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Cornerstone refocuses skills development on the individual with its Opportunity Marketplace

Phil Wainewright Profile picture for user pwainewright April 12, 2023
Cornerstone's new AI-powered Opportunity Marketplace for enterprise talent management aims to give people more personal agency in their skills development.

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(© princerko -

Skills development within an enterprise used to revolve around ensuring people's competencies and qualifications kept pace with the demands of their job. Nowadays, more granular AI-aided analysis allows for broader use cases, such as suggesting suitable candidates from within the workforce for specific projects, placements or openings — sometimes as an alternative to external recruitment. Cornerstone's launch of its Opportunity Marketplace last week takes these AI-powered capabilities and puts them in the hands of the employees themselves, giving them more agency in their own development. Karthik Suri, Chief Product Officer at Cornerstone, explains the rationale:

What do employers want? Employers typically want to find, win and keep the best talent, for them to be in a position to drive productivity, engagement, adaptability, retention, etc. Employees want a similar version of that in their own career lifecycle.

Our opportunity here is to empower people to control their destiny, and in the process, drive engagement, retention and career mobility, while the employers get that upskilling, get their ability to scale their strategies faster.

AI-driven guidance

The new product is an add-on to Cornerstone's existing talent management platform and also plugs into its EdCast learning platform, so that it can provide a complete view that takes into account the individual's current status, the work openings available to them, along with potential learning paths and mentorships. All of this is based on a skills taxonomy that can match people's skillsets to job roles and learning content. Taking all this context into account allows the AI to make more accurate recommendations, as Suri explains:

The AI knows your learning completion. The AI knows your learning goals and aspirational goals. We know your performance reviews and check-ins and the data that comes out of this. We know your self-, peer and manager ratings. We know the opportunities and gigs that you've been interested in in the past. We know your certifications, the mentoring that you get. So the recommendation power of what next-best is for you is amazing.

All of this is delivered in a consumer-style user experience that Cornerstone likens to a GPS-based route planner. Suri says this is particularly needed given the many different paths available to people in today's workplace. He explains:

You want a 'from-to' skills graph, like a career GPS for you on needing to know, 'What do I need to do to get to the next level?' And next level today is different from when I grew up in the 90s. There was only one next level, it was a linear graph. Now it is network of opportunities.

You want a compass — a predictive, prescriptive, insight-based, actionable set of things for the employer and the employee — that will help for the employer to help engage and retain the employee, and that skills taxonomy that will help tangibly send signals to the employee of development [paths].

This is guidance that in the past was only available to those who were lucky enough to have found the right mentor or contact — someone who knew enough about the individual to recommend suitable opportunities within the organization that would be of value in their career progression. Suri says:

Imagine democratizing that privilege of a mentor or a sponsor looking out for you, and normalizing that across, at scale, for people to be in a position to achieve their career dream.

Connections and passports

Although initially available as an add-on for existing Cornerstone customers, the platform will accommodate connections to other systems in the next few months. Suri comments:

We have decided to open up our skills playground to the world. So people can subscribe to this, download our skills taxonomy, compare it to their competency model, compare it to their capability model, or compare it, if they're using an alternative HRIS platform with a deeply integrated skills taxonomy, they can compare it to that to see what works well for them. And in the course of our Opportunity Marketplace, we provide a skills exchange engine, that helps translate this ...

We want to meet our customers where they are in their journey, and then we want them to compare and contrast what we have to what they are having, so that they have the best of both worlds in terms of providing the ontology, the taxonomy, the structure, that they need for their people growth experiences.

Equally, individuals will be able to take their skills profile with them to their next employer, provided that organization is also connected into the Cornerstone platform. Suri says:

The skills passport is an important component of all of this — the portability, the transformation that happens. Think of it as your electronic health record, or your financial profile, etc. Your wallet is yours. My skills are mine, and they are portable, they're transferable.

Among the early adopters looking at use cases are government agencies, he adds, who see the potential of helping people learn new skills in underserved areas and regions. He says:

Think of a business-to-government-to-citizen use case for this ... Governments are beginning to see a lot of value in citizen upskilling, and those regional skilling initiatives become a part of our holistic talent experience platform offering, and Opportunity Marketplace undoubtedly plays a role in that.

My take

Talent management used to be something that organizations did to their workforce. Nowadays, workers want more control over their own destiny and increasingly recognize the need to map their own skills development rather expecting their employer to do it for them. The latest generation of AI-powered talent marketplace offerings have the granular level of skills detail to be able to support people in making such decisions for themselves. It's good to see Cornerstone embracing this opportunity to put people at the center of their own skills development. It will be interesting to see to what extent its customers decide to follow its lead.

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