Insights from NOKIA: Navigating Skills-Based Transformation in Modern Organizations




This article provides valuable insights from NOKIA on navigating the complexities of the modern workplace by focusing on a skills-based approach. Learn how leveraging data analytics and fostering a culture of continuous learning, a key driver of success in today’s dynamic business environment, can help your organization become more flexible, innovative, and resilient.

The landscape of work has been reshaped and the modern workforce is evolving. Traditional job roles are becoming obsolete, and the demand for new skills is increasing.  The rise of hybrid and remote work also pose unique challenges for HR leaders as identifying and nurturing employees’ skills remotely requires sophisticated tools and methods to accurately assess and support their growth.

Therefore, adapting swiftly and strategically is more crucial than ever. A key component of this adaptability lies in transitioning towards skills-based organizations. For companies to thrive, they must focus on their employees’ skills and how these skills can be leveraged across various functions.

This approach prioritizes the skills and competencies of employees, enabling companies to be more flexible, innovative, and resilient. Two leaders at NOKIA, David Shontz, Global Head of People Analytics & Insights, and Andrea Illes, Global Head of HR Cloud and Network Services, offer a compelling look into how their organization spearheads this transformation.

At NOKIA, this strategic shift is at the forefront of their people initiatives, as discussed by David and Andrea in a recent presentation during the Next-Gen Talent: Innovations in Workforce Skills Development Forum sponsored by Workhuman.

Building the Foundation: From Data Analytics to People Strategy

A Journey into People Analytics: David’s transformative journey with NOKIA began with a mandate to integrate analytics into HR. His transition to analytics six years ago marked the beginning of a new era for NOKIA, driven by data-driven decision-making. This insight led him to build a team from scratch, focusing on data visualization and integrating multiple data sources to support HR initiatives.

One of the significant milestones in this journey was the acquisition of Alcatel-Lucent in 2016, which doubled NOKIA’s workforce. This acquisition necessitated a unified data approach, leading to the development of a comprehensive analytics framework. The COVID pandemic further accelerated these efforts, showcasing the value of agile, data-driven decision-making in navigating unprecedented challenges.

Crafting a People-Centric Strategy: Complementing David’s efforts, Andrea Illes has been instrumental in shaping NOKIA’s people strategy. Since joining NOKIA five years ago, Andrea has worked closely with David to integrate data analytics into HR operations. “We started to look at how we could put more emphasis on supporting employees,” Andrea explained. This shift culminated in creating a new people strategy focused on enhancing talent mobility, upskilling, and professional growth.

A critical component of this strategy is the “My Growth Portal,” an in-house developed solution launched in 2023. This portal provides employees with personalized recommendations for career development, leveraging data from various sources to match skills with opportunities. The result is a dynamic, employee-centric approach to career development that aligns individual aspirations with organizational needs.

Practical Implementation: Tools and Strategies

Data-Driven Insights and Employee Empowerment: NOKIA’s journey toward a skills-based organization is deeply rooted in its robust analytics capabilities. The analytics team, led by David, has developed various domain analytics products and services to support both business and employee needs. These include predictive analytics for workforce planning, talent attraction, learning consumption, and employee health and safety.

One of the standout features is the skills inference capability, which uses advanced algorithms to infer employee skills from various data sources. This approach identifies existing skills and highlights potential areas for development, creating a comprehensive skills profile for each employee.

The My Growth Portal: A Case Study: The My Growth Portal is a testament to NOKIA’s commitment to employee development. By allowing employees to self-nominate skills and receive personalized career recommendations, the portal has fostered a culture of continuous learning and professional growth. This approach has been a success, leading to a lower attrition rate and increased internal talent mobility, as noted by Andrea.

This portal also integrates with NOKIA’s job market, giving employees visibility into available opportunities. Employees can unlock new career paths and skill development opportunities by spending a few minutes fine-tuning their profiles. This proactive approach ensures that employees are aware of opportunities and actively encouraged to pursue them.

Future Directions: Embracing Innovation and Collaboration

Gigs and Project-Based Work: A novel initiative at NOKIA is the introduction of “gigs” – short-term projects that allow employees to work across different units and functions. This initiative, championed by Andrea, offers employees a “test drive” of new roles without a long-term commitment. “Gigs are available via the My Growth Portal and provide employees with flexible opportunities to develop new skills,” Andrea explained.

This approach democratizes previously reserved opportunities for high-potential employees, fostering a more inclusive and collaborative work environment. It also aligns with the future vision of leaders becoming orchestrators of work rather than traditional managers.

Leveraging Technology for Skills Development: NOKIA’s investment in technology extends beyond data analytics. The organization is exploring advanced technologies like machine learning and large language models to enhance its skills development initiatives. For example, visualizing adjacent skills and leveraging passive data sources help identify skill gaps and opportunities for upskilling and reskilling.

David emphasized the importance of ethical considerations in this process, noting that transparency and employee consent are paramount. “Just because we can doesn’t mean we always should,” he cautioned, underscoring NOKIA’s commitment to responsible data use.

NOKIA’s successful transformation into a skills-based organization offers valuable insights for other companies embarking on similar journeys. By strategically leveraging data analytics and fostering a culture of continuous learning, NOKIA is not only enhancing its organizational agility but also empowering its employees to take charge of their careers.

Andrea aptly said, “This is just the start of our journey.” With a strong foundation and a clear vision for the future, NOKIA is well-positioned to thrive in an increasingly complex and dynamic business environment. David and Andrea’s insights highlight the importance of strategic thinking, innovation, and collaboration in building a resilient, skills-based organization.

Watch the entire session on demand by joining the Next-Gen Talent: Innovations in Workforce Skills Development Forum recordings, brought to you by Workhuman.

Written by: Mihaly Nagy

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