it just took off.  We had five companies on the enterprise side. I hadn’t considered the enterprise route. I thought, so many women are pumping in closets and bathrooms, we already have it hard how could I ever convince a company. It was the working moms who rightfully were asking for it. They went to their employers and said if you want me back in 3 months, and to take this trip; I’m asking you to support me with this service. To the credit of, especially women in HR, they wanted to offer it to their employees. It’s been a sisterhood of these moms and HR professionals advocating for parent-friendly benefits who completely understood the proposition of what we are creating.”

Paid parental leave and progressive family-friendly benefits like those mentioned above are a must to keep employees engaged in the workforce. Though offering these benefits is important, they simply can’t replace the need for supportive and empathetic managers and leaders in the workplace. At the end of the day, these benefits get us a step closer, but there’s so much work left to be done if we aim to dismantle the underlying bias holding working mothers back.

Original article available here:

7 Risks to Avoid In Your Business People Management

Originally published on Huffington Post (by Martin Zwilling) — Even after many years mentoring entrepreneurs and advising businesses, I continue to be surprised by the primary focus on products and processes, and the often incidental attention to hiring and nurturing the right people. Employees are still too often thought of as a commodity, to be acquired “just in time” for the lowest cost, and managed as a disposable asset.

All this despite continuing evidence that the right people make a business succeed, rather than the other way around. Further, according to more recent surveys, businesses that use data and tools in their people management, rather than traditional manual processes, see a 79% higher return than other organizations, suggesting the time is ripe for relying on data and analytics.

With the latest advances in software technology, it’s no longer cost-prohibitive for business entrepreneurs, who can’t yet afford a human resources department, to take advantage of analytics tools. Almost any startup can start with Excel, and move to open-source data analysis tools, including Python or RStudio. Bigger organizations should invest in the new “big data” tools.

For a hands-on guide in developing data-driven people strategies, I found some practical techniques in a new book, “The Data Driven Leader,” by Jenny Dearborn and David Swanson. Based on many years of HR leadership at SAP and elsewhere, these authors start by highlighting the risks of not leveraging data analytics. I have added my own observations to theirs as follows:

  1. People decision making by gut, more than data. Common sense and emotionally driven decisions are sub- optimal in assessing team members. Data, however, removes guesswork, biases, and anecdotal reasoning that can throw decision efforts off course. It’s the same for customers and products, where analytics have long proven their value.
  2. Working on the wrong problem or assumption. Data helps avoid predetermined (and often erroneous) approaches to solving your people problems. Don’t let one incident, observation, rumor, or misunderstanding cause a rush to judgement, or hiring mistake. Make sure subjective feedback is buttressed by objective data before making decisions.
  3. Measuring efficiency rather than effectiveness. Efficiency in the workplace is the time it takes to do something, but it can ignore work quality and customer impact. Employees are often ineffective because they don’t care about their work or because they don’t possess the skills to contribute. Use data analysis and metrics to measure for results.
  4. Subjectively measuring employee engagement. Manually assessing engagement clearly isn’t working. According to Gallup’s most recent global engagement survey, only 13 percent of workers are now fully engaged in their job, which is hugely expensive in productivity. With data and analytics, you can gauge employee engagement accurately.
  5. Underestimating absenteeism and accident costs. Many businesses still ignore the magnitude of the problem of employee absenteeism and accidents. They look only at historical data, and lump it all under “the cost of doing business.” The best leaders use data and analytics to identify key offenders to continually reduce these problems.
  6. Failure to factor in new employee ‘time-to-performance’. According to data from recent statistics, it typically takes eight months for a newly hired employee to reach full productivity, and that doesn’t include hiring. Through analytics on current employees, you will be able to predict re-training requirements and minimize employee turnover.
  7. Waiting to hire until the business is in crisis mode. It’s easy for entrepreneurs to fall into the trap of focusing only on what’s urgent and leaving aside what seems merely important. The solution is to plan ahead by using data analysis tools with predictive indicators. Trying to hurry the hiring process is a key reason for bad hires in business.

Most companies I know will claim to be busy collecting and analyzing data, but very few actually use it to drive people management. Integrating the analytics of people management with business results is key to driving a winning strategy and long-term sustainability in today’s competitive and rapidly changing environment. These should not be seen as two separate efforts.

I often have to remind entrepreneurs that good products are built with the best technology, but good businesses are built with the best people. Great business leaders have figured out how to apply the right attention, time, and tools to both. Where are you along this spectrum?

Original article available here:

Half a million empty tech jobs…and growing

Originally published in Palo Alto Weekly (by Jenny Dearborn) — The great economic news: employment rates are at an all-time high. The terrific news for Americans seeking a career in tech: Our country has nearly 9 million available jobs in STEM with some 70 percent in computers and IT. The downside: more than a half-million of those computing jobs are currently unfilled, and projected to grow at twice the rate of all other U.S. jobs. What’s worse, only 49,300 computer science graduates joined the American workforce last year. Closer to home, California is expected to see a shortage of an estimated 2.5 million skilled workers by 2025. Forward-thinking tech companies in Silicon Valley are playing close attention to these ever-widening gaps and seeking solutions now to answer this burning question: Where is this talent going to come from?

Here’s where computer talent won’tbe coming from:

  • The American K-12 school system. U.S. schools are not even remotely keeping pace in filling the need for tech workers. Only 40 percent of American schools teach computer programming or coding, even though computing jobs are the No. 1 source of new wages in the U.S. Here in Silicon Valley, the situation is also dismal — less than 2 percent of California high school students take computer science courses. Coding should be taught like typing used to be.
  • Other countries’ tech workers. Importing talent is getting harder to do. The mounting restrictions on immigration and H-1B visas mean companies are losing access to workers from other countries, adding to the urgency with which tech companies must explore and embrace sustainable alternatives.
  • U.S. colleges and universities. Having more than doubled in average real cost in the past 30 years, a four-year degree has become a growing financial burden for many individuals and families. Student loan debt now totals more than $1.5 trillion. Our home state is also woefully behind, ranking 38 out of 50 in the rate of bachelor’s degrees earned in computer science. Of the 10 states with the most Latino students, California ranks last for the rate of Latinos awarded engineering and computer science degrees — compounding the struggles to increase diversity that tech companies already have. Less than half of Americans say a college degree is needed to be successful in the workforce (42 percent, down from 55 percent in 2009), yet Americans with college degrees are three times more likely to be employed than U.S. high school graduates.

What is the solution?

Our situation is urgent, but if we work together to develop local, diverse talent we will be able to onboard and train a workforce with grit and the skills to shape the future of work. Innovators in Silicon Valley can look to the past for an answer to their future: apprenticeships. Since the earliest times, skills have been transferred to the next generation via some form of on-the-job training. Today, robust apprenticeship programs are available to incoming workers eager to master well-paying skills, including for computer jobs.

Many tech leaders agree it is more than time to disrupt our traditional hiring models and talent pipeline and follow suit. The tech sector is well-suited to middle-skills jobs, which require more training and/or education than high school but less than a college degree. In fact, experts now agree that “degree inflation” has become a problem: companies often require a degree for jobs that can be performed without one. This practice widens skills gaps and increases costs, and can leave employers overpaying for people whose talents are underutilized.

Through technology apprenticeships, Silicon Valley can prepare workers for hard-to-fill roles and individuals can gain stable, meaningful careers without a college degree. Tech apprenticeships, now gaining steam and importance, are earn-while-you-learn programs that provide on-the-job training and mentoring from an employer and role-related classroom instruction from a community college, technical college, or computer “boot camp.” Because they can be customized to a company’s needs, businesses can quickly adapt to technology changes. All apprentices must meet standards for completion, typically hours of both employer-provided and classroom training, as well as demonstration of skills gained. Apprentices are paid throughout, with wages that increase as skills are mastered, providing an economically viable career path to stable, high-demand occupations — up to a $250,000 increase in lifetime earnings.

I urge my colleagues at forward-looking tech companies to join us in examining apprenticeships as a key strategy. SAP proudly co-sponsored the first Silicon Valley Apprenticeship Summit on Aug. 28 on our campus in Palo Alto. The event brought together thought leaders, including academics, educators and tech executives — both from HR and talent development and from the business — representing major Silicon Valley companies, to address the workforce gap and offer models of apprenticeship and collaborations with private and public institutions. Event co-sponsors were three such partners, which provide tech training and help match employers and apprenticeship candidates: TechSF (California Office of Economic and Workforce Development), Apprenti (a nonprofit based in Washington and active nationally) and Techtonica (a local nonprofit that helps Bay Area women and non-binary adults with low incomes).

Many hurdles must be overcome before our country prepares our citizens, adequately and equally, for computer jobs, and tech companies must participate in addressing those long-term hurdles. But right now, we can reach people before they become employees, to open the top of the funnel and provide the greatest opportunity to the broadest group of diverse talent. It’s not just about our responsibility as corporate citizens. We need more talent than our current talent strategies can target. We have to change if we are to survive.

The time is now for our industry to seriously consider launching apprenticeship programs — with Silicon Valley taking the lead.

L&D: A Safe Place for Women

Originally published in Chief Learning Officer (by Ave Rio) — Many industries are notoriously bad for women; notably, tech. But the learning and development industry doesn’t seem to fall into the same category.

Kathy Gallo, SVP and CLO at Northwell Health, said she didn’t face any obvious challenges in her career because of her gender. “Was there something going on that I wasn’t aware of? I don’t know, but I never felt that because of being a woman, I was not getting either the appropriate roles, compensation or voice in the organization,” she said. “I sat around the table at the C-suite.”

Gallo, a baby boomer, said the workplace is totally different for Gen X women and millennial women starting their careers than when she started hers. “There was never the attention and focus there is today around diversity, glass ceilings and the knowledge that the more diverse the team is, the better the decisions are for the company,” she said. “Organizations are going to have to create cultures and environments where women can move through a pathway. Women on the boards and women in senior executive roles can help create the environment and the culture necessary for an equitable workplace.”

Jenny Dearborn, CLO at SAP and a Gen Xer, agreed that her gender didn’t help or hurt her through her career. “I have always found doors open and people eager to coach, mentor, support and promote me,” she said. “If I worked for a company with horrible gender metrics, they knew it, and they were actively trying to do something about it.”

Niki Lustig, director of learning and development at GitHub and a millennial, said she doesn’t think her gender has played a role in her development, especially because she has mostly worked with women. “The first three L&D teams that I was part of and helped build out we’re all started by women,” she said.

Lustig said she felt like she most stood out as a woman when she started her career at IBM in learning technology. “I was often one of the only women and usually one of the youngest by about 30 years,” she said. “There were instances when I would go to client’s sites that we’re a little less traditional … like a manufacturing supply system. Being a young woman in a warehouse, probably didn’t help me and often could make [me] uncomfortable.”

Throughout her career, Lustig said she has experienced microaggressions, such as being interrupted, asked to order food, asked to serve on “special task forces” without credit and evaluated on her current skills rather than potential (as men often are). But Lustig attributes these to being a woman, not toward any particular industry.

Original article available here:

Female Disruptors: Jenny Dearborn is changing the future of work through HR

Originally published on Medium (by Erika Ashley) — I had the pleasure of interviewing Jenny Dearborn. Jenny is an HR professional and co-author of “The Data Driven Leader.”

What is your “backstory”?

Looking back at my career path, I feel very lucky. Until I was 18, I had undiagnosed severe dyslexia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). When I was a kid, these disorders weren’t as commonly diagnosed as they are now, and teachers didn’t know how to see my potential.

I was put in special education classes and barely graduated from high school. Yet, I believed in myself and gave community college a try. Thanks to one very observant staff person there, I was finally diagnosed and started turning things around. I was 20 when I finally learned to really read fluently, using books on tape.

I eventually earned an AA, BA, MA in Education and later an MBA. I’m also able to recognize that my disorders can be a strength. It takes me longer to read emails, but my ADHD also allows me to turbo-multitask and my brain wiring overall helps me to see big picture strategic complexity more easily.

Because of my personal experience, I’ve always sought out opportunities to help people identify their true gifts and fulfill their potential. I was a high school teacher at first, but wanted a faster paced environment so took my teaching skills to the corporate world.

Since then I’ve spent my career at global technology companies, first in corporate learning and development and now in human resources. It’s still all about empowering people and it’s great to see that more companies today pursuing the benefits of all kinds of diversity. I am passionately committed to generating equality through economic opportunity, not just as a moral obligation but also as a means for companies to excel in the marketplace by bringing in the best talent for every role.

Why did you join your company?

Working in tech gives me the opportunity to be a part of changing the world for the better. That’s especially true at SAP. Our purpose is to help the world run better and improve people’s lives.

That may sound lofty but as the market leader in enterprise technology, SAP touches 77 percent of the world’s transaction revenue, we serve more than 400,000 businesses and organizations worldwide and impact the lives of billions of people daily. Our promise is to innovate to help our customers run at their best, and for my teams in HR we deliver on that promise by helping SAP become the #1 talent magnet and an employer of choice. That’s very powerful to be a part of.

Photo: Drew Altizer

What is it about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

Another reason I feel lucky about my career is that I get to work with so many SAP customers, and that gives me both a window into the key talent concerns of leading companies around the globe and opportunities to share what I feel passionately are concerns we should all have about the future of work. Our education system urgently needs an overhaul.

A strong 21st century economy requires a 21st century technology science curriculum. For example, there’s a very big gap between the number of jobs that require Computer Science skills and the number of people with those skills, in the US and around the world, with IT occupations are growing at a faster pace in the US than all other job categories. Coding should be taught like typing used to be.

More tech companies need to invest even more in computer education efforts and non-profits if they want to fill jobs. Individuals can get involved, too, to lobby their government and local schools to drive curriculum changes and to volunteer their CS skills teaching kids and/or empowering educators. is a great organization working to advance these goals through initiatives, information, advocacy and volunteering ideas. Changing this could transform our society by strengthening our economic future for everyone and broadening the opportunities available to historically underrepresented groups, who are currently less likely to study computer science and earn CS or STEM degrees.

I’m proud that SAP contributes significantly in cash and in-kind services to U.S. schools, universities, and training programs for STEM education and training. Among our many initiatives, we maintain an industry-leading University Alliance Program with over 500 U.S. institutions, focus attention on disadvantaged populations through our Project Propel and six-year tech high school initiatives, and sponsor hackathons and coding events that stimulate young students to pursue STEM education and training. SAP also provides $2.5 million in grants to NGOs to promote STEM, Entrepreneurship, Design and Computer Science education and programming for over 140,000 students annually.

We all need a little help along the journey — who have been some of your mentors?

Karie Willyerd was my manager at Sun Microsystems (2006–2009) where she was Chief Learning Officer (she’s now CLO at Visa), and she has continued to mentor and influence me since then. Karie is incredibly goal-oriented, focused and brilliant and taught me so much about how to motivate people to do great work.

How are you going to shake things up next?

I want to change the conversation around what it means to develop people. To me, I see a manager’s responsibility as preparing team members to leave them. Great managers groom their employees for bigger and better roles, whether that’s within or even outside their company. It’s tough and it takes discipline to encourage a terrific performer to try something else, but it’s what we all want our managers to do for us. Stretch assignments are gifts we give team members once, but they keep receiving that gift for the rest of their careers. That’s a great way to make work meaningful.

Photo: Drew Altizer

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey?

  1. Give people purpose. We spend more waking hours of our lives contributing to our company or organization than doing anything else. When we can see and feel that these efforts are worthwhile and can tie what we do to the value our employer is trying to bring to the world, we’re motivated to innovate, to collaborate effectively, to make a difference and work toward meaningful goals.
  2. Learn all the time. My mentors have all been voracious readers who are endlessly curious about the world. Today especially, it’s critical to know your industry, what matters to your executives and most importantly how changes to the world around us will impact our career trajectories. And being inundated with information all the time isn’t the same as being intentional about staying informed: develop discipline and commit to yourself.
  3. Fight for yourself. At the end of the day, no one will push you the way you need to push yourself. You are responsible for your career and your success, and when people in positions of influence see you taking that seriously, they are much more inclined to take your future seriously.

What’s a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking?

A highlight of my week is the four hours I spend with The Economist every Sunday afternoon. It is a brilliant publication. I get the magazine in hard copy and also listen to audio versions of articles via the app on my phone.

Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?

I so admire and respect Madeline Albright. I’ve read all her books and follow her perspectives closely. It would be a dream come true to share a cup of tea and chat with her about geopolitical events.

Original article available here:

How Silicon Valley tech companies can win the war for talent and diversity

Originally published in the Silicon Valley Business Journal (by Jenny Dearborn) — Facing a critical shortage of tech workers, Silicon Valley leaders are assembling to avert a future crisis in labor.

As computing jobs grow at a rate that far outpaces the nation’s capacity to fill them with IT workers, tech companies are realizing that the industry’s strategy for managing key talent requires new thinking. In California, the situation is especially dire: Tech jobs are growing at four times the state’s average rate for other jobs.

In 2017, there were over 546,000 open computing positions while less than 50,000 computer science graduates joined the U.S. workforce. The growing IT skills gap in Silicon Valley is further magnified by California’s lack of K-12 computer science education and the tech sector’s difficult-to-predict future skills.

As truly innovative companies, we need to reimagine our approach to recruiting and training workers. Here are two contributing factors to the problem and one common-sense approach to help find a solution:

Problem: Degree inflation

Many roles in the tech sector require more training or education than high school but less than college, yet companies often require a degree — often with little gain. This counter-productivity affects the tech sector through hidden costs such as extended time-to-fill, fewer applicants, higher salary expectations, less diversity, and the higher likelihood of employees leaving for a competitor.

Problem: Labor underutilization

Only 42 percent of Americans say that a college degree is necessary for success, yet U.S. high school graduates are nearly three times more likely to be unemployed than those with four-year degrees.

This contributes to labor underutilization, which reflects both official unemployment, measured as the part of the workforce that has looked for work in the past four weeks (U-3), and those who have given up looking or work part-time because they can’t find full-time work (U-6). California has higher levels of both U-3 and U-6 unemployment than the United States as a whole.

At the same time, college education has never been more expensive, and student loan debt now totals more than $1.5 trillion. More than half of college graduates in California are in debt with an average burden of $22,744.

Solution: Apprenticeships

Apprenticeship is a proven strategy for growing an employer’s talent attraction and development pipeline.

By investing in workers with a high school diploma and the drive to acquire computing skills, tech enterprises can equip workers for these hard-to-fill roles through an employer-driven strategy combining on-the-job learning with targeted education. These workers gain valuable computing skills and stable, meaningful careers without a college degree.

Apprenticeships also enhance employee retention, with more than 90 percent of workers staying with their sponsoring company, and increase workforce diversity — a particular challenge in the tech sector.

Here, Silicon Valley is uniquely positioned to drive real change: San Jose and the greater San Francisco area are the two most ethnically diverse metropolitan areas in the country, and 63.8 percent of California’s state apprenticeship participants currently come from minority communities.

I urge my colleagues at forward-looking tech companies to join us in examining apprenticeships as a key strategy. Last month, SAP co-sponsored the first Silicon Valley Apprenticeship Summit on its campus in Palo Alto, bringing together academics and thought leaders representing major Silicon Valley companies to address the workforce gap and offer models of apprenticeship with private and public institutions. Event co-sponsors were three such partners: TechSF (California Office of Economic and Workforce Development), Techtonica (a local nonprofit providing tech training to women and non-binary adults with low incomes), and Apprenti.

A strong network of tech-focused apprenticeships in Silicon Valley can begin to help us address our key challenges and mitigate the contributing factors. The time is now to lead our industry in adopting apprenticeship programs.

The future of work in digital world

Originally published on Business Report (by Cathy Smith) — The digital age and the new technologies it’s brought with it – blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, augmented reality and virtual reality – are seen by many as a threat to our way of life as we know it. What if my job gets automated? How will I stay relevant? How do we adapt to the need for new skills to manage customer expectations and the flood of data that’s washing over us?

The bad news is that the nature of work has already changed irrevocably. Everything that can be automated will be. We already live in an age of “robot restaurants”, where you order on a touch screen, and machines cook and serve your food.

Did you notice the difference? AmazonGo is providing shopping without checkout lines. In the US alone, there are an estimated 3.4 million drivers who could be replaced by self-driving vehicles in 10 years, including truck drivers, taxi drivers and bus drivers.

We’re not immune from this phenomenon in Africa. In fact, the World Economic Forum (WEF) predicts that 41 percent of all work activities in South Africa are susceptible to automation, compared to 44 percent in Ethiopia, 46 percent in Nigeria and 52 percent in Kenya.

This doesn’t mean millions of jobs on the continent will be automated overnight, but it’s a clear indicator of the future direction we’re taking.

The good news is that we don’t need to panic. What’s important for us in South Africa, and the continent, is to realise that there is plenty of work that only humans can do.

This is particularly relevant to the African context, as the working-age population rises to 600 million in 2030 from 370 million in 2010. We have a groundswell of young people who need jobs – and the digital age has the ability to provide them, if we start working now.

Make no mistake, there’s no doubt that this so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution is going to disrupt many occupations. This is perfectly natural: every industrial revolution has made some jobs redundant. At the same time, these revolutions have created vast new opportunities that have taken us forward exponentially.

Between 2012 and 2017, for example, it’s estimated that the demand for data analysts globally grew by 372 percent, and the demand for data visualisation skills by more than 2000 percent. As businesses, this means we have to not only create new jobs in areas like data science and analytics but re-skill our existing workforces to deal with the digital revolution and its new demands.

So, while bus drivers and data clerks are looking over their shoulders nervously right now, we’re seeing a vast range of new jobs being created in fields such as STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), data analysis, computer science and engineering.

This is a challenge for sub-Saharan Africa, where our levels of STEM education are still not where they should be. That doesn’t mean there are no opportunities to be had. In the region, for example, we have a real opportunity to create a new generation of home-grown African digital creators, designers and makers, not just “digital deliverers” -people who understand African nuances and stories, and who not only speak local languages but are fluent in digital.

This ability to bridge the digital and physical worlds, as it were, will be the new gold for Africa. We need more business operations data analysts, who combine deep knowledge of their industry with the latest analytical tools to adapt business strategies. There will also be more demand for user interface experts, who can facilitate seamless human-machine interaction.

Of course, in the longer term, we in Africa are going to have to make some fundamental decisions about how we educate people if we’re going to be a part of this brave new world.

Governments, big business and civil society will all have roles to play in creating more future-ready education systems, including expanded access to early-childhood education, more skilled teachers, investments in digital fluency and ICT literacy skills, and providing robust technical and vocational education and training (TVET). This will take significant intent not only from a policy point of view but also the financial means to fund this.

None of this will happen overnight. So what can we, as individuals and businesspeople, do in the meantime?

A good start would be to realise that the old models of learning and work are broken. Jenny Dearborn, SAP’s Global Head of Learning, talks about how the old approach to learning and work was generally a three-stage life that consisted largely of learn-work-retire.

Today, we live in what Ms Dearborn calls the multi-stage life, which includes numerous phases of learn-work-change-learn-work. And where before, the learning was often by rote, because information was finite, learning now is all about critical thinking, complex problem-solving, creativity and innovation and even the ability to unlearn what you have learnt before.

Helping instil this culture of lifelong learning, including the provision of adult training and upskilling infrastructure, is something that all companies can do, starting now. The research is clear: even if jobs are stable or growing, they are going through major changes to their skills profile. WEF’s Future of Jobs analysis found that, in South Africa alone, 39 percent of core skills required across all occupations will be different by 2020 compared to what was needed to perform those roles in 2015.

This is a huge wake-up call to companies to invest meaningfully in on-the-job training to keep their people – and themselves – relevant in this new digital age. There’s no doubt that more learning will need to take place in the workplace, and greater private sector involvement is needed.

As employers, we have to start working closely with schools, universities and even non-formal education to provide learning opportunities to our workers.

We can also drive a far stronger focus on the so-called soft skills, which is often used as a slightly dismissive term in the workplace. The core skills needed in today’s workplace are active listening, speaking and critical thinking. A quick look at the WEF’s “21st Century Skills Required For The Future Of Work” chart bears this out: as much as we need literacy, numeracy and IT skills to make sense of the modern world of work, we also need innately human skills like communication and collaboration. The good news is that not only can these be taught – but they can be taught within the work environment.

It sounds almost counter-intuitive, but to be successful in the digital age, businesses will have to go back to what has always made them strong: their people. Everyone can buy AI, build data warehouses, and automate every process in sight.

The companies that will stand out will be those that that focus on the things that can’t be duplicated by AI or machine learning – uniquely human skills.

I have no doubt that the future will not be humans or robots: it will be humans and robots, working side by side. For us, as businesspeople and children of the African continent, we’re on the brink of a major opportunity. We just have to grasp it.

Original article available here: