Business challenge

Demand for Goodwill’s services is growing—in 2016, it helped more than 23,000 people find work. As securing external funding becomes more complex, how could it ensure its people had the right skills?


With IBM® Watson® Talent Frameworks, Goodwill can easily and clearly define job profiles, hire and promote top performers, and provide more effective training, development and succession planning.



skills gaps by up to 30% year on year, supporting better customer service


of management positions filled internally, helping retain and develop top talent


a culture of learning that boosts staff satisfaction and confidence

Business challenge story

Handling growing complexity

Goodwill of North Georgia’s mission is simple: to put people to work. To help people overcome their obstacles to finding work, the organization provides a wide range of career services—from free resume writing classes and access to computers, to intensive skills training programs in areas such as electronics, welding and forklift operation, as well as rich digital learning resources. Around 55,000 people use the organization’s services each year, including dislocated workers, veterans, people with disabilities, and returning citizens.

Thea Parlagreco, Training Manager at Goodwill, takes up the story: “Our focus is on helping our job seekers find employment or better employment, and by the end of our current five-year plan we aim to have helped 100,000 people find work.

“We depend on funding from a range of sources to support our career development programs and services. More than 50 percent of our dollars come from our biggest funder, the Goodwill stores, where we sell donated goods. The remaining funding comes from federal and state sources, as well as charitable foundations.”

Jonathan Wilson, Director of Training and Supports at Goodwill, elaborates: “In the past, we relied mainly on vocational rehabilitation funding from the government to support our programs, but in recent years that funding has been reduced. To continue to help thousands of people into work each year, we needed to engage with a wider variety of funders.

“In just three years, our stakeholder base grew from five to more than 20 funders, each with their own unique requirements around employment quotas, outcomes and reporting, which our employees must carefully manage. At the same time, our people must maintain relationships with hundreds of employers from across the state; we find work placements in as many as 5,500 local businesses each year. As a result, the complexity of our business has increased substantially.”

As its business grows in complexity, finding people with the right skills is more important than ever for Goodwill.

“It used to take around one to three months to onboard and train a new case manager—but the complexity of our business and emphasis on quality of services to our stakeholders requires much more training, which can take up to six months,” notes Parlagreco.

“To develop our talent acquisition, training and professional development processes, we decided to create a core competency framework. The aim was to better answer questions such as: ‘Where are our strengths and skills gaps across the business?’, ‘What is the connection between competencies and outcomes?’, and ‘Where can we allocate our training budgets for the best impact on outcomes?’”

Thanks to our IBM solution, we’re shaping a culture of learning—empowering our people to help more Georgians into the world of work.

Jonathan Wilson, Director of Training and Supports, Goodwill

Transformation story

Taking a new approach to talent management

To achieve the goal, Goodwill selected IBM Watson Talent Frameworks—a library of industry-specific, skill-based job profiles that define key responsibilities, core competencies and technical skills, as well as interview questions, coaching tips, and training suggestions.

“IBM Watson Talent Frameworks stood out to us above solutions from other vendors,” says Wilson. “IBM draws on decades of data, and continually updates its job profiles as working environments change. Better still, IBM was willing to work with us in the way we wanted and offered us the ability to customize job profiles in the solution to meet our unique needs.”

Goodwill utilizes skills profiles in the IBM solution to define what success looks like for each of its 38 job roles.

Parlagreco notes: “IBM hosted a workshop with us, which enabled us to determine the optimal way to integrate the new solution into our talent management processes. IBM cut through the complexity of the project with great consulting and project development delivery—helping us to keep our deployment on track. To support our transformation, we created a communications plan to empower everyone in the organization to participate in the process.”

Using IBM Watson Talent Frameworks, Goodwill can identify skills gaps faster and attract and develop top performers. When a new employee joins, the organization can use prescriptive learning suggestions to shorten their path to productivity.

“We collaborate with more stakeholders than ever, and it’s vital that all our people cultivate the skills they need to deliver successful outcomes for our customers,” says Wilson. “Today, everyone speaks the same language when it comes to skills, and our people know exactly what their responsibilities are—helping new hires to start making more confident decisions, faster.”

Results story

Reaping the benefits

With deeper insight into skills across the organization, Goodwill is building the strong talent bench it needs to connect more than 20,000 people across Georgia with employment opportunities every year.

“We can now plan each quarter’s training strategically to ensure that we have the right skills in every position across the organization,” says Wilson. “In fact, we have shrunk all the skills gaps we have identified since deploying the IBM solution—some by as much as 30 percent.”

He continues: “The feedback we are receiving from our employees is showing us that we’re moving in the right direction. In our latest employee survey, 95 percent of respondents indicated that the training they had received was directly relevant to their position—a 10 percent increase from the year before.”

As Goodwill drives towards its employment goals, IBM Watson Talent Frameworks is helping the company to create job opportunities in new industries.

“We are currently in growth mode, and actively expanding our career programs into spaces such as healthcare,” explains Parlagreco. “To ensure those new initiatives are a success, we need coordinators with the right skills to manage them. We always want to promote from within the organization. When employees can access competencies of positions of promotions they are better prepared to enter their new role.

“Since we deployed IBM Watson Talent Frameworks, 19 management opportunities have come up—and we were able to fill them all with internal talent. As well as helping us to retain and develop our top talent, recruiting internally helps contain our human resources expense—contributing to a significant reduction in our operational costs.”

She adds: “Effective talent management isn’t just about helping people to get promotions in the business—it’s also about empowering people nearing retiring age to transition out in a way that is important to them. For example, one of our regional managers recently decided to transition to a coordinator position with no direct reports as part of her plan toward retirement.

“Our employees are so motivated by helping others they sometimes forget to take time for themselves. As a result, we now have professional development conversations with all staff every quarter, aimed at helping them take a timeout to focus on their careers and development needs.”

Wilson concludes: “As our work becomes increasingly complex and competitive, it’s vital we have the skills to rise to the challenge. Thanks to our IBM solution, we’re shaping a culture of learning—empowering our people to help more Georgians into the world of work.”


Goodwill of North Georgia

Founded in 1925, Goodwill of North Georgia is an independent, non-profit organization that provides job training and employment services. With the agency’s support, individuals overcome employment hurdles caused by physical, emotional and developmental disabilities, limited job skills, poverty and other challenges. The organization sells donated items in stores across North Georgia to help fund the mission, and employs 2,700 people. It is one of 168 Goodwill members in the United States and Canada.

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