L&D QuestionTime Awards Finalists – Gina Jeneroux

With the rapidly approaching 2020 Learning Awards, we continue this series of the L&D QuestionTime where we hear from this years finalists.

Today we hear from Gina Jeneroux shortlisted in the Learning Leader of The Year category.

In your opinion what is the biggest anxiety within the world of learning and development at the moment?

We often hear about AI eliminating jobs. I believe that’s only part of the story. In the future, there will be countless opportunities, but advances in automation, big data and the Internet of Things will change how we work and redefine the skills required for success.

The World Economic Forum predicts that 75 million existing jobs will be vulnerable to disappear over the next couple of years, while 133 million new jobs will likely grow out of these same technological advances. No matter which articles or videos we look to, the predictions are similar. There is a clear urgency to prepare people now for the future of work, as the shifts anticipated with the 4th Industrial Revolution will impact every person, in every industry, geography and generation.

Building future-focused skills is no longer a “nice-to-have” – it’s a business imperative. As almost every company seeks the same things, it will become harder and harder to find enough skilled talent on the street to fill the demand. We need to move quickly to upskill and reskill the employees within our own companies.

The expectations on Learning & Development teams have never been more acute.

The anxiety I see in L&D and with business leaders often stems from uncertainty around
• which skills will be most critical (both the technical skills that will create the bold future we anticipate, and the “human” and higher cognitive skills that will set people apart from the technology)
• how to invest, fast enough, in building those skills at scale
• how to truly shift the behaviours, mindsets and skills of leaders, to equip them to lead in the new context and inspire their teams in the right way
• how to drive a culture where curiosity matters and learning is a habit
• how to measure progress, and articulate the impact of learning and skill development on business results

To effectively move the dial, we need to start by revitalizing the skills and perspectives within L&D, so our teams can credibly guide and develop others.

Who or what is informing your thinking around L&D?

My thinking is informed by the changing landscape, the strategic and business priorities within my company, and my own personal learning.

• For many years, BMO has been an active member in a number of global networks that focus on talent, advancing technology, and the future of work. These networks give us an opportunity to connect with leading companies from various industries and geographies, discuss the critical trends that are shaping the world, and anticipate what we need to do – starting now – to be ready.

• To be effective, L&D needs to be anchored in what matters to our customers and the short- and long-term needs of the company. My team and I work closely with business leaders to ensure we’re supporting current gaps and priorities, and laying track (with the business) for what will be most important over the next five years.

• I’m a bit of a ‘learning junkie’, and I try to learn at least one new thing every day. This curiosity leads me to consume 150-200 articles, videos, podcasts, courses and other learning activities every month, in my spare time, across a range of topics. This includes the themes you’d expect, like strategy, leadership, learning, design and the future, as well as a diverse range of topics like AI, bots, forensics, archaeology, space and linguistics. Often, it’s the learning I do outside of the lane of L&D that shakes up my thinking the most, helps me look at problems differently, and equips me to work with my team on more innovative strategies and solutions.

What is the most exciting innovation on the horizon for learning?

I’m excited about many things!

Advancing technology will make it easier to create personalization at scale for employees as they learn for their jobs, careers, passions and interests, and build new skills for the future of work. In particular, I’m keen to go deeper in two areas: XR and neuroscience-based adaptive learning.

As XR goes mainstream, we’ll be able to create more immersive experiences and provide just-in-time support in the flow of work. At BMO, we’re experimenting with virtual reality and augmented reality for learning, and they are enabling us to rethink how we engage employees, and help them build skills and develop empathy by – almost literally – putting themselves in others’ shoes. We’re just scratching the surface so far, but as the technology improves and becomes easier to deploy, it will open up very interesting possibilities!

Innovations in artificial intelligence and neuroscience are creating opportunities to use adaptive learning to target the unique needs of each employee as they build skills and confidence – and ensure they “know” the concepts, and receive tailored, spaced reinforcement, rather than memorizing content to pass a test and then forget it. By making core learning more effective and efficient, and combining adaptive learning with opportunities to apply new skills in new ways, it will make it easier to advance performance and free up time to meet the needs of our customers.

Although both of these examples focus on technology, I’m excited that they actually amplify what makes us “human”, by creating personal experiences, and building empathy, resilience and judgment in new ways.

What “game changers” would you like to see and why?

For me, the biggest game changer is adopting skills as a ‘new currency’ for the new world.

Skills will provide a common language to give companies a deeper view of their workforce, and enable predictive analytics to help define where to buy, build and borrow talent.

A skills framework is a critical component of the skills strategy because it
• creates a transparent approach to manage the supply and demand of skills to support business goals
• helps to pinpoint gaps to allow for proactive, personalized development
• enables a ‘rolling inventory’ of the company’s existing, emerging and hot skills
• supports concise, on-demand data about talent

The framework is supported by a skills library that underpins all parts of the HR system – including job requirements, recruiting, learning, performance, careers and succession planning.

The real magic comes from creating a ‘Skills Quotient’ (SQ), by taking the bold view of the specific skills that will be required in the future, and at what level, and then assessing where the company is today against each skill. The current level becomes a baseline that can be tracked against, to show progress over time toward the goal. SQ can be assessed at the individual, group, geography or company level – and also benchmarked externally.

This systematic approach benefits both employees and employers. It gives individuals a clear view of the skills they need for current and future roles, and how to prioritize their learning to fill gaps and compete, and it gives the company a way to look out across the organization and find people with the right combination of skills and dynamically match them to work. A true win-win!

What do you think the world of L&D will look like by 2030?

By 2030, we’ll likely be living in world where there are 1 trillion sensors fueling the Internet of Things, where implanted mobile phones and 3D-printed cars are common, and where more than 10% of global GDP sits on the Blockchain.

Therefore, by 2030, L&D will need to be
• leaner, more innovative and more deeply connected as a trusted partner to both business and technology leaders
• data-driven and technology-fueled
• human-focused
• able to offer a broader array of experiences for employees, gig workers and other stakeholders – in the work, near the work, and away from work

I recently read a wonderful quote from Minouche Shafik, Director of the London School of Economics, who said, “In the past, jobs were about muscles, now they’re about brains, and in the future they’ll be about the heart.”

For me, this perfectly describes the shift we’ll see over the next 10 years.

In the future, systems and apps will be so intuitive that you won’t need to ‘learn’ how to use them. Little time will be spent explicitly building these technical skills, because they’ll happen in the flow of work.

Social and emotional skills (like empathy and resilience) and higher cognitive skills (such as creativity, innovation and problem solving) are not easily replicated by AI, and they will be a key differentiator in business and human performance. These ‘power skills’ will be increasingly recognized and celebrated in the coming decade, and they will be a core focus for L&D teams.

In Learning & Development, we need to start now to adapt and advance ourselves, to lay track for 2030. This means we’ll need to
• deepen the business, digi-tech and data acumen within our function
• be deliberate about cultivating social, emotional and higher cognitive skills throughout our teams
• develop integrated skills frameworks and architectures that underpin every aspect of the employee experience, and link technology, processes, data and performance
• learn how to effectively use technology and personal connections to create more innovative, human experiences
• be comfortable working more nimbly with a range of partners in agile teams, ‘tribes’ and ‘squads’, and in both physical and virtual ways

What advice would you give your 21 year old self?

Learn something about everything, and everything about something.

Don’t wait for the future – shape it.

Be bold. Take risks. Fail, and learn.


Enjoy the ride. And remember to laugh…

About Gina:

Gina Jeneroux is a business-focused professional who is on a mission to change how people learn, and how they prepare for the future – starting now.

Through a career spanning more than 30 years, Gina has developed deep experience in front-line banking, human-centred design, learning and development, and strategies and solutions that make an impact.

As Chief Learning Officer at BMO Financial Group, Gina leads the company’s focus on advancing performance through learning. She is accountable for enterprise learning strategy, design, operations and governance. She leads a diverse team of professionals who support all of the ways in which employees learn: for their job, career, personal interests, and to prepare for the future. Gina also manages BMO’s corporate university – BMO IFL, the Institute for Learning – in Toronto, and learning sites in Chicago and Montreal.

Gina holds an MBA, Financial Services from Dalhousie University, and she is a Fellow of the Institute of Canadian Bankers. She is also a Board Member for the Students Commission of Canada, and she sits on advisory boards for various learning and technology companies and professional networks.

Connect via Linkedin

Follow on Twitter @_jeneroux.

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