How to Grow Talent and Stay Competitive: Fortive Insights on the Future of Work

As the main competitive advantage of any business is its people, investment in their ongoing learning and development seems to be the best solution for those who want to succeed. At Fortive, Kaizen, the process of continuous improvement, lies at the heart of everything its employees dofrom the factory floor to the boardroom. We spoke with Mark Protus, Director of Learning Experience at Fortive, who shared with us his vision on how companies can enjoy outstanding employee performance; grow talent from the inside, ensuring that their people apply new learning daily in their core jobs; and, therefore, thrive.  

How technologies are disrupting talent development and the employee experience

According to Mark, determining core competencies that transcend all roles in a company (compliance, safety, culture, etc.) along with the key skills required for particular roles, positions, and career paths will need to be prescriptively laid out and measured for individuals, teams, and companies. This should be done in order to ensure that people are playing to their strengths, adopting critical tools, skills, and practices to contribute towards making their company more competitive and improving customer satisfaction.

Moreover, in Mark’s opinion, clear, transparent paths with career opportunities and progress indicators that update as industries and jobs change will be the norm. Employees will be able to seamlessly plot and track their experiences and evolution (along with their manager), get recognition for competencies, and plan their career growth. Such prescriptive roadmaps will help people to understand where they are at (at a given point in time in their career or skill set) and get them to where they want and need to be.

Three smart learning tools that change the way employees learn and grow

  1. Short-form just-in-time learning that will be automatically available on the platform people use (with a smart search option that will allow learners to find relevant training content in just seconds), right when they need it via any device.
  2. Short-form learning experiences (including live, on demand, and virtual) that will be available, easy-to-consume, and track learning playlists. This will provide direction, guidance, and timelines for different learning experiences and accomplishments.
  3. Integrated communities that will allow people in the same company or within similar disciplines to reach out to one another, regardless of physical boundaries and time zones, for help, support, discussion of best practices, engagement, and growth strategies.

Personalized learning based on a just-in-time principle, transparent borderless conversations across teams and departments, and trackable learning experiences with ongoing feedback will be critical. Companies that will take advantage of the technologies and equip their employees with the above-mentioned tools will succeed.

In-house talent development starts with smart recruiting

Mark believes that companies can only be as good as their teams allow them to be, which is why hiring the best candidates is a high priority. Protus shares his own experience and gives suggestions on what to focus on while sifting through candidates.

Take the time to articulate the job position for which you’re looking to hire and understand how it fits into the overall roles and current strengths/gaps of the team. Beyond experience and skill set, look for passion, drive, curiosity, and questions a candidate asks in interviews. Look for team fit to balance needs and strengths so the team is greater than the sum of its parts.

Though people analytics and data-driven recruitment can facilitate the process of finding the right fit for your company, Mark also emphasizes the importance of intuition and shares a personal story where data played a less important role.

This is when I was managing the team in Microsoft Office. We had an opening for a content developer role. We usually looked for seasoned instructional designers or technical writers. In this case, I ended up hiring someone who had been working at the Microsoft retail store doing direct customer contact, sales, training, and problem resolution. While this person had little experience actually designing content, they had five years of retail experience with customers and an MFA in screenwriting. I believed we could teach him what he needed to do to be successful in the day-to-day job. In the end, the team would go to him to vet customer problem scenarios and reasonable resolutions for training–as he had “seen it all.” So, it turned out to be an awesome hire.

This example perfectly illustrates one aspect of recruiting: a resume doesn’t show you the full picture. Sometimes it’s worth relying on your intuition if you want to work with really passionate and engaged professionals. In fact, intuition can help you out not only in recruiting, but also can be a good companion throughout your career. When we asked Mark about what business advice he would give to less experienced L&D professionals who were only starting their careers and wanted to make a difference, he replied, “Be authentic. Don’t be afraid to challenge ideas, existing plans or systems. Don’t worry about what you assume others may think of your wacky ideasshare them. Stay focused and passionate. Trust yourself.”

However, even though intuition can help in some cases, using automation, AI and data-driven approaches will help recruiters, managers, and L&D professionals build a strong culture of trust and collaboration and minimize the side effects of the “human factor”.

After making a great hire, it’s important to identify the “right place” for your new employee, understand how they can contribute to your company, and provide them with ongoing support.   Clearly state goals and roles, giving people the autonomy and opportunities to meet and exceed expectations in their own way, and provide honest and iterative feedback on priorities and performance.

Boost talent across the globe

Several years ago, Mark had the opportunity to lead the Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA) and provide free technical training and career paths for anyone to learn and adopt new tools, technologies, and processes. He was the proponent of the idea to develop talent not only in countries with good economic situations but beyond. Why? Because in the age of globalization, the perfect match for your company could live thousands of miles away.

It was a wonderful opportunity to help everyone who wanted to learn, regardless of their current economic situation. People could improve their education and gain needed industry skills and strategies free of charge. Our small, dedicated MVA team loved to hear individual user success stories. People acquired new skills, new jobs, and promotions that supported them and their families in ways they previously thought impossible. This took an individual’s personal drive, follow-through, and commitment.

Investment (not only financial) in the continuous learning and development of people who can greatly contribute to your company’s success can’t be a bad decision. Listen to your employees and provide them with ongoing opportunities for professional growth. This hard work will pay off.

Mark Protus’s top three predictions for the future of work in 2028

  1. Employees will enjoy immersive training experiences powered by VR and AR.
  2. Employees will get more freedom in terms of personal goal setting and the tracking of their performance via automatic validation systems that will help to design personalized learning paths and growth experiences.
  3. We will see the proliferation of voice-based interfaces and AI agents in the workplace.

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