In an interview with Manage HR Canada, Trish Nixon, senior director of learning and development strategy at Equitable Bank, shares her thoughts on leadership development and skills management and how leaders today can leverage emerging technology to gain a competitive edge.

Could you brief us on your career journey and your current roles and responsibilities?

I have a comprehensive background in HR with a CHRP certification and a master's degree in public administration. I’m alsoa certified leadership coach and change management practitioner, drawing insights from various disciplines like public policy, HR, and leadership development. Throughout my 15-year career, I have held diverse roles within HR, including as management consultant and the head of talent acquisition and organizational development teams across organizations.

I recently transitioned to Equitable Bank, a fintech firm, as the leader of the learning and development (L&D) functions. In this capacity, I provide strategic oversight and execute enterprise-wide learning and development programs. My responsibilities encompass talent management, which involves ensuring individuals' growth aligns with their current roles and future aspirations.

How have you seen the industry evolve over the years?

In the realm of leadership development, while tactics may not have shifted drastically, there have been notable advancements in our understanding of the most effective leadership traits and the use of advanced tools like people analytics. The core leadership practices essential for frontline managers, such as conducting one-on-one conversations and weekly meetings to convey important company information has remained paramount in driving team success.

However, the fundamental skills that contribute to high-performance leadership, such as empathy, active listening, and a growth mindset, have remained steadfast over time. What has truly changed is the emergence of enabling technologies that enhance workforce management, skill assessment, and identification of individual and organizational gaps.

What technology related trends have you noticed in the industry?

We have been exploring innovative solutions like tilr, a skills management platform, which enables us to capture and leverage the existing skills within our workforce while identifying future development aspirations. These tools prove invaluable in creating targeted L&D plans that address specific skill gaps.

" For individuals considering a career in HR, whether at the early stages or seeking to redirect their professional trajectory, it is crucial to place emphasis on understanding how technology can empower organizations "

As AI and robotics become more prevalent, upskilling the workforce becomes even more critical to leverage the full potential of these technologies. Moreover, the advancements in HRIS systems and process automation have allowed organizations to reduce low-value work, enabling HR teams to focus on strategic initiatives and leverage the insights captured within these systems.

How can AI transform the industry over time?

AI possesses remarkable capabilities that hold great potential for transforming the role of knowledge workers in the workplace. From an L&D perspective, AI generates knowledge and content to bridge development gaps and expedites the process. This enables companies to fill the skill and knowledge gaps at an accelerated rate compared to previous methods.

From a learning perspective, there are numerous use cases that we are only beginning to explore. For instance, the emergence of ChatGPT and its latest 4.0 version has facilitated the creation of curriculum and the development of visuals for job aids within seconds. These recent developments underscore the continuous evolution of AI, and we can anticipate further advancements in the near future.

The influence of AI extends beyond content generation. It prompts organizations to consider its strategic incorporation into the daily work routines to deliver operational efficiencies. When leveraged as a strategic enabler, companies that effectively integrate AI will ultimately emerge as winners.

What advice do you have for your peers in the industry?

Firstly, it is essential to prioritize the upskilling of frontline managers as many are promoted from technical or non-managerial roles to positions where they are responsible for managing people. Addressing this capability gap becomes a strategic imperative for ensuring a positive employee experience, as frontline managers directly impact employees.

Secondly, it is vital to understand the specific skills required for success within one's own company and industry, and how AI can impact these skills. By identifying and emphasizing the development of skills that are less susceptible to AI disruption, organizations can harness AI as an enabling tool rather than viewing it as a threat.

Lastly, there is a need to examine existing work processes and cultivate an awareness of the positive impact that AI can have in a knowledge-based economy. By prioritizing the upskilling of frontline managers, aligning skill development with AI's impact, and embracing transformative technologies, L&D leaders can foster a resilient and future-ready workforce capable of thriving in the evolving business landscape.