At Chevron, Stacy Eng and her team look beyond the surface for the bigger purpose and needs for training solutions to meet business goals.
Talent development doesn't exist simply to deliver training programs. The ultimate goal is to help workers gain the skills and knowledge they need to perform at the highest levels.
"We can't start out thinking training is the solution. It's only a means to an end," says Stacy Eng, chief learning and talent officer at Chevron. "The big question is: What end are we trying to achieve?"
She continues, "We're not just designing programs and experiences; we're designing a strategy. What's the learning and talent strategy that will help our workforce upskill and reskill? How does that help the organization meet business goals?"
To create a talent strategy, Eng says TD executives need to know how their company works as a business. That's no easy task in an organization as large and complex as Chevron. The 140-year-old multinational energy corporation, based out of San Ramon, California, employs about 40,000 professionals around the world, and its workforce comprises a diverse set of roles across three business segments.
First is the upstream segment that focuses on the company's oil and gas exploration and production operations. Employees include geologists, environmental scientists, petroleum engineers, and facility engineers. Upstream's workforce is also charged with tasks such as building Chevron's offshore platforms as well as completing work related to land buying and leasing.
Distribution is the core responsibility of Chevron's midstream operations. Transporting and trading products requires a wide range of roles, including mariners and shipping-related positions and commodities traders.
Chevron's downstream operations include the business's refineries and manufacturing arm and how it sells products such as fuels, lubricants, additives, and petrochemicals. At one end of the spectrum are refining and manufacturing facilities where workers include chemical engineers, operations and maintenance, and facilities engineers. On the other end is the retail function, where customer service is in the spotlight.
Enabling all three streams is Chevron's corporate functions—finance, technical center, IT, HR, and Eng's team, the Learning and Talent Center of Expertise (COE).
"My team and I not only build experiences that develop core skills like leadership development, but we also have an array of technical positions that we need to bring in new capabilities or continuously develop," Eng explains. "Because our business is so widely diverse, we really have to tailor our talent solutions."
Digging into talent needs
Each stream has its own business priorities and talent demands, Eng says. Her team—which is organized around three main functions: the talent acquisition group, the talent strategy and programs group, and the L&D group—oversees employees' entire talent management and development life cycles.
To uncover talent needs, each group within the Learning and Talent COE has internal consultants. For instance, the L&D group has learning performance consultants who may be aligned with the various business segments or by region.
"You have to take into consideration that every function, every region, and every market is different, so the learning needs will also be different," Eng notes.
Learning performance consultants supporting the upstream business unit, for example, may ask questions to explore the competencies and skills needed for petroleum engineers. Meanwhile, consultants working with downstream leaders may examine certification training needed for operators in the manufacturing facilities. Which certifications are changing or need to be updated? What digital tools are planned for the coming year? Are industry competitors using new tools?
"The consultants meet with managers to discuss their specific competency and skill requirements," Eng explains. "They listen to the business leaders talk about what challenges they're facing. Listening is a critical skill for my team."
Once the Learning and Talent COE is armed with information, it is positioned to build effective learning experiences for each identified need and the individual populations throughout the workforce.
Similarly, the talent strategy and programs group has organization development consultants to surface needs related to team effectiveness, leader or team coaching, performance management, and career development. The group manages Chevron's critical talent pool and delivers differentiated leadership development programs to shepherd the company's talent pipeline from early career to midcareer to senior executives.
The talent acquisition group has recruiting advisors who ask questions such as: What capabilities does our business need to augment our existing workforce? Is this a skill set that we need to buy, borrow, or build? How can we attract people with the skills we need? How are we competing for talent both within the energy sector and in the broader talent marketplace?
"Given the technical nature of our business, we typically look for people in STEM degrees with engineering background. In recent years, we have also expanded our recruiting strategies to look beyond degrees and conventional talent sources to cast a wider net and diversify the candidate pool for both university and experienced hiring," Eng says.
More importantly, though, she notes that the talent acquisition group is always on the hunt for "people who are problem solvers and creative innovators, because our people need to be able to come up with new solutions and build innovative products."
Thinking like a futurist
Because the marketplace is continuously changing, knowing how the industry is evolving and what market trends look like is essential, Eng explains. "How do we ensure we have the right data? How do we tailor our talent management strategy to fit the market?"
Enter the future of work strategies group, which is a newly formed team. This small unit, Eng says, works like a research and development arm, to keep a pulse on external market trends and bring in the analytical insights to help continue to evolve and shape Chevron's talent practices.
"We need to continue to change the game in talent management. We need to gather and explore insights from external trends. We need to ask: What are other companies doing? How is the labor market changing? We also need to examine our internal data and insights like employee voice from our employee survey and drivers of employee engagement."
Eng adds, "The future of work strategies group marries internal and external data analytics to uncover key insights on critical areas we should be focusing on."
Case in point: the acceleration of digital transformation. "Digital impacts all parts of our business, not just IT. Because of changes in automation and increasing use of artificial intelligence and data analytics, we're finding that we need more people with digital and data science skills," she states.
Her team's analysis of how the digital transformation is affecting Chevron confirmed that "we have to be faster at getting our workforce more knowledgeable and fluent on digital and data."
To address that need, the company launched the Digital Academy. For starters, Digital 101 modules boost employees' basic awareness and knowledge on digital. The goal, Eng explains, is to help people understand what AI and cloud computing are and how automation is affecting the different parts of the business.
Similarly, Chevron is exploring different learning modules that employees can take to build acumen around the energy system, carbon capture and storage technologies, and energy transition.
"We're learning about key issues and trends impacting our industry, and there are emerging skills that our workforce needs to succeed at developing new solutions in the energy sector. So, we're looking to build our people's acumen on these energy topics," says Eng.
The learning experiences for those offerings will range from self-directed microlearning that introduces key tools and topics to weeklong and monthlong certifications that build deeper knowledge and business applications.
Investing in the profession
Like every other business, the Learning and Talent COE had to shift many of its in-person learning programs to virtual delivery as a response to the pandemic.
Initially, Eng's team modularized content into smaller chunks that individuals could access online at the time of need and converted classroom-based programs into hour-long or 90-minute virtual webinar sessions.
"After a year, with no relief in sight, we started to invest in new technologies and tools to help us create a more conducive virtual learning experience," she says. "We also invested in our own L&D professionals' capability. It's a very different way of delivering learning, and we went through our own learning curve."
To continue long term, Eng knew the Learning and Talent COE had to invest in its designers' and facilitators' capabilities. For example, instructional designers had to learn to become learning experience designers and content curators.
Currently, her team is starting to focus on hybrid learning. Team members have gained valuable experiences during the past two years, and now they need to use what they've learned about asynchronous learning, virtual experiences, and conferencing and collaboration technologies "to create inclusive, robust, and engaging hybrid learning," Eng says.
She plans on continuing to invest in her team's skills and capabilities so the group can be successful in this next phase of talent development.
"I am fascinated by how we're going to be designing differently, how this is pushing us to think of ways we can change the learning game," she states. "We can't just think about designing for what we currently have. We have to continue to grow our own skill sets as we grow others' skill sets."
Identifying the why
For the TD function to get buy-in from senior leaders, it needs to align business needs to the learning and performance solutions it creates.
"I call this ‘telling the Learning and Talent story,'" says Eng. "What is the company's talent story? For example, why do we need to attract and recruit certain types of roles and capabilities? Why do we need to develop leaders differently?"
She continues, "There's always a why. We're not just delivering a program for the sake of delivering it but for a bigger purpose—to meet a specific business challenge."
To illustrate what she means, Eng shares that Chevron's leadership development has shifted in recent years to focus more on soft skills such as psychological safety, building trust, empathy, resilience, and wellness.
"Why are we now concentrating on empathy, on authenticity, on being vulnerable? Because our employees are feeling stressed, isolated, and burned out as a result of tremendous challenges brought on by the pandemic, remote work, and new ways of working in a hybrid environment. Because our leaders need to be able to support and care for their teams," she says.
As a senior leader in talent development, Eng asserts that she "needs to be able to articulate why this focus is a priority. Why does the company need to think about the well-being of our workforce? Because we need a healthy workforce that can continue to perform at a high level to deliver on the energy needed for modern life."
She adds that by telling the whole story, her team can better position the TD programs. And whether it's leadership development, emerging skills, or evolving priorities for the industry, Eng points out that the bottom line is the same:
"You always have to explain why and be able to tell your story to the C-suite. You have to tell your CEOs and executive vice presidents how the company's talent compares to peers in the industry and how your talent initiatives will help them achieve their business goals."
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