Deloitte & Touche USA, LLP, which provides services in areas such as accounting, corporate governance, manufacturing and real estate, has a problem. Fewer and fewer of the people who are entering the workforce are specializing in the areas that the company needs to execute on many of its operations. To keep qualified professionals flowing into the organization, Deloitte & Touche USA launched a comprehensive effort around next-generation recruiting and retention that includes substantial internally and externally focused educational components.
“The declining interest in technical subjects in Western countries is ongoing, so we’re finding that there’s a smaller group of interested people,” said W. Stanton Smith, who serves as national director of next-generation initiatives for Deloitte & Touche USA. “Therefore, we’re trying to find ways to induce young people to think about us favorably.”
The initiative started about five years ago, when the company’s CEO approached Smith and asked him more or less to decipher the next generation of employees—their needs, desires, dislikes and so forth. “He said, ‘I’ve got four kids, and I can’t figure them out. Do something about the value proposition with the new generations.’ So we did some research and in the process, we began to define the problem. We understood a bit more of what needed to be done,” Smith said.
Smith and his team also conducted research with outside organizations to determine the attitudes of young people about careers, employers, technology and other professional issues. This enabled them to further hone in on a marked strategy that would attract younger talent. “We began to understand what young people were looking for,” he said. “As we did further work on this, we realized that we needed to broaden and deepen the pool of people coming into our organization. We started putting together a pre-college branding program to talk to people about what Deloitte is and give them a favorable view of us.”
Also, Deloitte & Touche USA developed a tool based on its internal research to help young workers in the company figure out their preferred occupation and how they could attain it, Smith said. “We found that young people wanted to know a lot more about their options within the organization than we’d been typically telling them. So we created something called Deloitte Career Connections, which is an internal career resource where people can find out about other careers within the organization. We also did an annual incentives program and a recognition program, because people were asking for that.”
Additionally, Smith and his group produced pamphlets that could educate the company’s executives of broad generational trends, so they could be mindful of their preferences whenever they rolled out new initiatives. “We started an internal communications process—a series of brochures on the talent market—to help them understand the differences and similarities between generations,” he said.
Based on his experiences with the younger generations, Smith said they generally favor learning that is engaging, interactive and fun. He offered the Virtual Team Challenge for High School competition, which teaches basic business principles, team work and academic career planning to students via video games, as an example of this. The program, which was developed with learning vendor Brand Games, has been well received by these young people.
“We just did a survey to see if this video game idea was a good one,” Smith explained. “They said, ‘Wow, if all of our homework were as good as these games, we’d be glad to do it.’ It engages and stimulates them. I think that simulations and things that are video-based are definitely where these young people are, because that’s what they’ve been raised on.” However, technology is no guarantee of engagement for younger learners, he added. “I know that there is a lot of e-learning that’s nothing more than putting print (materials) online. I don’t think that’s going to be very successful. I think interactivity engages the adult mind, and that’s where it’s going to be.”
Although the learning needs of generations X and Y might seem complex, the baby boomers can be more difficult to pin down in terms of training. “With the baby boomers, that’s a little more problematic,” Smith said. “Exactly what is the style they prefer? Some prefer online learning, others like the classroom and others will read a book.”
Additionally, because of their own experience, boomers might not always appreciate the ways in which the younger generations learn. Many of them hold leadership positions, too, and they have to be persuaded as to why stimulating, interactive and enjoyable educational programs—as opposed to run-of-the-mill training—are necessary. “With our executives, we don’t have to convince them on training,” Smith said. “To keep up with the clients in our industries, they know we have to do training. It’s expected to contribute, because as a public accounting and professional services firm, we have to keep a lot of our people properly certified. The real issue is making sure people get the time to do the training, and that the training is of the quality that makes it worth taking the time off to do. As we move toward simulations, we have to educate our leaders on technology and why simulations work. You do it with education.”
–Brian Summerfield, email@example.com
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