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Johnson & Johnson's Matchmaking Approach to Upskilling Employees

Mastering the Future of Work, How Johnson & Johnson Transformed Skills Development with their AI-backed Talent Marketplace, J&J Learn.

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Eduardo Kist, HR digital learning solutions lead at Johnson & Johnson, had a quest to level up his abilities. Seeking to transition his role, Kist desired a mentor with experience in digital, change management, data and transformation – and found his answer in J&J Learn, Johnson & Johnson’s futuristic, AI-backed talent marketplace.

The revolutionary program connected him with Geralyn Giorgio, a seasoned director of change management and communications, who became his mentor. Through the company’s smart, streamlined approach to skills development, this marketplace took him from seeking advancement to actively mastering new domains, providing a compelling case study for J&J's approach to talent and skills development.

While businesses across the globe grapple with building a robust skills development approach, Johnson & Johnson has found a powerful solution – the “Match with a Mentor” program – creating a reliable model that balances individual employee needs with organizational goals. As Michael Ehret, the head of global talent management at Johnson & Johnson, emphasizes, the real magic lies in the organization's unwavering support. "This is matchmaking," he says, "It’s not more complex than that."

The journey of Johnson & Johnson, the globe's leading healthcare conglomerate, offers a masterclass on establishing a system-driven strategy for skills development.

A significant achievement by J&J was the swift creation of a talent marketplace, tagged J&J Learn. In contrast with the prevailing slow pace of upskilling and reskilling initiatives, as reported by LinkedIn's Workplace Learning Report, Ehret and his team rapidly launched their platform – thanks to a savvy blend of new technology and an MVP (Minimally Viable Product) mindset. They acknowledged the product's imperfections, but with a shared belief that delivering immediate value to employees outweighed the pursuit of flawlessness.

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Following the talent marketplace launch, employees were invited to fill out a 10-minute assessment that captured their values, purpose, and motivators. The system then auto-filled their skills based on job descriptions, performance reviews, and other data, giving employees an opportunity to self-report their skills, skill gaps, and areas for development. This amalgamation of data created an enriching profile of each employee's skill set.

The appetite for the initiative is evident, with the platform expanding by thousands of employees every month as it rolls out to J&J's 150,000-strong workforce. The next phase of J&J's strategy was refreshing and modernizing its job architecture with a keen focus on skills. The organization set its sights on identifying the value and growth drivers of the business, and consequently, the areas with the most considerable skills gap. The massive project involved leveraging an external skills library to standardize definitions and engage in rich dialogue with employees and managers to define the skills and experiences needed for each role. The result? A clear understanding of J&J's most sought-after skills, including data-driven decision making, agile project management, and AI.

Now armed with insights on the skills it needs and the skills its employees possess or seek, J&J pairs these up through personalized learning content. The company offers 126 different learning groups, each designed for a specific sector or function. To facilitate learning, the system generates customized learning for each employee – from bite-sized videos and articles to certifications and instructor-led training.


Beyond AI-generated learning pathways, J&J's talent marketplace prioritizes meaningful human interactions, particularly between managers and their employees. The platform encourages employees to share what they've learned with their managers, foster meaningful career discussions, and even permits managers to access their account.

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By year-end, J&J plans to incorporate open roles into the talent marketplace, aligning skills directly with job opportunities. It's a move that underlines the importance of marrying employee development with organizational requirements.

Navigating the skills gap is a daunting task for many leaders who often believe they lack the necessary budget or HR capabilities to tackle it. However, Ehret's experience and the story of J&J Learn dismantles this notion. “You don’t have to be a J&J or a big company to begin this journey,” he reiterates, underlining that starting small is not only okay but often the best approach.

Despite the success of their program, Ehret admits that no organization, including theirs, is entirely satisfied with where they stand on skills development. Yet, the philosophy they've adopted at J&J – "think big, start small, and move fast" – is one that should resonate with companies of all sizes and sectors.

It’s clear from the J&J story that the future of work doesn’t need to be an abstract concept. By keeping the needs of the individual at its core and framing skills in the context of the wider organization, J&J has developed a forward-thinking solution that feels immediately beneficial. By providing workers with the right tools and resources and facilitating conversations between managers and employees, organizations can move beyond simply surviving in the modern world to truly thriving in it.

By fostering a culture of continuous learning and skills development, J&J serves as a benchmark for the role of large corporations in the age of rapid technological advancement. Their approach to talent management is a compelling study in how to balance the needs of the individual with those of the company – an art of matchmaking, if you will.

The journey at J&J shows us that innovation in talent development is not just about implementing the latest technology or trends. It is about understanding and respecting the needs and aspirations of employees while aligning them with the strategic goals of the organization. It’s a pursuit that starts small but thinks big and moves fast, constantly learning and iterating, and always with an eye on the future. J&J's innovative learning solution, thus, is a testament to the power of combining technology with a human touch.

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