HRTech Interview with Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek, Chief Marketing and Sustainability Officer at Skillsoft

Explore how skillsoft supports initiatives that raise awareness of climate change and make it easier to acquire green skills for workplace operations.



Michelle, could you please introduce yourself and your role as the Chief Sustainability Officer at Skillsoft? How did you become passionate about sustainability and green skills?
I’m a firm believer that doing the right thing is always the right thing to do. As such, I serve a dual role here at Skillsoft as both the Chief Marketing Officer and Chief Sustainability Officer, where I proudly oversee my organisation’s commitment to environmental, social responsibility, and corporate governance. Since taking up the role, we’ve initiated an ambitious vision and strategic plan for sustainable progress that benefits Skillsoft, our customers, our investors, and the greater communities in which we operate in.

I’m passionate about skill building because I know how important the power of learning is to build a more skilled, resilient, future-fit workforce and drive business transformation. Enabling a culture of learning can lead to a brighter, more sustainable future because until we know better, we can’t do better. Green skills, unfortunately, do not grow on trees. As the sustainability sector continues to evolve – and global investments increase – the demand for green skills is outpacing the supply of applicable talent. “Buying” talent, is a short-term solution to this. Instead, we must prioritize growing and upskilling the great talent we already have within our organizations.

At Skillsoft, we help companies address these green skills gaps – by first understanding where they exist and then by delivering multimodal learning experiences that are both personalized and prescriptive to ensure people master the skills they need to do the job they have today and prepare them for their future. This is imperative given the lack of existing universal standards or frameworks around green skilling that may exist for other more traditional skills. Enabling a culture of green learning helps ensure the existing talent is equipped with the green skills they need to be competitive, the business and leadership skills they need to respond to new and unexpected challenges, and the compliance and ethics training they need to stay safe and support the company’s sustainability mission.

Skillsoft’s Role in Sustainability:

How do Skillsoft’s programs like Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion curriculum and Corporate Sustainability learning journeys advance ESG practices within organisations?

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) practices are no longer a luxury but expected. Skillsoft recently released its second annual CSR at Work report and found Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) was the top-rated organizational priority amongst the nearly 1,000 global respondents. This heightened focus on CSR and ESG initiatives, like DEI and corporate social responsibility, is propelling leaders and decision-makers to explore innovative ways to reduce their carbon emissions, actively engage employees in sustainability efforts, build a more equitable workforce, and contribute positively to the environment. Leaders cannot start without first making significant changes and offering new skill sets from the workforce nor do they have to go on this journey alone.

For more than 25 years, Skillsoft has been an innovator in the digital learning space, providing experiences that have helped organizations reduce their carbon footprints by curtailing unnecessary travel, printing, and other activities that can tax environmental resources. Our solutions advance careers, create jobs, build businesses, and improve lives as we enable a culture that prioritizes growth amongst employers and employees. We’ve helped organizations digitally transform and support distributed workforces. And, we’ve had the honor of training millions of people through learning experiences that drive mastery of skills. It’s important to partner with technology providers that not only educate employees on DEI and ESG, but help you advance them.

The Rise of Green Skilling:

How does Skillsoft’s promotion of digital learning increase climate change awareness and facilitate the acquisition of green skills for more eco-friendly workplace operations?
Skillsoft helps raise awareness of a greener workforce because it puts the learner first when designing learning experiences. This means, we provide solutions that enable workforces to learn on their own terms through a blended curriculum and various modalities, forgoing a “cookie-cutter” approach. But the individual learner is just one slice of the pie – without buy-in from the top, green skilling programs will fail. For organizations to be successful, leaders must embark on a comprehensive four-step journey that includes assessing current skills and gaps, developing a plan of specific objectives and timelines, implementing a learning and development program, and evaluating plans continuously.

The initial step in any robust green skilling strategy involves conducting a thorough assessment to understand the current state of skills gaps and opportunities in your organization. The assessment should not merely focus on identifying gaps in global standards or competency frameworks but also consider the range of existing skills within the organization and the level of proficiency required to lead sustainability initiatives.

Once an assessment is made, leaders can craft a comprehensive plan that includes specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) goals, deadlines, and schedules. For instance, if a central green strategy revolves around reducing data center energy consumption, the skilling plan must encompass training on the various methods, tools, and technologies needed.

Successful green upskilling also hinges on granting employees access to relevant training materials, workshops, and tools that seamlessly integrate with ongoing operations. This approach ensures that day-to-day business activities are minimally disrupted while team members can pursue learning in a manner that suits their preferences and schedules.

Finally, green upskilling must remain dynamic and adaptable to evolving goals, business objectives, and emerging strategies and avoid a “set it and forget it” approach. The goals set on day one won’t be the same on day 100 and so on. It’s essential to refine and update your upskilling strategies by carefully analyzing and incorporating findings made during individual and organizational skilling journeys. Upskilling is an ongoing process and demands periodic reviews and adjustments to align with a constant shifting goal post.

The Impact of Green Learning and Development (L&D):

In what ways does green L&D benefit organisations in terms of sustainability, employee engagement, and overall corporate responsibility?
As calls for organizations to prioritize sustainability and CSR increase, so do the pressures for talent skilled in green practices. The demand for green skills and a sustainable workforce has surged dramatically, with employment searches related to these skills experiencing double-digit growth. Without these critical skills, organizations may find it challenging, if not impossible, to meet sustainability goals, keep employees engaged and create a culture of corporate responsibility.

Some may turn to short-term solutions like hiring external talent to fill green skills gaps, which we have predominately seen in areas like establishing sustainability foundations and putting sustainability into practice in the workplace. But this approach is not desirable — or even practical — as the sustainability sector rapidly evolves.

With the half-life of skills continuing to dwindle, we must shift our mindset toward enabling a culture of continuous learning. Offering L&D opportunities and upskilling existing workforces to meet today’s green demands is the most effective and sustainable solution. From teaching employees how to adopt a greener lifestyle, to providing teams with learning opportunities around enforcing sustainable practices like effective resource use, waste management, and sustainable procurement, green L&D opportunities will help cultivate a sustainability-oriented culture within organizations making it a norm, not the expectation.

Skillsoft’s Contribution to Green Skills:

How is Skillsoft actively contributing to the development and availability of green skills training, and what sets Skillsoft apart in this domain?
Skillsoft enables organizations to develop in-house green skills training programs for employees. This includes courses that are specific to sustainability – like adopting a green lifestyle, industry and business processes, product selection, waste reduction, and clean green energy. We know risk awareness is just as important – our portfolio of risk, leadership, and technology training tie back to an organization’s environmental, social responsibility, and corporate governance initiatives. These might include anything from supply chain transparency to religious accommodation, and cybersecurity.

With more than 1,000 learning assets related to CSR and ESG initiatives, we help our customers do good even as they do well. So, they can encourage employees to participate and upskill in these areas immediately. Because at its core, sustainability is about creating awareness, access, and collaboration beyond the four walls of your own org. Whether it’s awareness about environmental impact or creating environments that are conducive to inclusive and diverse dialogue and perspectives, the goal is to make individuals, communities, and corporations accountable for the impacts they cause on society and the environment. We leverage our content to do that exponentially, from a digital access standpoint. At Skillsoft, we pride ourselves on bringing a unique perspective to the skilling revolution given our history. The demand for our content is a leading indicator of what employers need to equip their talent to be successful and competitive.

Employee Demand for Green Skills:

Could you elaborate on the rising demand for employees with green skills to support sustainability efforts? 
In recent years, there’s been a significant global shift towards emphasizing sustainability and embracing more environmentally friendly practices across organizations. This transformation is driven by a growing awareness of the urgent need to address environmental challenges, reduce carbon footprints, and promote responsible corporate behavior. Business leaders won’t get there if learning isn’t prioritized.

Our CSR at Work Report sheds light on this evolving landscape. According to our findings, 70% of working professionals report having a CSR program. This emphasis on CSR and ESG is a good thing; it’s motivating businesses and empowering talent to be more sustainable. As a result, many organizations have reevaluated their priorities, placing a greater emphasis on CSR and ESG.

New Opportunities:
How is the rise in green skilling opening new doors for both individuals and organisations, and what opportunities do you see emerging in the future?

When you prioritize green skills development, you empower your workforce with the essential tools to remain competitive. You’ll equip your employees with business and leadership skills critical to addressing complex, unforeseen challenges, and provide the training required to support your organization’s sustainability mission.

In essence, investing in the upskilling of your workforce is an investment in the future; one that aligns with the evolving demands of our rapidly changing world. It positions your organization and its employees for long-term — and sustainable — success. Business leaders agree – our recent CSR at Work report found budgets for CSR programs are being invested in training and education (41%) followed by philanthropy efforts (29%).

Measuring the Impact:

Are there specific metrics or key performance indicators that organisations can use to measure the success and impact of their green skilling initiatives?
The metrics a company chooses to monitor will likely depend on its stage in the sustainability journey and its specific priorities. For instance, an organization may align DEI-related metrics with board and/or executive-level diversity statistics. Companies with a public presence may also adopt metrics that publicly report health and safety incidents. If the organization has set a science-based target, it may measure the contributions that the broader employee population makes toward reaching those targets.

At Skillsoft, we closely monitor the pending SEC guidance around climate-related disclosures and the formalized Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD). For those in similar situations, if the SEC guidance is adopted in its current form, organizations will need to disclose their Scope 1 & 2 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as well as any material Scope 3 emissions, from both upstream and downstream activities within their value chain. Organizations operating in the EU should also be aware of the CSRD. While it requires several “general disclosures,” the CSRD extends beyond climate-related disclosures, seeking information on a standardized set of social metrics that cover workforce demographics, workers in the value chain, and affected communities. Ultimately, the specific industry a company operates in will largely determine the metrics it needs to disclose.

Advice for Organisations:

Based on your expertise, what advice would you offer to organisations looking to embark on a journey of sustainability and green skills development?
When you’re first introducing a new education program, there won’t be buy-in by employees until there’s buy-in from leadership. As much as employees have a responsibility to learn, it won’t happen without initiative from leaders.

Given all of this change, the first step is assessing a team’s sustainability proficiency, before identifying the skills gaps, and then setting an action plan to build skills. Leaders need to shepherd this journey — if employees are left to “figure it out themselves,” initiatives like upskilling and reskilling for green skills will stall.

At Skillsoft, we work with business leaders to identify skills gaps via objective skills assessments; empower them to adopt personal learning journeys aligned to the needs of the organization; and offer credentialing that is globally accepted and blockchain certified. It’s not “set it and forget it” — it’s “rinse and repeat” so you’re developing and nurturing a culture of continuous learning and growth. Continuous learning is imperative as the goal post for sustainability continues to move. Education is key in this.

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Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek Chief Marketing and Sustainability Officer at Skillsoft

As Chief Marketing Officer, Michelle leads a global organization that uses the power of learning to drive business transformation and build a more skilled, resilient, future-fit workforce. Drawing on more than 25 years of marketing, branding, and strategy experience, Michelle serves as Skillsoft's brand evangelist, nurturing and growing a vibrant community of lifelong learners. Michelle is a firm believer that doing the right thing is always the right thing to do. As such, she serves a dual role as Chief Sustainability Officer, proudly overseeing Skillsoft's commitment to environmental, social responsibility, and corporate governance. Prior to Skillsoft, Michelle served as CMO of IBM Watson, where she helped develop the first “Women Leaders in AI” program. She also served as global head of marketing for The Weather Company, an IBM Business, helping companies make better decisions with greater confidence in the face of weather. She holds a Master’s degree from Simmons University, and sits on the pro side of the Oxford comma debate.