Merck's CLO: Creating a Skills Inventory

The Talent & Learning Next Practices Monthly series provides a forum for the Talent and L&D leadership community to come together to discover and advance next practices. Each month, you’ll hear from executives in Talent and/or Learning from some of the largest and most respected organizations in the world, learn about the latest i4cp research, and share and receive ideas from your peers.

For this month's conversation, i4cp CEO and Co-Founder first led an open discussion on the latest involved in the return to the office, vaccination policies, hybrid work, and more.

  • Michael Killingsworth (Head, Learning and Development at Cross River) noted that at his organization, after an attempted significant return to the office, they listened to employees and quickly pivoted to a more flex-work approach. He leveraged both i4cp data and Oakes' book Culture Renovation as input for his CEO to guide their decision making about ongoing issues related to the pandemic.
  • Tina Martinez, Learning and Development Manager at Westerra Credit Union, noted they also are focused on listening to their employees regarding return to office and hybrid work policies. Like many organizations, their focus is to be agile and recognize that decisions they make now might change as conditions and needs change. For now at least, they are seeing hybrid as a productive mode, and are not seeing a disconnect between key stakeholders, partners, or teams. They are focusing on building up their digital acumen further, to be digital first but not digital only. They have also leveraged the many i4cp meetings and content from the past two years to help guide their decisions.
  • Rob Lauber, former CLO at McDonald's, noted the importance of trust between executives and the workforce (e.g., the past emphasis on the idea that if I can't see you, how do I know you are working?). Oakes noted the recent news in the WSJ that some people are holding two full-time jobs, which will only lead to more executives wondering about their remote employees. But if you have a performance management philosophy that is outcomes and results focused, then that will sort itself out, as lots of people hold additional jobs / gig jobs / etc. that add up to significantly more than one full-time job.

Then the group was joined by Johan Laville, Chief Learning Officer at Merck, for a discussion of the challenge of creating a skills inventory, which is often put on HR's shoulders in large organizations. 

  • It is challenging to build profiles of employees' skills, even if the organization leverages the latest technologies to scrape information from LinkedIn and other sources.
  • The problem for over a decade has been asking employees to fill out profiles of skills and other information, without connecting it to any benefits for them.
  • At Merck they are focused on providing incentives for employees to lead on this, starting with a focus on an internal opportunity marketplace. This makes clear the connection between accurate skills profiles and both gig opportunities in the organization and career pathways. 
  • Recommended learning is also provided to close the gaps each employee has for the various opportunities.
  • Another issue is how to handle employees exaggerating (or under-selling) their expertise. Laville noted that platforms exist today that provide various means of skill validation (manager review, certification links, etc.)
  • What are some other areas of L&D and Talent focus at Merck going forward? One is improving the user experience with their various HR platforms, e.g., personalized experience and recommendations of learning opportunities, communities, and experts that you might want to connect with.
  • Merck has also been very focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion, and making sure these elements are included as they hire employees for cultural fit for the organization.