Whereas many CLOs fortuitously find themselves in the learning and development world as their careers progress, Nick van Dam has been a player in the learning sphere in some capacity for as long as he can remember, beginning with his first job in 1985 as a learning consultant. At the time, he supported customer education at Nixdorf Computer, which was acquired by Siemens in 1989.
“I’ve always been interested in education, in learning and development,” van Dam said. “I’ve been teaching since I came out of university in the evening in addition to my full-time job and then that turned into full-time learning and development.”
Van Dam said he realized rather early in his career how crucial people were to make anything happen within an organization. He said learning helps people enhance their skills and advance their careers, and that’s good for the business. In fact, in emerging markets such as China and India, learning could be the differentiator that sways top Gen Y talent, in particular, to select one company over a competitor.
After working in different learning and development roles at Siemens in Europe, van Dam joined Deloitte Consulting LLP in 1995 as a human capital consultant, and he has since spent some 20 percent of his time in the same evolving role as director, human capital for Deloitte Consulting LLP in the U.S. As such he said he has a direct connection with the business and thus can better understand workforce development needs through this broader business lens. The bulk of his responsibility is as global chief learning officer for Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Ltd., where he shapes the overall learning strategy for Deloitte’s member firms.
Driving People Development
Deloitte’s workforce has 200,000 employees, which includes its member firms — a number that’s expected to grow to 250,000 during the next four years. At the moment the company is witnessing hyper growth in emerging markets — China, India and Brazil in particular. Van Dam crunched the numbers: The firm expects to hire nearly 50,000 people in the 2012-13 fiscal year. The net growth will be approximately 20,000 employees; the remaining 20,000 to 30,000 people will be turnover replacements.
Van Dam said this type of turnover is not uncommon in the financial services industry. While many loyal employees will stay and build a long-term career at Deloitte, others use the experience to jumpstart their careers and either go to work elsewhere or take a break to raise families. Some former employees wait until their children get older before rejoining Deloitte’s workforce. Regardless of company tenure, van Dam said one principle remains unchanged from the time he joined Deloitte’s consulting organization 17 years ago: its focus on people development.
Deloitte doesn’t sell software or hardware, nor does it have products. It is in the intellectual capital business, which is all about the people, and employees want opportunities to augment their skills and advance their careers.
Deloitte University, which opened in October 2011, is the firm’s $300 million physical campus for leadership development in Texas.
“This was a bold decision to make an investment in [people’s] continued growth and development,” said Diana O’Brien, principal, Deloitte Consulting LLP; managing principal, Deloitte University and talent development. “Our business is about trust and teams, and without trust and teams we can’t solve our clients’ problems, so that was the real driver behind it.”
The facility was designed in such a way as to facilitate one-on-one as well as group discussions, O’Brien said. There are fire pits set up throughout the campus where groups can congregate and exchange stories and experiences. The campus offers a forum for employees to connect and interact with leaders in ways that might not otherwise be possible. The overall holistic experience serves as a catalyst for collaboration, innovation and development.
“You don’t know who you’re going to bump into,” O’Brien said. “You could see your old friend from another client; you could see the CEO of the firm — and that gives you an interactive chance to learn. You can be in a large classroom interacting over a table; you can be in a small team room where three of you may be working over a client problem together,” she said. “The technology combines with the networking combines with the strong health and wellness and sustainability.”
In addition to formal classes, Deloitte offers a number of digital options including social learning, on-demand learning and career-driven learning. “Our approach is [making] sure [we] offer everything to people so they can pick and choose what’s the best fit to their skill sets and learning style,” van Dam said.
Learning should consist of formal, informal and social components, van Dam said, and learning leaders should determine what the right balance is at their organizations. Van Dam said he advocates a 10-90 model for learning at Deloitte because that’s just how people learn. Ten percent is pre-planned and structured formal learning. Expecting someone new to the role to take a three-day new manager program is an example of formal learning. Another example is expecting employees to take certain learning units — virtual, classroom, on-demand, etc. — to ensure every individual is continually building his or her competencies over time.
Van Dam said the other 90 percent is informal, on-the-job learning and can be broken up into three categories:
• On-the-job, career-related learning. Providing employees the opportunity to work on different projects or assignments as well as new initiatives.
• On-demand learning. Having access to digital learning content so employees can easily access webinars or online books.
• Social learning. This learning allows people to use collaborative technologies to create and share knowledge. For example, social learning could include a game or participating in a community of practice in a LinkedIn group.
Eyes on ‘Y’
Making learning and development opportunities available in an easily accessible buffet of sorts is particularly appealing to Gen Y, who make up some 80 percent of Deloitte’s global workforce. Upon surveying its Gen Y population, Deloitte found this segment of the workforce values what van Dam calls a high-tech, high-touch approach. That means offering state-of-the-art digital learning capabilities where employees can access information they need whenever and wherever they need it, but not at the expense of networking and interactions.
Van Dam said Gen Y likes to learn online, check out the latest videos on a topic of interest, take open courseware from any leading institution, have access to content through their mobile devices and tablets, and be on social media sites during working hours. “At the same time they value being together in a learning environment where they have access and can collaborate with other people, where they have access to leadership,” he said.
Assuming Gen Y doesn’t care about face time because they’re technologically savvy is just one of the misperceptions other generations have, said Jan Ferri-Reed, president of consultancy KEYGroup and author of Keeping the Millennials: Why Companies Are Losing Billions in Turnover to This Generation — And What to Do About It.
One reason they value face-to-face interactions is to overcome what’s known as “unconscious incompetence” or “conscious incompetence,” Ferri-Reed said.
Unconscious incompetence is being incompetent and not knowing it. For example, an unconsciously incompetent person would not be savvy about the unspoken or unwritten rules in a particular workplace culture.
Conscious incompetence is knowing one is incompetent in some capacity but not knowing how to fix it. For example, people might know they need help advancing their career but not know how best to go about it.
Gen Yers seek career opportunities and advancement, vocalizing their aspirations perhaps more than any generation before them, Ferri-Reed said. Further, they won’t tolerate learning for the sake of learning; they demand that it be relevant and delivered efficiently.
Finding the right approach to deploy learning is an important consideration, van Dam said, and that’s one reason Deloitte has eliminated purely lecture-based slideshow presentations in classroom settings. “That’s old school because you don’t need to come to a training center for that; we can have a webinar on that, so that’s not a good use of people’s time,” he said.
Instead, classroom training needs to be an immersive experience, and Deloitte is redesigning its curriculum in the U.S. to ensure that learning delivered in a classroom will focus on a combination of skill, culture, practice and expanding employee networking and be leader-led.
Putting Employees in the Driver’s Seat
Deloitte offers employees the opportunity to proactively take control of their own learning and development. Employees can access a career map and a learning map as well as learning content specific to their role via an online platform, which can help to deepen or broaden knowledge and skills in specific areas. They have learning and development options available including online programs, ones delivered at a Deloitte office or at Deloitte University in Texas.
This ensures that employees know what’s expected of them, and development also ties in to performance management discussions that employees have with their managers twice a year. In addition to managers and employees examining the employee’s skill set for potential areas for improvement, both parties also will reflect on the impact of completed learning programs, and assess what new skills were developed as a result.
“The world is changing very fast; there’s a need to continue to build new and distinctive skill sets for people in different places around the world,” van Dam said. “We need to make sure that from a learning organization perspective we are agile, we are nimble and we can provide people with the learning at the time they need it.”
That, for any organization, can be an ongoing challenge, but one van Dam said he’s up to. To understand the business and be able to translate business needs into learning needs is incumbent upon any CLO, he said. “There’s always discussion in the learning industry: Do people in learning roles understand the business? The good news on my end is that I spend a quarter of my time also as a consultant helping organizations; therefore, I’m also in the business, and I really understand the business.”
E-LEARNING FOR KIDS FOUNDATION
In addition to his work at Deloitte, Nick van Dam launched the nonprofit e-Learning for Kids foundation in 2005, which offers free digital learning for children between ages 5 and 12 on topics ranging from math and science to the arts. Courses are made available via the Internet. In countries where there’s no Internet access, the foundation partners with schools and non-governmental organizations to install courseware on computers. Since its inception, the foundation has been accessed by 7 million children in 190 countries.
DID YOU KNOW?
• Deloitte’s global CLO Nick van Dam lives in the Netherlands, but for six months out of the year he travels abroad on business.
• Van Dam has three degrees: a bachelor’s degree in economics and pedagogy from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, a master’s degree in organization and management from Universiteit van Amsterdam and a doctorate in human capital management from Nyenrode Business Universiteit, Breukelen, the Netherlands.
DELOITTE UNIVERSITY: BEHIND THE SCENES
Deloitte University offers employees the following resources at the Texas campus:
• Fire pits all across the campus.
• On-site fitness center.
• Marketplace, bistro, bar and other places to eat designed to facilitate social interaction. That means no room service.
• Interactive media walls and touch screens showing who else is on campus and offering opportunities to connect.
• A garden.
• A chef using local and organic foods.