Employers that are establishing upskilling and reskilling programs to support digital transformation efforts should make the most of the opportunity to drive employee engagement and career growth while also embedding a culture of continuous learning.
Belcorp has learned that lesson well. Belcorp, which produces beauty and personal care products, began its digital transformation efforts in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic shifted consumer purchases online for its three commercial brands—L'Bel, Esika and Cyzone.
Headquartered in Lima, Peru, Belcorp has approximately 7,000 employees and a network of more than 800,000 independent beauty consultants in 12 countries, including Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama and the U.S. The company's main manufacturing center is in Colombia.
To accommodate the growing online demand, the company decided to ditch its Excel spreadsheets and other separate systems that stored customer information and adopt Perfect Corp.'s artificial-intelligence-driven platform and an augmented reality technology tool that analyzes customers' skin and makes personalized makeup suggestions.
To start the process, customers register using an app and answer questions about their skin concerns, which product categories interest them (such as makeup or skin care) and what brands they prefer. Then, they take a selfie, and the AR tech offers product suggestions.
"By digitizing the customer's experience with Perfect Corp.'s AI platform, we can collect customer data regarding specific preferences for certain products," said Venkat Gopalan, chief digital, technology and data officer at Belcorp. "We can also track our sales or consultant data on their performance during the transaction."
He added that because the technology creates a higher level of transparency, the sales team and consultants have set new personal goals.
"They say, 'Maybe I want a higher margin, maybe I want to push this new product or I want to make sure that I have a sales target that I need to achieve,' " Gopalan said.
As Belcorp's employees transitioned to using Perfect Corp.'s cloud-based technology, Gopalan said the company needed to upskill and reskill its 50-member IT staff because the company's software engineers were designing websites, its data scientists were creating algorithms, and its data analysts were evaluating information and gaining insights to help managers make the right decisions.
To help the process along, in March 2022, Belcorp turned to Workera, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based company with a skills intelligence platform that assesses employees' skills and creates personalized learning plans to improve employees' abilities in specific domains, such as cloud computing, machine learning, data science and Python programming.
"From a cultural and a talent standpoint, we needed to upskill and reskill our IT team, and one of the critical aspects for us is data and analytical skills across the company," Gopalan said.
According to Osman Khan, head of customer success at Workera, the first step was evaluating the employees to find out what skills they had and what skills they lacked.
"Belcorp voiced to us early on that they didn't have a sense of how their company's IT skills compared against the average Fortune 500 companies," Khan said.
Workera found that Belcorp needed skills training in the areas of data structures, algorithms and Amazon Web Services.
Integrate Training and Work
Building a training program to support digital transformation efforts is crucial, said Graham Waller, distinguished vice president in Gartner's Digital Business Leadership research team.
"Very often it's the lack of skills that either delays a digital transformation project or causes it to fail," Waller said.
Recent data from Gartner shows that out of 280 nonexecutive members of boards of directors interviewed, 21 percent said their company has not made any notable progress in digital business success, but they continue to invest in digital business. Another 44 percent said they have made the desired level of progress in digital business optimization but didn't achieve their organizational goals.
Waller cited another Gartner survey of company executives showing that the majority of respondents don't think training their current employees is the best approach for talent gap fulfillment by the end of 2023, which Waller thinks harms digital transformation efforts.
Of the 306 respondents Gartner polled, 37 percent said upskilling and reskilling current employees was their organizations' preferred approach, while 63 percent had other ideas: 22 percent said hire new employees, 13 percent said hire consultants, 14 percent said outsource the work and 14 percent chose other alternatives.
To improve outcomes, Waller said digital transformation and training should be integrated and interwoven in a way that makes employees apply what they've learned immediately while they are performing tasks on the job. Not only does this process make the learning "stick," but it helps employees meet the unique needs of the company.
While each case is different depending on the type of digital transformation and the part of the workforce receiving the training, Waller said that "companies should be preparing much of the workforce ahead of the transformation by building the basic skills, competencies, awareness and language and then building more proficient skills in specialized areas so people can embrace the change and accelerate the change, as opposed to holding it back."
Nuria Fuentes, HR business partner manager at Belcorp, said the company's IT employees can take the courses whenever they want as they improve their skills over time.
"It's not just taking a course at a specific time and date, it's a new way to learn. They can take the course and retake the course as they get better at improving their skills. We embrace these new ways of learning that promote our culture of continuous learning," Fuentes said.
Waller said HR stakeholders should keep in mind that the most successful employees understand that they will need to be continuously learning in their careers, and this can be done much more affordably on learning platforms.
"From time to time, reskilling can be done in a way that keeps employees relevant while giving them higher earning potential as they work at a job they enjoy doing," Waller said.
Nicole Lewis is a freelance journalist based in Miami.