Building a future-ready workforce with data and AI

How Johnson & Johnson Technology is transforming its talent strategy

By | 4 minute read | October 1, 2021

When business leaders think about digital transformation, what comes to mind is improving customer experience, boosting the business’ agility or increasing access to data-driven insights. In the digital age, it is of course essential to innovate in ways that will empower your organization to deliver exceptional experiences to customers. But it’s equally important to reinvent the experiences you deliver to your employees. Reinventing your talent strategies will enable you to attract, develop and retain your most valuable resource: the people whose creativity and adaptability will sustain your business’ growth in the future.

At the Think 2021 conference, Jim Swanson, Chief Information Officer at Johnson & Johnson, described how the healthcare and pharmaceutical leader is doing exactly that. Jim’s team at Johnson & Johnson Technology is leveraging AI-based skills inference to create a future-ready workforce.

Cultivating a future-fit workforce

The healthcare and pharmaceutical industries are subject to ongoing disruption. Yet Johnson & Johnson, has continued to play a pioneering role in this field for over a century. One of the ways the company has achieved this is by prioritizing the needs and well-being of patients, healthcare providers and its employees. Investing in improving the quality of the employee experience is a central tenet of its strategy.

“Only 41% of companies say they currently have access to the talent and skills they need in order to achieve their business objectives,” explains Amy Wright, Managing Partner and Talent Transformation Leader at IBM, drawing upon research conducted by the IBM Institute for Business Value. “To overcome this gap, there’s a strong need to cultivate a future-fit workforce.”

Johnson & Johnson is supporting its employees by educating them on how to best leverage advanced and emerging technologies. “One of the things that COVID has taught us is the critical importance of being adaptable,” explains Jim. “If we don’t have the right talent, we won’t be in a position to address the uncertainties of the future at scale.”

Technology’s role: Creating an ‘And’ strategy

Breaking new ground through ongoing technological innovation is vital for any healthcare company looking to win in today’s competitive marketplace. At Johnson & Johnson, it’s also central to the company’s mission. Johnson & Johnson’s Credo provides the organization with a moral compass as well as a recipe for business success.

“We are always looking to align our activities to our mission, which is transforming the trajectory of human health,” says Jim. “When we think about technology, we don’t use the word ‘or.’ It’s not ethics or technology, science or technology. It’s always an ‘and.’ Whether we are creating a vaccine, lifesaving medications like the CAR-T cancer treatment or innovations like digital surgery, technology plays a part in it. When we’re educating our employees, we’re growing the technical competency of the company as a whole. This is how we deliver the outcomes that provide extraordinary value for the patients that we serve.”

Listen to Jim Swanson describe how the “and” strategy is essential to future agility

Here at J&J, science is at the core of our mission,” says Jim. “Also at the core of our mission is improving healthcare, ensuring that we’re true to our ethics and that we’re making people’s lives better while reaching underserved communities around the world. None of these things can be achieved without technology. Maximizing the value of technology plays a critical role in everything we do.”

Through Johnson & Johnson’s digital transformation, the IT organization has remained focused on the three core facets of its technology strategy: accelerating business outcomes, modernizing its technology ecosystem and preparing talent for the future. “The framework of that strategy always holds, even as the content evolves over time,” Jim explains.

Leveraging data and AI in J&J’s workforce transformation journey

In today’s world, the half-life of learned skills is constantly decreasing. Once estimated at 10 to 15 years, it’s now down to as little as 5 years and significantly less for technical professionals, according to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report. This means dynamic and continuous technology learning is a must-have for business success. “We needed to be able to look at our employees’ skills more methodically,” explains Jim.

“In partnership with IBM, we created an AI-driven skills inference model for the Technology function that married de-identified external data with skills data from our internal data sets. We were able to take the data on employee skills that resides in tools that my IT organization uses and feed it to the model. The AI was then able to determine each individual’s maturity level in each of the skills that we wanted to highlight,” says Jim.

Johnson & Johnson then validated the model’s findings against the employee’s self-assessment as well as a manager’s assessment. With these assessments, they had three ways to look at each employee’s data, which gave them a comprehensive view of individual strengths and weaknesses. This enables them to set an initial baseline for each individual within the company’s future-ready skill set. From that baseline, they build learning plans and experiences.

IBM relies on a similar technology as well. “We use skills inference too,” says Amy. “One of the things it’s done is that it’s greatly increased the speed with which we’re able to assess people’s skills. This lets us see quickly where we are – and aren’t – ready for the future.”

Partnering with IBM has enabled Johnson & Johnson’s Technology team to build an intelligent skills inference engine that’s improving skill-building and knowledge transfer across the entire company. It’s just one more way that today’s leading innovators are joining forces to shape the future of work.