If the pandemic made one thing clear, it is that circumstances can change rapidly. As a result of the past few years of turmoil, unpredictability and shortages of both supplies and skilled workers, companies are shifting to leaner and more dynamic staffing and working models.

In fact, a 2021 McKinsey report on dynamic talent allocation included research demonstrating that organizations using that approach are more than twice as likely to demonstrate strong performance and “deliver better results per dollar spent,” than traditionally run companies thanks to their ability to pivot as the market and other factors demand.

While not every company will utilize the dynamic talent allocation approach, the way work is getting done in business is shifting. With this shifting approach to work, there must be a simultaneous shift to support it in both talent management and people development.

The Future of Work

Training in the traditional model is based on what the people in a given role need to know to work more effectively in that role. Contrarily, the dynamic talent allocation model — also known as “work-to-flow” — collects workers into pools by skill set, then assigns them to projects based on project priority and the skills needed.

This approach requires a fundamental level of knowledge and ability shared by all pool members. It also highlights organizational skill gaps, creating a clear picture of the training required to close those gaps. In addition, many employees in organizations shifting to a work-to-flow model require specific skill set training to perform at the company’s expected level. Beyond skill training, talent will also need soft skills training, such as communication, listening and design thinking, as they shift from different teams and projects as priorities require.

Project-based work models, like dynamic talent allocation, require a stronger focus on project management, leadership and talent development and management skills for those outside the talent pools, including people leading project teams, allocating work and making decisions.

Bootcamps are ideal for helping companies switch rapidly from the traditional staffing models to more dynamic, project-based staffing approaches without shutting everything down while the workforce reskills.

Bootcamps: More than Developer Training

As intensive opportunities to learn and apply a specific and highly focused skill set, bootcamps are ideal for training a variety of skills quickly. Internal bootcamps can adapt the traditional structure to meet the organization’s needs more specifically.

Though the traditional model has been to focus all of an employee’s time on developing needed new skills, a bootcamp can be designed to take place for half days or a few days each week. This tailored approach provides learners with the opportunity to practice their new skills in their current positions. For example, employees in a leadership or communication-focused bootcamp can start applying new skills on the job from day one.

Other traditional bootcamp aspects can be flexed to support training needs. Consider a leadership bootcamp for assistant store managers for a regional restaurant chain. The participants are high-performing, busy people. Instead of taking them offline for six weeks or limiting their development options to a weekend, the training could involve:

    • A blend of virtual workshops with strategically timed face-to-face trainings spread out over a few months.
    • A mix of individual and cohort-based work.
    • Both synchronous and asynchronous learning with structured assignments for reflection.

This structure isn’t as intense and immersive as traditional bootcamps, but it has the possibility of creating immediate change in the organization; learners could begin applying new leadership strategies with their own employees right away, while still achieving face-time with their cohort and company leadership and receiving opportunities to make discoveries and learn from their peers, all while fitting the learning into their full schedules.

The primary focus of bootcamp design should address specific training needs, recognizing bootcamps can tackle an array of topics.

Internal Bootcamps and the Tech Talent Shortage

However, there is still a place for the traditional tech bootcamp: inside the organization. Companies continue to feel the shortage of skilled tech talent. Employers are already using internal technical bootcamps to create the developers they need by reskilling current valued employees and training career-shifting new hires. The advantage of running a developer bootcamp as part of employee onboarding is that an organization can train for the specific skill sets it needs.

Internal bootcamps created to teach foundational skills to new developers also provide benefits to the employer. They play a valuable role in helping businesses shift to new ways of serving customers, while responding to the transformations and uncertainties of our changing world. Organizational benefits include:

    • Advancing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) goals, since developers can come from a more diverse group of candidates.
    • Investing in employee growth and success makes retention more likely.

Bootcamp Best Practices

A quality internal bootcamp requires a serious investment of time and money. Not only will participants be away from their jobs for a period of time, but the organization will have invested in creating and delivering the training and follow-up opportunities. Applying these best practices can make the most of that investment.

Get Leadership Onboard

Leadership buy-in is essential for an effective bootcamp. In the strongest internal bootcamps, organization leaders are actively engaged in the bootcamp development and delivery. Involved, committed leaders provide important input for aligning bootcamp and organizational goals; they also send a strong message to participants and other employees that their development matters.

Link Bootcamp Goals to Business KPIs and Change Management

Effective bootcamps move the needle for the business. Measuring key performance indicators (KPIs) helps leaders identify the bootcamp aspects that work, along with those that need adjustment. Also, if the bootcamp is part of a bigger change within the organization, change management and bootcamp goals should align.

Apply Instructional Design Best Practices

Sadly, most corporate training is based on presentations delivered “at” learners. A bootcamp that works is highly interactive, providing participants with information and opportunities to apply practice, and even discover new skills. Make sure at least one of the people involved in creating the bootcamp is an instructional designer who understands how adults learn.

Create a Pilot, Gather Feedback, Iterate

Before launching a bootcamp to the greater organization, create a pilot program for top performers. Use their experiences and feedback to improve the bootcamp for the next round. Then, continue to track the related KPIs and get feedback from newer participants. Keep improving the program for the next set of learners.

Use Mentors

Mentorship can enrich a bootcamp in multiple ways. Mentors provide support for learners during and beyond the formal bootcamp, giving helpful advice and information as learners need it. Bringing bootcamp graduates back as mentors provides current participants with examples of what is possible and creates relationships across the organization.

Plan What Comes Before and After

A bootcamp that achieves results includes pre-work to set learners up for success before the program begins and has effective follow-up. First, establish the baseline knowledge all learners need prior to beginning the training; then give them the tools to achieve that baseline. Follow the bootcamp with a program that provides learners with four to six weeks of structured opportunities to apply any learning they are not already doing in their jobs.

Think About Future Employees

A bootcamp ensures current employees have the foundational knowledge and skills for success in their roles. If the bootcamp is a one-time event or series of events designed to support a shift in how the organization works, make sure there is a plan in place to provide new hires with the training they need to develop that foundational knowledge.

Internal bootcamps can provide a highly effective means of rapid change and rapid upskilling within an organization. When crafted in alignment with company goals with a focus on giving learners the information and support they need, bootcamps can help organizations reshape themselves as stronger competitors for both customers and talent. This is critical in our rapidly changing world.