On 17 April, ChapmanCG and Accenture co-hosted 25 APAC and International Talent Heads at the Accenture offices in Singapore to discuss innovations in organisational Learning & Development and Leadership Development. Representatives from companies as diverse as Adidas, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Citi, eBay, GroupM, Microsoft, Rolls-Royce, and others came together to discuss and exchange ideas on the current issues and developments in organisational learning.
Classroom of the Future
Rahul Varma, Accenture’s Chief Learning Officer, launched the session with an insightful presentation on how the organisation has created, delivered and improved the learning infrastructure and resources for it’s 320,000 employees across 200 cities and 56 countries globally. Historically, Accenture’s central learning HQ at St. Charles near Chicago hosted all employees new to the organisation for two to three weeks, regardless of where they would be based. The company found that this provided an incredibly valuable opportunity for new employees to learn common methodologies, best practices and shared cultural and organisational values by bringing them together in one physical centre. Over the last decade, shifts in internal and external dynamics have seen the organisation move from having one physical centre that serves the learning needs of the global population, to having 5 regional training centres and an environment that delivers learning via ”connected classrooms.” These are classrooms that are physically located in different parts of the world, but are connected with high-definition and interactive virtual technologies.
Having physical classrooms present in various locations with interconnectivity has brought about significant changes to the way Accenture delivers learning. Overall, 85% of the traditional coursework has required no adaptation for the connected learning environment, and courses have been delivered easily with very few alterations. Currently, an individual connected classroom will accommodate between 12 to 24 participants. The organisation is also considering adding single participant classrooms. The counterargument against single participant classrooms is that they could potentially foster isolation, and the preference is to have some form of physical interaction between participants. Subject matter experts can now seamlessly run multi-day courses and teach multiple classrooms around the world simultaneously, when these were previously only delivered at the at St Charles and other regional facilities. In recent months, project management, functional skills development and a variety of technology courses have been successfully delivered through the connected classroom set-up. Ellyn Shook, Accenture’s CHRO, used the connected classroom while in Bangalore a few months ago to deliver a coaching session to the team in Bangalore and the Philippines.
To participate in the virtual learning environment, participants need to be in one of the connected classrooms, and the technology involved appears to be flexible enough to accommodate different platforms. Rahul described a situation that arose two months ago while running a workshop in St Charles, where he brought in a group of people from around the world for a workshop. “As additional people were required to dial in from various locations for a portion of the workshop, our developers were able to get technology to work over Microsoft Lync to bring people into the connected classroom environment, so we are seeing increasing possibilities over time.” The connected environment does not automatically translate languages, so the majority of manager level and above training courses are currently delivered in English. Although language translation in the connected environment has not become a challenge yet, Accenture will evaluate the impact of multiple languages and the ability to use the classrooms effectively in this context when it becomes necessary.
Ingo Laubender, from Accenture’s global Learning & Development team, provided a colourful demonstration of a variety of learning boards that provide training opportunities at employees’ fingertips, at any given time. All employees have access to learning boards which they can personalise by selecting content areas which best suit their needs as they grow in their career. Learning boards are an elegantly presented collection of ‘content nuggets’ curated from a variety of sources e.g. YouTube videos, TED Talks, internal knowledge repositories, websites etc. Essentially, the idea of learning boards is to put the best available learning content in the hands of employees and blur the distinction between internally and externally created content. The aim is to allow everyone in the organisation to access the best of what they need, when they need it. Curators sit behind each expert area to ensure content is of the right quality and is relevant to the learning needs of employees. Project teams can create a learning board to offer relevant information to project team members, and to keep the project team and sponsors updated. Key statistics are also displayed on the boards to help keep track of subscribed and completed and incomplete learnings. A browsing function displays different types of content based on search terms such as Big Data, Cloud Strategy, The Internet of Things, and HR Academy, to name a few.
With over 400 active learning boards already and the number growing rapidly, the organisation recognises that this is how employees are going to be trained in the future. It is no longer about pointing employees to content — there are newer ways of learning and the organisation wants to enable these. The business benefits of the learning innovations at Accenture are threefold:
- With an investment in the tens of millions of dollars, the impact on P&L has been significant and saves the organisation hundreds of millions of dollars.
- Even more compelling than the P&L impact was the fact that learning was becoming increasingly critical, and the need to have effective learning for employees, which is always available and is not diluted, became key.
- Accenture’s clients look to them for the rich skills and knowledge they bring to their work. An investment in training is an investment in bringing Accenture’s best to clients.
Rahul concluded “The business is now getting a lot more training and a lot more learning to our people from the best experts at the point of need. The learning is very distinct for the different business functions, roles and career levels. We see constant education as critical to our success, and we have a strong business case to support it.”
Stephen Brown, Head of Talent Management, Asia Pacific at Rolls-Royce, shared with the group the innovation he has applied for the organisation’s leadership development capability of line managers. This initiative looked at two key areas in which to develop line managers who have predominately engineering backgrounds. This involved going back-to-basics by defining a guiding coalition of employees to better understand the role of the line manager in the employee life cycle, and as a leader of a team, function and business. A three module programme was launched over a 12 month period, which involved all line managers. The first module covered ‘leading for impact’ and looked at aspects of authentic leadership, emotional intelligence, connecting with teams and building team ethos. The second module covered career coaching, high performance coaching and handling difficult conversations. Finally, the third module connected the dots by delving into the fundamentals of managing the performance of the team. By taking a step back and not assuming pre-existing leadership capabilities in all line managers, the company has ensured a consistent and skilled approach to managing people.
Overall, this was an insightful session on organisational Learning & Development and Talent
Management. Many thanks go to Rahul Varma and his team at Accenture for hosting this valuable roundtable, and we look forward to bringing the group together again soon.
Ben Davies, Managing Director of ChapmanCG, joined the session, along with Associate Arti Rana. Ben splits his time between Hong Kong, Singapore and Europe leading Senior HR searches, while Arti is based in Singapore where she focuses primarily on Asia Pacific.