Desmond Jackson never expected to be a diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging business partner at Workiva.
When he joined the company in 2019, he was part of the customer success team. Jackson was then promoted to team manager of managed service before stepping into his current position in the HR department.
What inspired this circuitous career path? Aside from sheer curiosity and determination, Jackson credits the support he received from leaders.
“My managers and mentors always encouraged me to challenge myself, believe in my abilities and take on more responsibility over time,” Jackson said.
His experience reflects the company’s thoughtful approach to growth. According to Senior Learning and Development Manager Yvette Assibey-Aboagye, this intentionality isn’t new to Workiva, yet the vision surrounding it has transformed over the past year.
Workiva’s L&D leaders are moving from a one-size-fits-all growth strategy to one that is more closely tailored to the varying needs of the company’s diverse employee base. Assibey-Aboagye believes this will put employees in a better position to thrive.
“Ultimately, what we’re trying to do is ensure that from the moment individuals are hired, they have the tools they need to be successful at our organization,” Assibey-Aboagye said.
For smaller, U.S.-based teams, this shift to a more customized approach may sound relatively simple. At Workiva, which has over 2,500 team members spread across the globe, the process requires a bit more coordination.
According to Assibey-Aboagye, the company’s focus in scaling this new L&D vision will involve a degree of autonomy in every team. “We’re striving to build a learning ecosystem consisting of technology, content, data and more that allows employees to be self-sufficient in their learning journey while providing guidance and support along the way,” she said. “Workiva believes in giving employees the tools and resources needed to do their jobs effectively and be successful in their roles. We want them to be able to easily find on-demand content, earn industry certifications, and enroll in a growing number of professional development workshops and programs. The ecosystem is underpinned by a strong learning culture that supports social learning and encourages employees to share their knowledge and best practices while managing their own growth.”
This ecosystem will serve as a growth compass, guiding employees on their paths to fulfillment. Assibey-Aboagye said this goal is a work in progress, yet the organization is currently focused on setting it into action.
WHAT WORKIVA DOES
Workiva aims to transform the way organizations manage and report data. The company’s cloud-based platform simplifies regulatory, financial and operational reporting, enabling teams to connect directly to data, make custom data sets, automate data management and more.
Beyond Titles and Raises
Career development isn’t just about promotions. For Assibey-Aboagye, growth is as much about gaining new experiences and knowledge as it is about title changes.
That’s why the company’s career philosophy is intended to put employees in charge. By giving team members greater control over their careers, they’ll have more opportunity to make strategic decisions, such as continuing to develop in their current role, growing vertically in their career or transitioning into an entirely different department.
Jackson said this professional autonomy is supported by an emphasis on internal mobility. In fact, one in every three open roles at Workiva is filled by an internal candidate.
One in every three open roles at Workiva is filled internally.
While these career transitions can be facilitated by communication between managers and their direct reports, the company also offers more formal resources to guide team members throughout the process. Workiva’s L&D team recently created an internal employee-development site, where employees can find career guidance and training related to navigating their careers at Workiva.
Employees are encouraged to regularly discuss their individual development plan with their manager during one-on-one meetings, quarterly check-ins and annual reviews to ensure their manager is aware of their career goals. This open dialogue presents opportunities to identify growth opportunities such as leading a large-scale project or joining a business employee resource group to contribute to the company’s diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging strategy.
Employees can also complete a skill-gap analysis, which provides recommended technical, soft skill or role-based learning content — including software and platform certifications — that are available to support their career aspirations.
The company is also in the process of improving the structure and architecture of jobs at Workiva. This will enable the company to build a career development framework that will give employees visibility into possible career paths that may be available as they grow their career at Workiva.
Flexibility is Key to Continuity
With a global scope, Workiva is focused on maintaining consistency in the development opportunities for its employees. Assibey-Aboagye said this feat will be tricky, yet the team is preparing to face the challenge.
One major hurdle is that of differing team sizes and locations. For instance, the Workiva team based in the Asia-Pacific region is relatively small compared to the U.S. team, and is distributed across many countries throughout the region. Workiva must therefore take a creative and blended learning approach to meeting the varying global learning needs and interests of this audience. To do so, the company offers a variety of virtual workshops and on-demand training, and has even created dedicated live learning weeks throughout the year that allow employees to come together in person and take a series of live learning workshops, similar to a bootcamp.
“This dedicated time allows employees to better plan, focus, prioritize their development and take advantage of the rich employee and manager training offered to help them continue to upskill and grow their careers,” Assibey-Aboagye said.
That’s where adaptability comes into play. Assibey-Aboagye said the team will flex its new development ecosystem to fit each region’s specific needs.
This flexibility will benefit team members, giving them access to opportunities that better suit their environment. And, according to Assibey-Aboagye, it will also serve as a significant learning opportunity for the company as a whole.
“By having the opportunity to work, collaborate and learn with people around the world, we’re bringing in more perspectives and giving them more insights into the challenges that we face as well as the lessons we’ve learned globally,” Assibey-Aboagye said.
A Symbiotic Relationship
Assibey-Aboagye explained the intention behind global collaboration on L&D: it empowers employees to impact the organization as a whole.
“One of the key drivers for our refocus on L&D and the restructuring around that was helping employees understand what it is that we need to be successful as an organization, as leaders and as individual contributors, while making an impact at all levels of the organization,” she said.
Assibey-Aboagye added that the team aims to ensure employees’ development plans align with the company’s objectives and overall strategy. By enabling team members to pursue their interests, expand their skill set in a way that supports wider projects and initiatives, and increase their overall performance capability and success, the organization can achieve better results while obtaining more insightful knowledge and feedback as it continues to grow.
For Assibey-Aboagye, all of these efforts are intended to bolster those who make everything possible. “Our people come first,” she said.