Podcast: Performance and Development in a Skill-Based World

Two Skills

Transcript

Mark:

Welcome to PeopleTech, the podcast of the HCM Technology Report. I’m Mark Feffer. My guest today is Bogdan Apostol, co-founder and CEO of Nestor. Its platform is designed to meld employee engagement with performance and development planning through a skills-based approach. It also uses analytics that nudge employees into action while providing insights to managers in HR. We’re going to talk about skills, COVID-19, and understanding both on this edition of PeopleTech. Hi, Bogdan. Welcome. Can you tell us about Nestor? What’s your mission?

Bogdan:

Nestor is the people intelligence platform. Our mission is to help organizations engage, develop, and retain talent, and help them navigate the rapidly changing nature of work environments. We take a skills-based approach to bringing together different talent operations, such as employee engagement, performance, and development planning.

Mark:

It seems like everybody’s building engagement products today. They’re all through the landscape of HR technology. What role do you think technology plays in creating and maintaining engagement? Can you put the technology into context for me?

Bogdan:

Yes. Technology has a main role in this and in this post pandemic world it’s become more and more important. Us at Nestor, for example, for each employee in the organization have built a unique skills-based profile that embeds skills across the most important talent operations by combining goals, feedback, competencies, and behaviors. Engagement is a mix. The employee engagement is a mix of the operations that you do at work and feeling meaningful in doing your job, having the opportunities to develop and grow inside the organization.

Mark:

Now is this something where the technology is essentially hidden from the end user, hidden from the employees? Or is it something that is kind of right out in the open? Everybody knows there’s engagement technology being used?

Bogdan:

So yes, that’s a very good question. Even before starting Nestor, we thought really hard on what is the benefit for the employee? Taking into account that the employee is the most important and main stakeholder in the platform. So technology, you have the technology that helps you, and you have to be aware that there is technology that helps you, but at the same time, you need to focus the technology on the human. It has to be a human-centric approach. So everything in Nestor is human-centric and revolves around the employee. It’s all about the employee, achieving transparency in the organization, being connected to the mission and strategy of the organization, having the autonomy to decide what is the next step in their career, and having a clear vision on what are the development steps that are needed to get there. You have to have as an employee, and this is powered by technology, the liberty to access opportunities and participate in project and initiatives across the organization.

Bogdan:

But this needs to be based on your interest and how they align with the business direction. So if technology, as we use it, can bring this to you as an employee, this is a real empowering situation because you feel that technology really helps you. Most of the HR tools out there feel imposed by the HR department, by the HR team. We try to turn the table around and focus on a human-centric approach so that you as an employee feel that you are empowered by technology.

Mark:

You know, it always strikes me as funny that technology has taken such a big role in engagement, which is a very human thing. Do you find that sometimes employers kind of put the technology first to the detriment of the employee, or is everybody pretty good about keeping the technology where it should be?

Bogdan:

I think technology is, how to say it, is a two edge sword. So you need to be careful as an organization on how to expose it to the organization. You need to guard against the danger of technology taking over and feeling as a purely mechanic process, determined by [inaudible] algorithms in which I know personal information is entered. And this is used just as a data point. So you need to be careful on how you deploy this in an organization, how you deploy technology in an organization, so that you feel empowered and you don’t feel that you are just driven by machines.

Mark:

I want to shift gears a little bit and first ask you what types of company are your heaviest users? Is there a pattern or certain set of companies that like to use the software and the platform, or is it scattered?

Bogdan:

So, yes, that’s the very good question. We started Nestor thinking that we will be able to do a product that will fit from teams of three people to enterprise level. We soon discovered that we bring more value in larger organizations. So the companies, the organizations, that get the most value out of Nestor are small and medium enterprises that need alignment across the organization. Alignment of practices, alignment of people strategy, transparency throughout the organization, and empower people to access the opportunities that are in the organization and do this in an agile way, and in a fluid way. What we found out from the organizations that we’re working with is that they’re moving away from classical hierarchical job architectures toward the more flat organizational structure, or at least a mix of these two to enable agility and fluidity inside the organization.

Mark:

One of the other things, or other areas, that’s being paired with engagement a lot is skills. Preparation for future skills and maintaining current skills. Has that whole discussion impacted you and what the platform does?

Bogdan:

Yes, yes. And it’s one of the things that we started with. We embedded skills in all of the talent operations, because using skills just as a taxonomy, and that alone, is that a mechanical thing that we were talking about earlier? So you need to embed the skills in all the talent operations that you are doing inside the organization. And each investor, each employee in the organization, has a unique skill-based profile that embeds skills across this most important talent operations, by combining goals, feedback, competencies, and behavior. These profiles include skills acquired in past experience or jobs inside or outside organizations, skills that are necessary to fulfill the current tasks and jobs, and the peek into the future with desired skills. So what’s next for each employee, each individual in the organization? Now in Nestor, this profiles are constantly updated through assessments and actions that each employee does in the platform.

Mark:

The last thing I wanted to ask you was just about what it’s like to be doing business today? I mean, it’s been an odd few years with the pandemic and such, how has that impacted your business?

Bogdan:

So the disruption introduced by the COVID-19 pandemic has been a real change in the organization and is still ongoing and will have in our opinion and lasting effect on organizations as we know them. The necessity to address skill gaps through upskilling and reskilling, to develop critical skills and to tap into contingent workers for specialized projects or tasks inside organizations, have led them to consider how they can redesign work around the employees’ individual needs and interests. And here’s where I would say the pandemic helped us because we already had this approach, but maybe the environment wasn’t still ready though. That were talks about taking the skills approach for many years before the pandemic. The pandemic, I think, accelerated this and forced companies to rethink. To rethink how we can move people around from job to job, create mission teams, create specialized teams, and offer the opportunity for employees to develop based on their interests, and what they’re best at.

Mark:

Bogdan, thanks very much for taking the time to talk today.

Bogdan:

Thank you so much for having me.

Mark:

My guest today has been Bogdan Apostol co-founder and CEO of Nestor. And this has been PeopleTech, the podcast of the HCM Technology Report. We’re a publication of RecruitingDaily. We’re also a part of Evergreen Podcasts. To see all of their programs, visit www.evergreenpodcasts.com. And to keep up with HR technology, visit the HCM Technology Report every day. We’re the most trusted source of news in the HR tech industry. Find us at www.hcmtechnologyreport.com. I’m Mark Feffer.

Image: iStock

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