HRTech Interview with Chris Duchesne, General Manager at Springboard for Business

Gain essential insights to thrive in today's business landscape: Embrace change, invest in continuous learning, and foster a culture of innovation for both individuals and organizations.

HRTech Interview

Greetings Chris, Could you kindly provide a brief overview of your professional journey that has led to your current role as General Manager at Springboard for Business?

Throughout my professional career, I have been deeply committed to guiding organisations through significant transformation and change management initiatives. This journey spans over two decades, where my expertise has increasingly concentrated on learning and talent development. My role has often involved devising and implementing strategies and programs tailored to empower workforces, ensuring they possess the essential skills necessary for contemporary business success.

Over the past decade, this focus has sharpened, particularly in the realm of learning and talent development. I have dedicated myself to helping organizations craft and execute robust training programs, aimed at fortifying their employees’ competencies and aligning them with evolving industry demands.

Joining Springboard for Business marked a pivotal moment in this trajectory. The decision was driven by the significant, tangible impact our programs have had on both individuals and organizations. We have proudly facilitated over $1 billion in increased earnings for our students, a testament to the transformative power of education and skill enhancement.

Furthermore, our programs have been instrumental in catalysing growth for our clients. This is evidenced not only in terms of revenue enhancement and cost reduction but also through fostering a culture of innovation. The ability to contribute to such meaningful, multi-faceted progress continues to be a source of professional fulfillment and motivation for me.

How does Springboard for Business address the workforce skills gap, and could you please elaborate on the strategies employed to effectively bridge these gaps?

Springboard for Business helps companies bridge the workforce skills gap and adapt to rapid workforce change by offering tailored reskilling and upskilling programs designed to meet the demands of the digital age. Springboard provides our corporate partners with personalised, human-led experiences focused on skills mastery, ensuring immediate business impact. These courses accelerate employees’ careers and ensure their skill sets evolve at the speed of technology.

Springboard’s approach is unique. Employees master skills through project-based, hands-on learning. Our human-led approach pairs each student with an expert mentor providing support and guidance and embedding learning.

In particular, our Data-Driven Strategic Thinking (DDST) program equips learners with essential tools to thrive in today’s data-driven world, enhancing analytical, critical thinking, and storytelling skills in just eight weeks. Through hands-on training and mentorship, participants learn to interpret data, identify growth opportunities, and present findings effectively, enabling them to solve complex business problems with confidence.

As a leader, what personal strategies have you found most effective in successfully navigating skills gaps within your organisation?

As a leader, addressing skills gaps within my organisation has been a multifaceted challenge, requiring a blend of strategic planning, employee development, and organizational adaptability.

One of the most effective strategies I have employed is fostering a culture of continuous learning. Continuous upskilling is essential, ensuring employees are equipped with the latest competencies needed to keep pace with evolving demands. Prioritising enduring cognitive skills like critical thinking and problem-solving empowers employees through a multitude of roles and functions and fosters adaptability and resilience.

We encourage our team members to pursue ongoing education and professional development, supporting this through a range of initiatives like funding for learning, in-house training sessions, and offering time off for learning. This not only helps close current skills gaps but also equips our team to adapt to future changes in our industry.

Additionally, offering reskilling programs allows employees to transition into new roles within the company, fostering loyalty and retention. Cultivating a culture of continuous learning, supported by personalised and impactful training initiatives, is vital as our recent survey of more than 1,000 corporate professionals revealed 79% of leaders view the life of technical skills to be five years or less.

Another key strategy has been leveraging data-driven insights to identify and address skills gaps proactively. We conduct regular skills assessments and performance reviews, which help us pinpoint areas where training or additional resources are needed. This also involves staying abreast of industry trends to anticipate the skills we will need in the future, allowing us to prepare our workforce accordingly.

Lastly, hiring for potential rather than just current skill sets has been crucial. We often recruit individuals who demonstrate adaptability, a strong learning ethos, and the potential to grow into roles. This allows us to shape their development to meet our organization’s evolving needs, ensuring a dynamic and forward-thinking workforce, and driving loyalty and engagement with employees.

In sum, navigating skills gaps is about creating an environment where continuous learning is valued, using data to guide our strategies, fostering mentorship and peer learning, and hiring with an eye to potential and adaptability.

Considering today’s dynamic business landscape, what advice would you kindly offer to individuals and organisations aiming to stay ahead in skills development and adaptability?

According to our skills gap survey, 70% of executives say their businesses are suffering financially because their workforces lack the right competencies. In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, staying ahead in skills development and adaptability is vital for both individuals and organisations. My key advice centers around embracing change, investing in continuous learning, and fostering a culture of flexibility and innovation.

For individuals, the most crucial step is adopting a mindset of lifelong learning. The skills that are in demand today might evolve or become obsolete tomorrow. Therefore, it is essential to stay curious and proactive about learning new skills. This could involve taking online courses, attending workshops, pursuing certifications, or simply staying informed about industry trends and emerging technologies. Networking and mentorship also play a vital role in personal growth and adaptability, offering fresh perspectives and insights into future skill requirements.

Organizations, on the other hand, must create an environment that supports and encourages continuous learning and development. This involves not just providing access to training and development programs but also encouraging a culture where seeking knowledge is valued and rewarded. Innovative learning methods such as microlearning, gamification, and experiential learning are more engaging and effective.

Assess the existing skills within your team. Identify any gaps or areas for improvement, and then tailor targeted training programs accordingly. Emphasise applied learning opportunities, such as engaging in job-related projects, as these can significantly enhance skills. Additionally, foster a culture of mentorship to accelerate skill development and ensure adaptability to changing circumstances.

In your opinion, how can organisations effectively keep pace with the rapid changes in technology and ensure that their workforce remains adequately skilled?

Organisations must proactively address evolving work dynamics and technological advancements. This includes acknowledging the impact of AI and other emerging technologies on job roles and skill requirements. As technology advances at an unprecedented rate, reshaping traditional work models and altering the human-machine relationship, organisations must recognise the importance of evolving alongside these shifts. Prioritising both technical and cognitive skill development is essential, as problem-solving and critical thinking become increasingly valuable

By investing in comprehensive training and development programs, organisations can enhance employee readiness for the future of work while mitigating the risks associated with skills gaps. Ultimately, a strategic focus on upskilling and reskilling initiatives is crucial for organisations to remain competitive and resilient in an ever-changing business landscape.

Could you kindly elaborate on the significance of data analysis and project management skills and provide insights into how individuals can enhance their proficiency in these areas?

Data analysis and project management are paramount in business, driving informed decision-making and strategic initiatives. They are the top technical skills leaders need at their company right now, according to our report. Proficiency in data analysis allows individuals to dissect and interpret data sets, revealing valuable patterns and trends across various domains. These skills empower workers at all levels to extract actionable insights from data, changing decision-making processes from intuition-based to data-driven.

By integrating data-driven decision-making into project management processes, organisations can prioritise projects grounded in data insights, fostering a culture where evidence-based decisions drive innovation and develop competitive business advantages. Companies can implement formal training development programs around these skills to enhance individual proficiency in these areas and offer incentives to drive participation in these opportunities.

What are the potential implications of AI/machine learning and software engineering skills for businesses, and how can professionals proactively prepare for these evolving demands?

The rise of AI and machine learning presents both business challenges and opportunities. Our report revealed there is significant demand for AI skills, which 36% of leaders say their companies need. Meanwhile, 11% of employees worry that AI will replace their teammates, and 9% are concerned about being replaced by AI themselves. On one hand, AI adoption promises increased efficiency and innovation, but on the other hand, there is a lack of understanding about how AI and machine learning can be effectively integrated into existing workflows, resulting in resistance to change and hesitancy to adopt new technologies.

To proactively prepare for these evolving demands, professionals can prioritise upskilling and reskilling initiatives. By investing in L&D programs, employees can acquire essential AI/Machine Learning skills. These programs not only equip employees with the necessary technical expertise but also foster a culture of continuous learning and adaptation. Additionally, embracing a skills-based approach to talent management can help businesses navigate the shifting landscape and ensure a future-proof workforce.

Kindly share your perspective on how organisations can foster strategic thinking and problem-solving skills among their employees.

Organisations can foster strategic thinking and problem-solving skills among employees by starting with self-assessment and goal setting. Encouraging feedback from colleagues and managers promotes collaborative skill enhancement. Structured activities like brainstorming sessions foster critical thinking and creativity by embracing diverse perspectives. Prioritising data literacy and analytical skills through training, such as the Data-Driven Strategic Thinking (DDST) program, ensures informed evidence-based decision-making. Strong leadership sets the tone for organisational culture and serves as a model for employees to follow, ultimately positioning the organisation for success in today’s dynamic business landscape.

What initiatives would you recommend organisations implement to effectively prioritise employee well-being and mitigate the risk of burnout?

Organisations must address the pressing issue of heavy workloads that contribute to exhaustion and hinder skill development. It is clear burnout must be addressed, as our survey shows nearly two-thirds of employees reporting job-related burnout in the past year. Implementing initiatives to combat burnout, such as flexible work arrangements and workload management strategies, can alleviate the strain on employees and create a healthier work environment.

One way to make space for learning is to work to eliminate small, tedious, and time-consuming “vampire tasks.” Additionally, offering dedicated time for training and skill development is crucial, especially considering that 30% of workers feel they do not have enough time for learning. By providing resources for skill enhancement and prioritising mental health support, organisations can foster a culture of well-being that benefits both employees and the overall success of the business.

Lastly, do you have any closing insights to share on the future of workforce development and the pivotal role that Springboard for Business plays in shaping it?

Looking forward to the future of workforce development, it is evident that addressing skills gaps is paramount for all organisations, regardless of industry. By partnering with Springboard, organisations can bridge the skills gap, empower their teams with the latest technologies and industry-relevant skills, and foster a culture of continuous learning and development.

Chris Duchesne General Manager of Springboard for Business

Chris Duchesne is General Manager of Springboard for Business, a talent development company that grows businesses by empowering leaders and their teams with the AI, critical thinking, data, and technology skills central to the future of work. Companies like Amazon, Walmart, HP, and Visa have partnered with Springboard for Business to upskill and reskill employees around the world. Through human-led instruction, one-on-one expert mentorship, and company-specific projects, Springboard for Business delivers personalised, online training programs that drive immediate financial outcomes. Chris previously held leadership roles at Bright Horizons EdAssist Solutions;; Workscape; and Accenture.