Hamoon Ekhtiari is the founder and CEO of FutureFit AI, a career navigation platform empowering workers with a “GPS for your Career.”
There’s inherent uncertainty around the idea of navigating a career. It’s no longer a predetermined, prebaked, fully visible, fully stable path that workers take. Career journeys are more meandering than they’ve ever been. That means Americans—no matter what type of worker, whether they are mid-career professionals or young people just entering the workforce—are increasingly in need of support and guidance on how to get from point A to point B in their career.
Beyond that, workers are also dealing with a system that increasingly has more providers and more provisions. It can be difficult for workers navigating the workforce to identify what supports and services are the right fit to help them achieve their career goals —there’s always going to be new training programs and upskilling opportunities popping up, adding to the complexity of picking between a constantly expanding set of options.
In today’s turbulent job market, nearly every worker suffers from a lack of career guidance. When the future for workers is so uncertain as a result of dual displacement from technology-driven trends like automation and shifts in work environments as a result of COVID-19, we desperately need to equip workers with the tools they need to successfully navigate their career journey.
Personalization for the individual is key to workforce development
It starts with understanding where workers are coming from, acknowledging that different individuals have different support needs,and providing resources to help them overcome the barriers they might face.
Most often, workers are handed a one-size-fits-all learning catalog that lays out a generic slate of recommended courses to take, failing to take into account who the worker is, where they are coming from, or what competencies they’re starting with. Employers and educators need a much better understanding of a workers’ foundational and technical skills, their work styles and values, and their career preferences.
But, to achieve equitable outcomes in the workforce, it’s imperative to also solve for the barriers different population groups currently deal with in accessing quality learning and quality jobs.
There might be fundamental barriers to even entertain a job or a workforce training opportunity: transportation, digital literacy, and language proficiency are just a few examples of tremendous barriers and social determinants of work that many employers and educators don’t take into consideration. It’s about building this holistic view of the most important factors driving a worker’s decision-making. What historical barriers might hold someone back from succeeding in their career, and how can we help to clear them?
It might sound self-evident, but personalization for the worker is ultimately about understanding the person. From there, educators, workforce development organizations, and employers can make more tailored recommendations on career pathways that make sense for the individual. And that means giving people actionable next steps and just-in-time opportunities that will help them accelerate their transition into their target career. Think of it like a personalized roadmap, not just a disparate world of job postings, resources, and training programs disconnected from each other. It’s what we think of at FutureFit AI as a “GPS for your Career” that can guide workers towards what they need to do next to achieve their goals, whether they are looking to find a new job, pursue a different career path, or learn new skills.
Employers need to support workers growth better
Employers need better and smarter ways to manage and nurture their employees’ growth at each stage of the employee life cycle: from talent acquisition, to internal redeployment, to outplacement.
They need a comprehensive solution that can help them do just that. Employers have often had learning management systems, they’ve had applicant tracking systems, but they haven’t really had career experience management systems where the core focus is centered on helping the worker—or candidate—see their path, understand the skills they need, and connect to the supports and opportunities that will help them be successful.
Right now, the picture looks like fragmented pieces of a puzzle, with some solutions addressing small segments of the overall career transition journey. This model absolutely needs to shift away from being provider-centric to being worker-centric:this looks like a more holistic one-stop shop that both helps workers navigate each step of their journey with personalized guidance, while also helping the organization manage and track their progress over time.
We need better data to empower and help workers
Imagine if you got into an Uber, and the moment you’ve sat in your seat, that was considered a successful trip. Most often when it comes to skilling and workforce development, that is how we’re measuring success. How many people have registered for a course? This measures people in seats, not successful arrival at a destination.
We need a lot more real-time, outcome-focused data in the workforce development space: this does not mean how many people have signed up for a course, but how many people got to a new job, and what kind of course helped them get there.
This outcomes-driven job data also needs to be focused on equity. The public and private sector need to break down which segments of the population went through specific training programs, and look to the kind of resources and wraparound supports best helped them achieve positive career outcomes. Way too often, we look to train for the sake of training, and that can no longer be the case. We need to connect people to work—to good work and to better work.
Moreover, we need to systematically track these outcomes independent of any single education institution or learning provider. I’ll use the travel analogy again: imagine being able to say the best way to get from San Francisco to Dubai is by taking a Delta flight to London and then an Etihad flight to Dubai. That is not about what does Etihad think is the best journey, but what is the optimal path for the person to go from San Francisco at the best cost in the fastest time with the best support. The data we need to be collecting is about time cost and quality-of-job transitions and career transitions.
Funders, philanthropists, corporations, government—all of these organizations are part of a system that must work together—need to have better data and double down on systematic measurement of outcomes data, and ensure that it’s equity-focused. That way we can say this segment of the population actually most benefited from this kind of targeted support to achieve those outcomes—and better deploy programs and resources as necessary.
If we have the right data and systems, we can in turn better guide and support workers.