Want Your Company To Succeed In The Future? Invest In Employee Skills Training Like Deloitte LLP
Want Your Company To Succeed In The Future? Invest In Employee Skills Training Like Deloitte LLP
“Investing in learning is a no-brainer,” says Diana O’Brien, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP, and managing principal, Deloitte University, to Forbes.com contributor Lisa Quast. During a recent conversation, O’Brien shared how Deloitte is investing in its future with a $300 million facility in Westlake, Texas where Deloitte personnel can enhance their skills. Together they discussed why investing in training and development is so important to serving Deloitte’s clients.
CAMPAIGN: Talent Initiatives at Deloitte
Back in December 2011, I wrote a blog about an American Management (AMA) survey in which executives said the typical knowledge and skills in the areas of reading, writing, and arithmetic (the three Rs) are no longer sufficient for workers.
The survey results suggested that success in the future will require four additional skills: 1) critical thinking and problem-solving skills, 2) communication skills, 3) collaboration skills, and, 4) creativity and innovation skills. How can companies ensure their workforce has these skills? Some companies, such as Deloitte LLP, are taking a proactive approach by investing in employee training programs.
At first glance, one might think investing in employee training during economically challenging times would be counter-intuitive because it requires a significant monetary investment and thus increased costs. So I sat down with Diana O’Brien, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP, and managing principal,Deloitte University, to understand why Deloitte considers investing in employee training to be a critical aspect of the company’s current and future success, the skills on which they are focusing, and the training model they have successfully implemented.
Q&A with Diana O’Brien, Deloitte Consulting LLP:
Q1: When other companies are cutting their learning and development budgets, why is Deloitte doing the opposite and focusing on developing employees? What does Deloitte see as the key benefits versus costs for this investment?
Diana: We recognize that funding talent programs in today’s economy has been challenging for many organizations, but as a professional services firm, we offer our clients one product: the talent and expertise of our people. If we didn’t invest in the development of our professionals, it would be akin to a manufacturer not upgrading equipment, yet still expecting improved productivity.
Deloitte views talent development as a key element of our value proposition for clients, hence, our unwavering commitment to invest in this area regardless of economic climate. We view Deloitte University as a strategic step in building the professional services organization of the future. Though our $300 million investment in the university is significant, the benefit of our talent’s career-long development and leadership far outweighs the cost.
Q2: What are the skills Deloitte is focused on improving in employees and why are these skills considered more important than others?
Diana: We focus on a number of technical skills at Deloitte University (DU), to make sure that our professionals can solve any business problem our clients may face, including accounting regulations, tax codes, and technical implementations. However, many of our purely technical, function-specific learning (updates to tax regulations, for instance), have been transformed from live learning to rich virtual delivery. At DU, much of the focus is on building the kind of complex industry, professional, and leadership skills that can best be strengthened in a live, social context.
We place a very heavy emphasis on nurturing future leaders. We are challenging today’s leaders with powerful conversations around strategic choices, collaborative decision-making exercises, and fresh thinking about the disciplines we practice and the markets in which we compete. Some examples include a class called “The Art of Inquiry,” which focuses on exploring and practicing effective questioning and listening techniques that lead to insightful conversations with C-suite executives. This spring the DU campus will host a range of Industry Weeks, which are multi-day, simulation-based courses customized to our clients’ various industries and sectors, to help our professionals build advanced skills in a chosen industry.
Q3: What does it take to get this type of training program up and running? How can other companies learn from Deloitte’s training model and process?
Diana: The creation of Deloitte University came after four years of brainstorming, planning, and pitching the investment to the Deloitte partnership and the Board of Directors, to get the organization as a whole on board with the idea. We recommend the following steps for other organizations to follow:
Step 1 – Buy-in from Senior Leadership: Collaborate closely with senior leadership in your organization to ensure that learning programs are closely aligned with the needs of businesses and the marketplace. At Deloitte, between the Chief Talent Officers, Chief Learning Officers, and the CEOs of our businesses, the national learning priorities are collectively established and implemented. This structure has proven invaluable, not only in ensuring alignment with business strategy, but also in facilitating change management and helping us find powerful commonalities among our various businesses that had previously been untapped.
Step 2 – Re-evaluate Learning Models: We transformed our view of learning as we created Deloitte University. We’ve thrown out the old model of ‘sage on stage,’ lecture-style learning in favor of action learning models such as simulations using real-life scenarios. Research tells us that more than 70% of learning occurs informally, while on the job. So, we recommend that employers replicate real-life conditions in their learning facilities.
Step 3 – Track and Measure Results: It is important that companies establish clear metrics by which to judge results, track and measure outcomes, and then readjust and hone the educational approach, subject matter, and coursework to deliver continuous improvement. At Deloitte University, we use a multi-layered assessment approach that encompasses simple measures (learning hours, learner satisfaction, etc.) as well as harder-to-quantify measures of learning effectiveness and business impact.
Q4: What are the key reasons why companies should invest in developing their workers of the future?
Diana: Investing in learning is a no-brainer to us, as we are truly in a “people business” as a professional services firm. That said, many of the benefits of investing in developing workers for the future apply to all industries. To me, the top five reasons to invest in learning and development are:
1. To increase performance and productivity: Better-skilled professionals deliver more and better work. With the rapid pace of today’s business world and the fast-changing environments in which we’re all competing, success truly rests upon our people’s ability to solve new and ever-more-complex problems. Continuous learning is essential to gaining this competitive edge.
2. To attract and retain talent: Development is a gift, and our professionals recognize and appreciate that. Everyone who comes to Deloitte University understands that their own skills and professional standing are enhanced by experiencing the learning and networking opportunities available here. Knowledge workers – particularly younger workers, who can be the hardest group to retain – greatly value this kind of support.
3. To strengthen culture and foster diversity of thought: Through a university setting, companies can create a physical space for their people to come together to inspire each other with new ideas, challenge one another’s assumptions, and foster innovative thinking. Furthermore, this diversity of thought can create objectivity and build trust among employees.
4. To nurture innovative ideas: All companies can benefit from consistently investing in learning initiatives that foster creativity and intellectual growth and drive employees to stay ahead of their competitors. Deloitte University is all about innovative ideas reached through innovative experiences — business simulations, role plays, and interactive methods that help our people learn by doing.
5. To better serve customers: Regardless of your job – whether it’s serving coffee, manufacturing automobile parts, or consulting on IT infrastructure – learning will always help you become better at what you do, and therefore better able to address your customers’ needs. When your people are growing and developing innovative new approaches, it will only help your customers in the long run, with superior strategies and ideas that will ensure long, profitable relationships.
Lisa’s Summary: The evolving skill requirements for workers in the future have direct implications for employee development. Without employees that have the necessary skills, companies may not be competitive in the global marketplace. This means for a company to succeed in the future, human resource departments and management teams need to work together to align employee development with their company’s strategic plan and invest in appropriate training programs.
Failure to align employee development with the future needs of the company could result in lost opportunities, lost productivity, and increased turnover. Deloitte LLP is one example of a company using employee training to ensure future success and to differentiate themselves in the marketplace – what’s your company doing to invest in the future? Share your thoughts in the “Comments” section below.
~ Lisa Quast