Ontario employer turns to AI to upskill workers

'It can really break silos, and build cross-collaboration across the entity,' says HR vice-president

Ontario employer turns to AI to upskill workers

With employers continuing to have a hard time filling job openings, one employer is using artificial intelligence to upskill their workers and keep them on board.

Ontario-based Schneider Electric is using its AI-driven Open Talent Market (OTM) platform to match workers with projects and learning opportunities that interest them.

“We believe that we have a true responsibility to help our employees, our workforce – even more after these [past] three years – to help them [become] more resilient and adaptable, to develop the necessary skills that they need on the labour market, and to drive our business power,” says Claire Guichard, HR vice president, Canada, Schneider Electric, in talking with Canadian HR Reporter.

More than two-thirds (68 per cent) of employers say they are having a hard time hiring people with the skill sets they need to grow, according to a previous report.

Internal opportunities

Schneider Electric’s OTM – launched in 2019 – offers employees equitable opportunities through a digital, borderless and AI-driven platform. It matches workers with internal opportunities and allows employees to find new opportunities within the company and broaden their skill sets on projects that align with their personal growth objectives and interests.

Using the platform, employees fill out their profile information. These include their skills, experience and interests. The platform’s AI capabilities will then recommend jobs, projects or mentors that fit the workers, and even guide them toward certain career paths.

OTM goes well with the company’s online learning platform MyLearningLink, which features over 10,000 courses related to digital, business, market, safety and more.

Guichard is a mentor in the OTM platform, and has shared with workers her knowledge on topics like HR and change management. She has even shared her own career path with workers. 

“We want our employees to be curious, to be open,” she says, adding that it’s also a way to retain them and have lower attrition.

“It can be a way for employees to go from a project on which they're curious about it, and then to see if the next step could be in that function, for example. So it's really opening the mindset of our employees.”

And these mentoring sessions are not limited by geographical boundaries, she says.

“I am mentoring a few people from everywhere in the world. So that's what is fantastic about it as well; it can really break silos, build cross-collaboration across the entity.”

Training and development, new skills and career pathing are crucial to help people move internally and for businesses to thrive, says Bart Egnal, CEO of the communications training firm the Humphrey Group, in a separate report.

Setting dedicated time

Aside from pathing workers to betterment, Schneider Electric’s OTM also allows employees to devote 10-15% of their time to projects outside of their current role to expand their skills, experience and knowledge.

“Career paths are no longer linear,” says Guichard. That’s why the company is helping workers have “career progression in different disciplines that transcend across the company”. This can only help them “grow outside their function and adopt new skills”.

The cross-functional experience also helps workers build stronger collaboration, communication skills and openness to new things. 

“Developing a diverse and digitally skilled team is part of our development strategy. So by helping employees to build their skills in new areas, [we are helping them build] a diverse skill set that helps them grow and succeed.

“And we know that it drives innovation and creativity in our business, so that's really a win-win situation.”

Professional training and development at work plays a crucial part in addressing workers’ mental health troubles, according to one expert.

Employee satisfaction

Guichard notes that only 30 per cent of Canadians feel very prepared with workplace digital skills, citing data from the Conference Board of Canada. And that number is expected to drop to 23 per cent within the next five years.

With the upskilling initiatives, Schneider Electric is developing workers to fill jobs that require specific digital skills. 

Over eight in 10 (83 per cent) of Schneider Electric’s global employees are registered OTM users, including 87 per cent of the company’s Canadian employees.

Through the program, the company is also making them feel supported, says Guichard.

“Within Schneider, we have 73 per cent of our workforce in Canada feeling supported with development opportunities.”

And the business benefits, she says: “We are combining electric systems with digital technologies to power our future. This transformation requires digital integration across the workforce, on policies, on talent, on the culture as well. 

“This does not only boost our productivity and improve efficiencies, but it also supports the growing digital requirements of customers who are digitally transforming their own business and driving sustainability in their business as well.”

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