Deloitte opened its Deloitte University facility about a year ago and it’s already using the campus to host forward-looking discussions on talent development.
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The 107-acre campus in Dallas boasts 800 guest rooms and 35 classrooms, intended to groom and train the talent at Deloitte. Recently, the facility hosted ON Talent, an invitation-only discussion where speakers included leaders in the areas of human resources.
Jeff Schwartz, senior director of Deloitte Consulting, talked with me about what happened at the event, and what the future plans are for Deloitte University. “The main purpose is for leadership training and development,” he said. “But one of the goals is also to be an incubator of ideas for us.”
There were 21 people participating in the On Talent event, about half of them senior HR talent leaders at global companies, including Johnson & Johnson, Thomson Reuters, eBay, Juniper Networks and Yahoo. About half of them were senior HR and talent executives, while others were more in the category of influencers.
The objective was to spend a day and a half thinking about whether organizations have the right talent agenda for the 21st century. The group also reflected on what the future talent agenda might look like over the next few years.
“We’re considering ideas that we hope to be applied in some way at Deloitte, but they also are useful at businesses and governments around the world,” said Schwartz.
One of the participants noted that given the changing nature of business, in which the environment is increasingly driven by digital technologies, both social and mobile, a major transformation in the way we think about talent and HR is long overdue. “We’re using outdated models to drive talent programs,” Schwartz said.
Participants discussed the need for significant changes in HR strategies, not only at accounting firms, but at other types of organizations as well. The way that work gets done needs to be reviewed and redesigned. These days, companies are highly connected and working beyond the four walls of the organization.
Participants discussed the concept of a “human cloud,” in which work is done in a networked environment scattered across the world. They see the need to develop ways of working that make it easier for business leaders to reach clients and employees in many different locations throughout the world.
“We will see an ongoing restructuring of work through the human cloud way of working,” Schwartz predicted. “We’re beginning to see this in professional services, whether it’s in accounting or consulting. There will be much less work based out of offices and client locations. It will be part of an overdue talent transformation. We’re seeing work being much more distributed. Our sense is we’re way beyond telework, where people just telecommute or work from home. Ten years ago we talked about people telecommuting because it was an unusual way of working. Now we can connect people almost anywhere through desktops and a variety of mobile devices. I’m a Deloitte partner from the U.S. sitting in New Delhi talking over my iPhone, and I just spent the last two hours talking with a G200 company. What used to be an unusual way of working is how we work today. What was an exception is becoming a much more common way that work is structured.”
Schwartz sees the trend going beyond work/life balance. “We’re in the next generation beyond work/life balance,” he said. “You can customize the careers of hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of people. Nonstandard is becoming the standard.”
People are more interested in having multiple careers now, he noted. “Careers are going to be longer,” he said. “People are going to reinvent themselves now. Instead of having one career, people are thinking of having multiple careers, of 10, 12, 15 years each. If you’re an HR leader, how do you create opportunities for people seeking to have serial careers? How do you keep people interested in your profession? We need to be attracting people into the profession and keeping them in the profession, and finding a way back into the profession. In this post-digital world, careers are going to be longer and more varied.”
The participants also discussed the issue of diversity. “The workforce is as diverse as it has ever been, with many cultures and nationalities, and people with varied experiences,” said Schwartz. “It’s very important in professional services to be much better at managing this diverse work environment. Diversity is not so much nice to have, but essential when companies are faced with skill shortages.”
Over the last few years, he noted, accounting firms including the Big Four have been both leaders and incubators of many of these policies and issues. “The big push for us as major employers of accountants and knowledge workers generally is to think about the kind of careers people want to have.”