The FQ @CES 2022: Upskilling -- Top Leaders Share New Tips and Tools

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Attracting, developing and retaining talent are some of the biggest challenges facing the media and marketing industries. This is especially true in the digital industry, where the talent gap is widely acknowledged to be growing. As the economy recovers from the impact of COVID-19, and with the growing emphasis on diversity, equity and inclusion, a virtual Female Quotient panel gathered on Thursday morning at CES 2022 to share new and innovative ways to upskill the workforce. Three top women executives shared new ways to engage and support women in their careers, particularly through sponsorship and mentorship programs.

Moderator Laura Molen, President, Ad Sales & Partnerships at NBC Universal Media, LLC opened the panel by noting that “Upskilling has taken on so many different meanings for so many different companies and in the pandemic has taken on a new meaning.” She added that leaders have been called upon to upskill their workforce as customers’ needs continue to change and require new support, especially with current business closures and supply chain issues.

While all the panelists acknowledged that the pandemic created the push and technology changes to quickly pivot to a virtual world, the pandemic also created new dynamics forcing both employers and the workforce to emphasize their own changing needs.

Molen asked about the panelists’ experience with upskilling and to share what impressed them the most in terms of their own experiences. She began with her definition of upskilling as “recognizing the potential in individual people and then giving them the training they need.” Molen shared her recent experience with the creation of a new Center of Excellence to ensure that her team is well-trained and has a current central place to solve all customer needs. The COE has been so successful that it is expanding internally to other areas.

All panelists agreed on the importance of instilling a culture of continuous learning and each spoke personally about not holding back from asking questions.

When asked about the definition of upskilling, Nicolle Pangis, CEO of Ampersand, emphasized a culture of learning from a personal and business perspective. Pangis defined upskilling as creating curiosity that is both open and welcoming. With an emphasis on the need to keep up on technology, Pangis didn’t let her digital background hold her back from entering the TV world and encourages her team to “cross-pollinate” with emphasis on informal as well as formal learning.

“We all bring a piece of the puzzle, but no one has the whole thing,” Pangis said. The pandemic-induced lack of human interaction and natural interactions has made it difficult. To encourage a culture of learning, Pangis challenges her staff to learn and use informal interactions to actively reach out and learn one more thing each day. According to Pangis, “Leadership doesn’t equal vulnerability.”

Molen was intrigued by the notion of creating curiosity and likened it to a nudge for employees to join sponsorship and mentorship programs. When asked by Molen what sponsorship looks like, Jeannine Shao Collins, President, SeeHer at the Association of National Advertisers, is a firm believer in continuous learning. Collins believes that everyone must take responsibility for sponsorship regardless of their job level or tenure in the industry and spoke about the success of reverse mentorship. “Paying it forward” to ensure everyone has the appropriate skills and encourage diversity and inclusion to eliminate gender bias.

Collins said that upskilling is about staying relevant, competitive and innovative. She spoke about her work to upskill member companies through new workstreams and the pivot to virtual training. The training encourages diversity and inclusion and eliminates gender bias, as people need to “walk the walk and talk the talk and be authentic.” Her recent success includes using a tip sheet with Telemundo for content creators to fully represent people that are not in a room. She pointed to including resources that may not be available internally. It has been so successful that it is being expanded into different areas like workshops.

Being authentic, according to Collins, includes the need for companies to lean in and stand for values, their purpose and their people.

As Molen probed the panel to provide advice and acknowledgment of the impact from The Great Resignation, the consensus was that upskilling contributes to a growth mind-set, greater retention and improved recruitment, and a culture of learning, especially for women.

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