SHRM Spotlight

Brianna Foulds on Nurturing Future Leaders Via Continuous Skills Development

Episode Summary

In this first episode of SHRM Spotlight, host Mike Frost is joined by Brianna Foulds, Vice President of Talent at Cornerstone, to discuss leadership development, along with strategies for building employees’ leadership competencies throughout the span of their careers. This episode is sponsored by Cornerstone.

Episode Notes

SHRM Spotlight is a new podcast from SHRM focusing on the people and ideas shaping the HR profession.

Season 1 | Igniting Tomorrow’s Leaders

During Igniting Tomorrow’s Leaders’  next three (3) episodes, you’ll hear about actionable strategies for developing the next wave of future leaders from inside your organization.

In this first episode of SHRM Spotlight, host Mike Frost is joined by Brianna Foulds, Vice President of Talent at Cornerstone, to discuss leadership development, along with strategies for building employees’ leadership competencies throughout the span of their careers.

Episode transcript

This episode is sponsored by Cornerstone.

Episode Transcription

Speaker 1:                    This episode is sponsored by Cornerstone. Open the door for flexible career paths, not just traditional career ladders. Discover how Cornerstone's comprehensive suite of learning and talent experience solutions can be the key to driving internal mobility and workforce agility. Connect your employees to the skills and growth opportunities they crave. Visit to learn more.

Mike Frost:                   This is SHRM Spotlight, a new podcast series from SHRM, looking at people and ideas shaping the HR profession. I'm your host, Mike Frost, and this is season one, Igniting Tomorrow's Leaders. In the next three episodes, we'll provide you with actionable strategies for developing the next wave of future leaders from inside your organization. And thank you for joining us for this discussion on how to nurture rising leaders through continuous skills development. Today we're going to talk about the strategies and tools needed to continuously build leadership skills throughout an employee's career.

                                    And joining us for this discussion is Brianna Foulds, Vice President of Talent for Cornerstone. With over 15 years of HR experience across various industries, Brianna Foulds brings valuable insights to today's discussion. Her primary focus is on empowering Corner stars to unlock their potential and achieve extraordinary results both in their professional work and personal lives. Brianna started at Cornerstone leading global talent acquisition. She's been part of the company's evolution and scale now overseeing talent acquisition, talent management, and diversity and equity. Brianna, welcome to the SHRM Spotlight.

Brianna Foulds:             Hi Mike. Thank you for having me today. And thank you to everyone who is joining us.

Mike Frost:                   And to get things started, I have a couple of really important questions for you right off the bat. First, is it Brie or Brianna? Which do you prefer to be called?

Brianna Foulds:             Ah, I go by Brianna or Brie. My grandmother gave me the nickname Brie, and I really enjoy it as it brings a closeness to a conversation or to knowing someone. So please feel free to call me Brie.

Mike Frost:                   All right, I will. And can you tell us what is a Corner star?

Brianna Foulds:             A Corner star? A Corner star is someone who's really important to us, and that is our employees. Our employees are all Corner stars, and so I'm really excited to talk about them and how we've achieved great, extraordinary things with our Corner stars.

Mike Frost:                   And so let's get our conversation started with this concept of leadership development and what you've seen at various organizations. What have you seen in terms of the approach to leadership development within organizations as a whole? How have they evolved or transformed throughout your professional time?

Brianna Foulds:             Yeah, this is an interesting question, and the first thing I thought of when I was hearing this is, we've been doing it wrong. We've been developing the same leaders over and over again and we're doing, what is the definition of doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? It's being crazy a little bit, right? And so in-person learning is not the only way to educate. Our nomination process for development opportunities or aren't resulting in what we are seeking, and we've evolved. And so where we may have had limited opportunities for women and people of color, we now seek to develop individuals based on skills, a growth mindset, capability and potential, and opening up opportunities and embracing learning equity. Our emphasis on diversity creates an inclusive leadership pipeline. It fosters innovation, better decision-making and connectedness, which is incredibly important. So if you're looking to diversify your leadership team, stop having leaders nominate the people that they select based on who they like, but be more thoughtful in how you partner with them In determining nominations. It's all about skills and potential.

Mike Frost:                   And once you get them in, once you get in those high quality candidates, what can an organization do? What can HR do to introduce skill building at the beginning of an employee's career and have that be there throughout their entire career?

Brianna Foulds:             Yeah, there's a couple of different things I would say about this. And first is visibility. From day one, you want a place for employees and managers and leaders to see their own and their team's skills. Have skill tracking, upskilling targets and skill accomplishments. This enables leaders to focus on development and growth for their team and for employees to identify growth opportunities for themselves, and showcase their hard work and skill building.

                                    The second I would say is supporting growth and development. When discussing skills growth, it's important to address whether employees actually desire to be leaders. I actually always make sure to discuss this with new employees within their first few weeks. What are you looking to do? Where do you want to grow? How do you want to grow? What are your career goals? And then we can track skill development against that. This becomes part of our regular conversations and identifying ways for them to develop over time and in the skills that they need to get into the roles that they want or their areas of interest.

                                    And then third and final I would say is enabling connections. And I think this one is incredibly important and often very much overlooked. So supporting employees' growth requires giving them the necessary time and space to develop the skills, but it's also crucial to connect them with other individuals within the organization who can provide either additional guidance and support, connection to new experiences, or cross collaboration. Organizational support of external learning is important, so thinking of how your organization can support external learning. And experiences are important as well, but don't forget the opportunity to provide experiential learning internally. This will further enhance their development journey and their employee journey. We at Cornerstone have enabled these connections through our gig program and others like our extraordinary cross-functional culture project team, which have been fantastic, as providing these opportunities for people to cross-collaborate and learn from others.

Mike Frost:                   Would you feel comfortable talking a little bit more about the gigs program? That sounds like that might be an interesting thing to share with our audience.

Brianna Foulds:             Yeah. This was developed a few years ago, and we actually did a gig to create the gig program. And it was a wonderful opportunity for us to truly identify what we were looking to target. So we had specific roles within the gig that we needed skill sets for. So we posted each of the different roles for our internal employee base to identify those that had these skills that we needed to create the program. And it's utilizing our technology, understanding the perspective of our employee base, looking to do research and identifying the best way to build this program. And then through this, we as a group of cross-functional and global team members all established a program that we launched to the organization for internal gig work. And so we had several types of gigs that people could apply to and different types of opportunities, and they could develop skills in these gig programs and it could be developing a skill or utilizing a skill.

                                    But throughout this, what it did is it had people working together that had not worked together before. And we had individuals and opportunities that they did not expect to get because of the gig work and the skills that they developed. So for example, we had someone in our finance team who did a gig with our content team, and in the end a little bit later, she had developed the skills and was able to utilize her skills in a new way and ended up moving into a role within our content team. And this is a career path that you would never assume just looking at paper and what the historical transitions of people have been in finance. And this was really creating that career lattice. And that's something that was really exciting for us.

Mike Frost:                   I imagine when you talk about developing leaders, you're looking at some skills and talents that aren't necessarily part of their job description. In your experience when you're thinking about these intangibles, these hidden skills that the best leaders have, how can you go about identifying them and how can you help employees develop them?

Brianna Foulds:             Yeah, we've identified a lot of hidden skills over the past few years and just in being the environment that was an expected for us. How do leaders motivate a remote team? How do they create connections? How do they develop their teams and hold accountability during strenuous times? And those key skills that come to mind too in order to do this are communication, emotional intelligence, prioritization, motivation, motivating individuals and groups when I say motivation. And so where we'll need to really focus is, what are the future skills we need? How will they use and manage AI? How will they lead teams through change? How will they evolve and lead through learning? And these are all things that we can look to identify and develop in our teams and grow.

Mike Frost:                   Thinking about the kind of strategies organizations can employ to ensure that continuous skill development and leadership, what would you advise? What kind of strategies have you seen work really well?

Brianna Foulds:             Great question. Mentoring and coaching programs. This isn't just the typical mentorship or coaching programs I would think of. It can be peer, it can be functional, and it can be leadership mentorships. I myself have benefit from both of these along my development journey and they have been extremely impactful to how I've developed and grown. Training and development, and actually from Cornerstone's global talent mobility study, we found that 73% of workers today want to know about career opportunities within their organization. So what positions are available to them, how do they get there, how do you give them the experiences and the skills to get there? Job rotation, stretch assignments, and my favorite, gigs, are not just learning the skill but utilizing the skill.

                                    Then leadership development planning. What types of skills do you want to develop in your leaders or do you need in your leaders? And start there before they are leading, and when they can develop those early on. And succession planning and talent management, know your bench, look at your marketplace of talent, where can you build and develop in areas where you have gaps? And then the importance of a manager. Managers are often leaned on, but sometimes under-prepared, and this is something we're really looking at, is how do we continue to focus on our managers and our leaders, build trust within that team and grow them and prepare them for opportunities and development, and utilize them in different ways.

Mike Frost:                   So it's a holistic look at the career path and skill development. It's not a fine channel you're going down, it's really part of the entire journey.

Brianna Foulds:             Yeah, it is. It's an entire journey. You think of your journey over time, you learn as you grow and you do new things. And this is just adding to your experiences and what you gain through that journey. I still think of my own journey and how I am on this, and I'm continuing to learn every day, which is really exciting. And then I think of my two children and they're on their skill development journey. One is talking now and that's a new thing, and it's so completely different in how we evolve over time.

Mike Frost:                   And when you talk about this evolution, I mean obviously on a lot of people's mind these days is artificial intelligence and how that's changing the skillset, changing what leadership means and so forth. And in what ways do you think artificial intelligence is going to be leveraged to enhance skill building and leadership development in the workplace in the coming years?

Brianna Foulds:             Yeah. AI is very exciting, and there are going to be lots of use cases for it from developing job descriptions or interview questions to personalized learning, AI recommending tailored training based on individual analysis and data. Adaptive learning, AI adjusting learning materials to individual progress or challenges they might be experiencing. And what it also does is adjust the work that we will be doing and our focus. I would say an example of this is, I was asked recently to give a reference for a friend, and they needed it quickly. And I thought, oh, I don't have time to do this. And I thought, oh, well actually maybe I do have time. And I used ChatGPT. I was able to in the moment, put in what I needed to do, and it changed how I did this reference. Instead of my skills of writing a reference, it changed me to how I directed the system, and then my evaluation and analysis of what it put together that completely changed my role and the skills I utilized in that moment. And so how we see it is, AI is our copilot.

Mike Frost:                   Yeah. I've heard mentioned on a couple of podcasts including one coming out of SHRM, that the notion is that artificial intelligence and ChatGPT are not going to replace HR, but what's going to replace our HR professionals today are the HR professionals who know how to use AI and ChatGPT.

Brianna Foulds:             Exactly. Yep.

Mike Frost:                   Well, I'm amazed how quickly our time here has flown by here. Talked about a lot of interesting things, and I have to ask you, what do you see that organizations are doing right now, the big thing they're doing right now that they should stop doing when it comes to hindering the growth of their future leaders?

Brianna Foulds:             Yeah, I like that question a lot. And what I would say is to stop hoarding, and we need to embrace talent sharing and mobility. It benefits our employees, it benefits the leaders, provide managers a way to do it and help enable it. It's a mindset shift. And so through programs like gigs, you can get there. You can show and illustrate the value to the organization. Again, I'll mention Cornerstone's global talent mobility study. It found talent hoarding was a big issue around the world, and I understand that. Who wants to be blocked from growth? So unlock the potential of your teams and provide opportunities for them.

                                    How do we stop talent hoarding? And I would say look at your processes and policies. Do they penalize mobility? Do we need someone to absolutely be in a role for two years before they can move into another role within the organization, or is there a risk that you could lose them completely from the organization overall, and then you don't have the talent within your organization? So really take a look at your processes and policies. And then celebrate and recognize managers who support mobility, especially when an individual contributor becomes a manager themselves. Do you score yourselves on development conversations and mobility as you're looking at your goals and how you measure success within your organization? And design incentives for managers to develop and encourage talent mobility. This will give your team and your future leaders the space and opportunity to grow and develop.

Mike Frost:                   Brie Foulds from Cornerstone, thank you so much for your time today. Thank you for your insights and I really enjoyed our conversation.

Brianna Foulds:             Thank you, Mike, for having me today. And again, to everyone who joined us, this was wonderful and an exciting conversation. I really enjoyed talking about all of this, so thank you.

Mike Frost:                   Well, Brianna Foulds of Cornerstone, thank you for sharing your insights today. And to our audience, thank you for tuning into this program and we are just getting started with more episodes and seasons arriving soon. To ensure you don't miss any of these insights, we hope you'll follow or subscribe to this series anywhere you get your podcasts, and you can get show notes, future episodes, and eventually past episodes at our website at Thanks for listening in. We'll see you next time in the SHRM Spotlight.