SHRM Spotlight

Carina Cortez on Developing Holistic Talent Ecosystems at Your Organization

Episode Summary

In this third episode of SHRM Spotlight, host Mike Frost is joined by Carina Cortez, Chief People Officer at Cornerstone, to discuss how organizations can develop and retain their future leaders by developing holistic talent ecosystems and the accompanying role of providing flexible, personalized career paths. This episode is sponsored by Cornerstone.

Episode Notes

Season 1 | Igniting Tomorrow’s Leaders

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

In this third episode of SHRM Spotlight, host Mike Frost is joined by Carina Cortez, Chief People Officer at Cornerstone, to discuss how organizations can develop and retain their future leaders by developing holistic talent ecosystems and the accompanying role of providing flexible, personalized career paths.

Episode transcript

This episode is sponsored by Cornerstone.

Episode Transcription

Speaker 1:

This episode is sponsored by Cornerstone. Discover how Cornerstone's talent experience platform unlocks the full potential of your workforce. Their comprehensive suite of learning solutions and growth centric talent tools ensures a seamless and impactful talent experience. From learning to skilling and beyond, Cornerstone empowers organizations to revolutionize talent management. Visit to explore the possibilities.

Mike Frost:

This is SHRM Spotlight, the 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 this series, we've been talking about actionable strategies for developing the next wave of future leaders from inside your organization. And thank you for joining us for this discussion on measuring the impact learning and development initiatives can have. In the next few minutes, we're going to explore best practices for building a healthy talent ecosystem that takes your workforce to the next level of leadership and how to quantify and report that value to your organization. Joining us for this discussion is Carina Cortez, Chief People Officer at Cornerstone. Carina holds more than 20 years of global HR and people operations experience with a deep understanding of the unique needs of today's workforce. Her passion for learning and developing an innovative approach to addressing business needs and strategic challenges has allowed her to consistently produce creative, effective, and sustainable solutions. Carina, welcome to the SHRM Spotlight.

Carina Cortez:

Thank you so much, Mike. I'm really excited to be here and chatting with you today.

Mike Frost:

Such an important topic we're looking at, both in this series and particularly today, this idea of the value of continuous skill development and personalized career paths. I wonder if you can get us started today by just talking a little bit about the need for HR and talent leaders to invest in their unique skillsets and career journeys.

Carina Cortez:

Absolutely, and I think today the name of the game, it's all about personalization and flexibility. Long gone are those days where it's these rigid career paths that only talk about upward mobility or people staying in organizations for their entire career. Those are very few and far between, but you have people in your organization, employees in your organization for a period of time. And so what that tells me and what our research that we've been doing and the data is telling us is employees really want agency over their own careers. And so there's this real pressing need nowadays for organizations to invest in those unique skill sets and career journeys that employees have. And so with that, from a flexibility perspective, it's this flexible career path. Maybe I want to jump from HR into marketing, or from being a solutions consultant into a product marketing or product management path, making sure that we have that flexibility for employees in the organization to be able to do that, to have a very unique career experience.

In addition, we really see that employees want their organizations to invest in that learning and development with a personalized journey. And so can you give the employee really those insights as to where they can go next, and then what are the steps that I need to take to get there? And so really I think it comes down to with the employees in your organization, can you keep them just a little bit longer and keep them engaged while they're with you? And really some interesting data that has come out of our Cornerstone 2023 Talent Mobility Report. I want to share just a few stats with you all about this. And one of them is that 73% of workers today want to know about career opportunities inside their organization. So about three quarters of your workforce want to know what are the other opportunities for me that are available within the organization that I'm at today?

Additionally, for those employees, those workers who don't have visibility into those internal career opportunities, they are 61% more likely to have plans to quit their jobs. And I just want to say that one more time. If they don't have that visibility, they are 61% more likely to have plans to quit their job. So again, that visibility is so critical. And then the last step that I just think was really compelling that I want to leave everyone with here is that more than half, so more than 50% of employees are saying that having the opportunity to just explore other career opportunities internally would make them more likely to stay in their job. So they just want to know what's out there. They may not necessarily make that move, but just again, having all of that visibility is really, really critical. So again, going back to where you started with this, Mike, it's really about that personalization, flexibility, and then also visibility into what's available as well.

Mike Frost:

So how do the investments that employers are making come together to create the kind of system that is going to both develop and retain top performers?

Carina Cortez:

Absolutely. So the term that we use around this is just a talent ecosystem. And so what does that mean? It's really just the holistic approach of managing the talent capabilities within an organization. And so there's this ever evolving process of making sure that there's content available. So how am I going to learn something, providing that right content to the right person and that right moment within the right organization. And then just doing that over and over again because again, this is personalized. You need to do that basically for each employee in the organization. And so with that said, when you're thinking about this talent ecosystem, it's integrating multiple programs, multiple tools and resources, and having that really work together throughout the entirety of the employee lifecycle.

And that employee lifecycle spans from attraction into the company, getting them hired, and then going through that process to the time that they exit. And ideally when they're exiting, can they be a great brand ambassador for you or might you get them back as a boomerang employee because you've created this great experience for them throughout that entire employee life cycle? And really these things have to work together. You can't have just one component piece of this, but looking at that collectively and making sure that they work cohesively together and creating a really, really effective overall talent strategy for the employees in your organization.

Mike Frost:

It sounds like this type of initiative, the ecosystem as you called it, really can have a huge impact in the organization, but how would you go about measuring the impact of these investments and communicating them?

Carina Cortez:

For sure, and I think that's the key, right? These are the questions that HR leaders and HR professionals are getting is, hey, can you make a great business case? And with that, it's really about, can you show me that measurement of return on investment or what are those things that you're going to measure to make sure that this is a great use of company resources, company expenditures? We're really putting a lot of money behind these things to invest in. I would say our most important asset in an organization, which as we all know, is the employees in our organization. And so I think the one side of it, as I've shared, is employees want that comprehensive talent management program to achieve their own full potential.

And so then with that, how are we gauging that effectiveness? And so some ways that I have made sure that I was really showing this with some metrics that are available to us from a people side or an HR side is looking at the employee experience and measuring a few things. Employee retention, and you can cut that in a few different ways as well of are you able to retain rather your highest performing, highest potential individuals, looking at your short-term attrition as well as your overall retention or attrition as well?

Are you able to measure and show something around the motivation employees have through various surveys that you do? And likewise, most organizations are doing some sort of employee engagement survey. Can you measure your employee engagement? Do you have people who are super engaged? Are they only somewhat engaged? Are they disengaged? But being able to show, hey, doing these things is having an impact on employee engagement. And then another one I think is really important as well is that belonging aspect of measuring employee belonging in an organization because then they're going to drive to be more engaged as well. But then again, you have the other side of that of, okay, tell me the cold hard facts. What is this costing us from a financial perspective and are we getting that true ROI? And so there's lots of ways to measure that, and I think there's just so much out there at our fingertips nowadays that you can find on what's that cost to hire someone once someone's left the organization.

So were you able to reduce attrition, keep that higher retention in an organization, that actually leads to reduced costs on filling new roles? So all of those times and resources, the loss of having an opening for a period of time. You can look at your cost associated with having really highly effective and efficient training versus something that's ineffective. So if it's in the flow, you're able to get to it straight away, where meeting the needs of the skills required, that's going to show a lot higher return on investment than something that just a blanket program you're rolling out there, that's not really effective. A third area here is also innovation. This is a big thing nowadays and looking at how you were able to improve innovation across the company with the products that you're offering, and then of course the increased revenue that you're seeing as well.

So I think these are just a lot of the different ways that you can use cold, hard data, cold hard facts to really show the story about the ROI of investing in some of these kind of softer skills and meeting employees needs for where they're at. And really what this does is that it shows the mutually beneficial relationship between the employee and the employer. It really becomes much more clear when you have that positive experience, you have that investment, you're able to tell that story, and you have a strong talent development program that gets prioritized in the organization.

Mike Frost:

And you've talked to me about here the positive impacts and the cost savings, and these are all definitely things that are important to communicate. But taking a look on the flip side, can you talk about some of the areas that organizations often miss their mark when they provide employees with tools and resources they need to grow into future leaders?

Carina Cortez:

For sure. And to go back a little bit to where we started this conversation today, it's being too rigid in terms of what you have out there for that talent development and those employee journeys. And the big thing that we're seeing right now, and I think I can say it's important to me as a human being, as an employee, as an organization, is to have that personalization across every stage of that career journey. And so to be able to offer that flexibility. So with that said, organizations have to be able to ensure that they're measuring the L&D content and taking to account those individualized needs and preferences of the employees within their organization. Really what the craving is of employees is that comprehensive program, that's meeting them where they're at in that development path. And so again, if there's something that's so rigid and it's just like this is the way it is, people are going to be at different places on their own journey.

And so being able to be flexible and personalized to meet the needs of each individual on their own journey is really, really important. And so with that said, it's that one size fits all approach that just doesn't work. And I know even in my own role, when I've talked to my colleagues and friends and peers, we all had a very different journey to get to the roles that we're at today. I happened to be a person who "grew up in HR", and so I knew from the time I graduated from college, I was going to go into HR. And my career path has always been in HR, but I've met several people who are in different phases of their HR career journey. Some came from within the marketing organization, some came and went through different industries. And so really, again, there's not one way to go through a career journey for anyone. So that flexibility is super, super important, and it really gives people confidence in themselves and the organization that they're with when you're able to provide that flexibility and personalization.

Mike Frost:

There's no one way. There's no single answer. That's been a theme of our conversation today and throughout this series, but you have to start somewhere. So for folks in our audience, the HR leaders and future HR leaders who want to do something today, want to take an action today, what do you suggest they do to promote skills development and internal talent mobility within their organization to create that kind of ecosystem you've been talking about today?

Carina Cortez:

Absolutely. I mean, first and foremost, it's important to understand what your employee's needs are. And so having that ability to survey your employees in your organization, getting an understanding of who they are and what's needed for them is super critical. And for the field that I work in and the industry and space that I've worked in throughout my career journey, it's really about adopting technology that provides meaningful and personalized skills development so that you can do this at scale. So thinking about this is that there are learning systems that can help to provide intelligent and automated recommendations that align with an individual's career goals and skill development needs and making sure they're effective. With that automation, it's better easily able to serve up the content, the learning, the career path that someone might need because you have AI, generative AI, et cetera, built in like we do with Cornerstone.

It makes it so much easier to be able to do that at scale versus having to do that manually for each person in your organization. Additionally, this on demand learning or in the moment or in the flow learning is super critical. Having the ability to collaborate with content from other learners, other user generated content is really important. And so again, technology has a big role to play in that and can really put these newly learned skills into action very quickly after they're able to access those types of contents.

There's also insights that managers and HR leaders can then have on, "Hey, how are people doing? What skills are they building? Have they developed themselves?" And then from there, the ability with technology that there's tailored recommendations that can come up for someone as to their own career path, and they're able to then respond to any trends that are occurring. What I like in this too, in terms of the recommendation is most of us are familiar with take your preferred streaming service, Netflix, Hulu, Disney, et cetera. When you've watched something, it says, "Hey, because you like this, you might also like this. It's recommending something else to you." The same is true of some of the technology that's available now to say, "Hey, you've learned this skill or you want to go into this career path. Here's some other things we want to recommend up to you and to help with your own career development."

Mike Frost:

So as we close, I wonder if you can talk a little bit about how a healthy talent ecosystem really plays a big part in taking a workforce to the next level of leadership.

Carina Cortez:

Absolutely. I really just think that if you have a healthy talent ecosystem, and what I mean by that, again, is looking at every aspect of that employee life cycle, the employee journey, what are all the different tools and resources and technology you have to help someone, an employee in your organization while they're there with you, you're really going to have strong employee satisfaction. You're going to improve engagement, you're going to improve retention. You're going to have less costs as it relates to having to fill positions because someone's left the organization, et cetera. But also, I think for us as HR practitioners and as organization, you are going to have some really clear insights into the skills that you have in your organization.

What are the growth trajectories of individuals within your team? You're going to have a strong culture that really values growth and experience and long-term success of your people. And so ultimately, I think the key takeaway here is that investing in your people within an organization, connecting them to different opportunities and development for their own personal growth. So having that right content, right person, right people, right time is really increasing efficiency and offers value to both the organization, the employer, and the employee. Because you're supporting people's career aspirations, you're also able to better meet your organization's changing demands that you have from a labor perspective as well.

Mike Frost:

So many interesting ideas, so many ways that HR can play a leading role in what you've talked about today. Corina Cortez, thank you for joining us here in the SHRM Spotlight.

Carina Cortez:

Thanks so much, Mike. Really enjoyed our time together today.

Mike Frost:

Thanks for listening today. This installment wraps up the first season of the SHRM Spotlight Series. If you've missed other episodes in this series, we encourage you to take a listen wherever you get your podcasts. You can get show notes to all the episodes at our website, As we close, we want to thank Cornerstone for partnering with us on this series. We want to thank you for tuning in, and we encourage you to stay subscribed and keep an eye out in HR Week and HR Daily for news about our next season. Thanks again for listening in. We'll see you next time in the SHRM Spotlight.