HR Tech Interview with Kim Curley, Managing Director, Workforce Readiness Consulting at NTT DATA

Journey into Tech

Hi, Kim. Welcome to the HR Technology Interview Series. Please tell us about your journey in the technology industry. What inspired you to begin at NTT DATA?

Thank you for having me! I arrived at NTT DATA through an acquisition. I was leading people and organization consulting for a firm that was acquired by NTT DATA in 2015. Our firm had been looking for a way to take the great work we did on the business side of the house and marry it up with a terrific firm that had everything our clients needed on the tech side, at scale. I’ve continued to focus my career on the human side of business, enabling leaders and their organizations to do more and thrive through change. And now I have the capabilities and power of NTT DATA  a $30B trusted global innovator of IT and business services – to make sure we can help our clients with all of their stickiest challenges.

How have talent experience benchmarks changed in the post-pandemic era? What do candidates really look out for in an employer before starting their career with them?

I’ve found that just as fashion changes, so do themes in the world of work. Terms like “hustle culture” and “quiet quitting” are just new names for employee trends we’ve been seeing off and on for years. The pandemic brought these ideas to the forefront of conversation when the workforce all at once had to deal with increasingly blurred lines between work and home life. Suddenly, people spent all their time working, because, well, there wasn’t anything else we could do. People who had jobs felt lucky to have them, and many people hustled to find work.

On top of this, there was significantly less human interaction with colleagues, friends, and even families. Burnout has skyrocketed as have challenges with personal wellness and mental health. At the same time, employers, employees, the media, and social media have been talking about mental health and selfcare at levels never seen before. It makes sense, then, that people are shifting their thinking to what really makes them happy and how much of their lives they are really comfortable giving to an employer.

Nowadays, candidates are looking for an employer that offer a more balanced relationship and a connection to purpose. As workers, we’re demanding flexibility in where, when and how we work. We’re using employers’ values – the words on the website and the actions in the communities – to decide if it’s the right place for us. And we’re choosing to work with managers and leaders who are committed to investing in us, in our goals for our futures and in our development and advancement.

Speaking of development, the rapid advancement of technology is also increasing the pressure in this area. With IT professionals needing to overhaul their technical skills every 3 to 5 years, we’re looking for employers who will help us learn the newest tools and technologies and help us thrive through the digital transformations that are all around us. Employers, then,have to step up their game, ensuring that they can create custom and flexible learning and career paths that meet the demands of the modern workforce.

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Could you please highlight the difference between talent mobility and talent development from an organization ’s perspective? How do these influence talent experience goals?

My perspective is that talent mobility is talent development put into action. Talent development is generally focused on developing new or stronger skills within an existing workforce, enabled by training content that’s relevant  to the business  of the company and the needs of the groups within that company.It’s about individuals nd their skills. Talent mobility is the intentional practice of knowing who is developing or has developed certain skills; and (2) that people are  deployed in alignment with their personal and professional preferences and needs throughout the many seasons of their lives.It’s about the connection between business need, skills and capabilities, and individual goals. A company that offers real talent mobility is effectively a more mature organization in terms of the talent experience. Its one thing to upskill an individual in cloud skills or leadership capabilities. It’s a whole other thing to put the person  with those skills in a position to advance by leveraging those skills.

Reskilling is one of the biggest barriers in employee development. What is the major pain points that employers face when dealing with reskilling their employees?

Ah the age old rock and hard place of needing your employees to spend time building new or stronger skills and also needing them to spend that time doing their jobs! Do you take a hit on productivity by pulling workers out of their roles to complete training? Or do you take a hit on productivity when you don’t have the skillsets you need within your workforce? Then there ’s the challenge of securing the training that will actually make a difference for your people and your business. As quickly as business and technology are changing, it’s difficult for good learning content creation and deployment to keep up.

I’m optimistic that this is an area that AI might be able to help us all with! Lastly, I’d say that creating a culture where growth and learning are core elements is also crucial. If your organization does not have a growth mindset, navigating the rocks and the growth mindset, navigating the rocks and the hard places will be even more challenging. 

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What should HR leaders do to train and retain Gen Z and Millennials in their organization?How can talent mobility initiatives improve employee retention?

I’m not entirely sure that what we need to do to retain Gen Z or Millennials in our organizations is much different than what we need to do to retain anyone! We need to pay people fairly and equitably. We need to offer them the flexibility the marketplace now demands. We need to give people the tools and the support they need to thrive. And we need to make sure our managers and leaders really know how to manage and lead.

And beyond there,  there is an increased  demand in the workforce, maybe related to the influx of the more recent generations, for constant development and faster cycles for promotion, job change, etc. Talent mobility strategies are obviously key to meeting those needs of our changing workforce. We have to make more opportunities for development available, we need to curate those opportunities into meaningful learning paths and journeys, and then we need to do something with the outcomes of that development. Because we all know if we don’t, someone else is waiting in the wing to take advantage of the investment we’ve just made. 

Please share your thoughts on how companies can use tech to increase diversity within their organizations and the role reskilling plays in maintaining a more diverse workforce.

I think one of the very best ways we can do this is to take a look at alternative paths into the workforce and the challenges of credentialing. Do all of our programmers at the entry level need college degrees? Or do they simply need tech-specific training to get started? Can we remove that barrier to entry? If we can, what will the results be? I was listening to Ginni Rometty,the first female CEO of IBM,tell the story of a program they implemented, and the results were amazing!

By focusing on getting alternatively credentialed individuals into the workforce, they saw higher retention  rates and longer tenure, increased productivity / business results, higher engagement rates for additional education and training, dramatically changed the diversity of the group.

Reskilling is crucial, too! Expanding the pool of resources with technical skills necessarily expands diversity. Broadening diversity changes the way we solve problems, innovate, and improve society. Even focusing simply on getting more tech in the hands of more people creates new opportunities to address and breakdown stereotypes and bias. For example,  if we get AI and VR skills and capabilities in the hands of traditionally unrepresented groups, we increase the representation of those  populations in the avatars and voices that we put out into the real and virtual worlds.

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Lighter notes:

1.Burn the midnight candle or soak in the sun?

Midnight candle!

2. Coffee, or Tea?

Coca Cola!  Never did learn to drink coffee or tea.

3. Your favorite NTT DATA talent development initiative that you want everyone to know about? 

The increased emphasis we’ve placed on coaching – separate from management and mentorship.

4. First memorable experience in your career as a technology leader? 

For some reason the first thing that came to mind is the first laptop I ever saw or interacted with. It was the size of a small suitcase and weighed as much as a toddler!

5. Most useful app that you currently use: 

The app my husband and I use for our grocery list! How did we ever have any of the right things in the kitchen when we relied on a physical piece of paper stuck to the refrigerator door?

Thank you, Kim! That was fun and we hope to see you back on HR Tech Series soon.

[To share your insights with us, please write to]

Kim Curley is happiest when those around her are wildly successful. Her career-long focus on the human side of business has enabled leaders and their organizations to do more, be ferociously curious, and thrive brilliantly through change. She is a published author and sought-after industry speaker on topics related to people, organizations, and change. 

As the People & Organization Consulting Practice Leader for NTT DATA Services, Kim leads her teams to deliver consulting solutions focused on the people side of business, from organizational change management to workforce transformation. Kim is a founder of Women Inspire NTT DATA, the company’s first employee resource group, whose steering committee she continues to lead. Kim earned a BBA in International Business and an MBA from the University of Georgia, and her MS in Organization Development and graduate certificate in Executive Coaching from Queens University of Charlotte, where she is now an Adjunct Faculty member. She also guest lectures at both the University of Georgia and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. 

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NTT DATA – a part of NTT Group – is a trusted global innovator of IT and business services headquartered in Tokyo. We help clients transform through consulting, industry solutions, business process services, IT modernization and managed services. NTT DATA enables clients, as well as society, to move confidently into the digital future. We are committed to our clients’ long-term success and combine global reach with local client attention to serve them in over 50 countries.