Learning is critical for a company whose talent is its currency.
Last year, Accenture spent nine figures on learning and development investments to ensure its employees deliver relevant skills to clients. The program at the center of the investment is Accenture Connected Learning, which was launched at the beginning of 2015. Reaching more than 370,000 employees around the world, the digitally based learning environment offers a number of channels to connect learners directly to knowledge, as well as to experts they can learn from. The result is a multipronged tool that simultaneously helps employees reach individual professional development goals and drives overall business performance, said Accenture Chief Learning Officer Rahul Varma.
Company growth drove Accenture to re-envision its learning and development strategy. As did the need to adequately train and develop people all around the world given rapid changes in technology and the company’s evolution into five businesses around: strategy, consulting, technology, digital and operations.
“Each of these distinct businesses have very unique learning requirements,” Varma said. “We needed to create an infrastructure that would cater to the distinct needs of those businesses.”
Technology was necessary if the company was going to get ahead of the sweeping growth of digitization, which presented unique opportunities the company wanted to use. That the learning space is seeing a huge push toward online and the rise of massive open online courses is helpful but not enough, Varma said. “We watched the space very closely and collaborated with several thought leaders, but at the end of the day, learning has to be holistic.”
While organizations may skew too far one way or the other on the learning spectrum — to favor time away to learn over learning all the time or vice versa — balance is necessary. Learning has to be on tap, on demand, “whenever you need it,” he said.
Accenture Connected Learning combines all of those perspectives and shares the results via five regional learning centers in Bangalore, India; Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; London, Madrid and St. Charles, Illinois. Varma said the centers purposefully bring people together from different cultures, countries and at different milestones in their careers so they can learn how to work in a highly collaborative, global environment.
Employees are also part of a network of classrooms connected to one another in addition to being connected table-to-table within each room. Facilitators can coach someone in any of the connected classrooms. At 50 classrooms and counting, Varma called the environment “an amazing marriage between technology, curriculum and space.”
In addition to an existing platform of online courses, Accenture has learning boards, something Varma describes as a Pinterest of learning where the company can empower its best subject-matter experts in any field to become curators of information and ideas with very little training or enablement. Experts can create mini lessons, pulling together different sources and essentially blurring the distinction between the best internal or external content “because we believe our people need to have access to the best content wherever that exists,” he said.
These chunks of knowledge can be sequenced so that someone accessing them with no knowledge in a given subject area can develop a high topical awareness over time. Accenture Connected Learning also has more than 100 professional communities that bring people together from similar work areas, skill and project areas.
As organizations confront the challenges and opportunities present in today’s market, offering people a blend of time away to learn and learning all the time delivery modalities ensure continuous skill building that is important to employees and critical to continued high performance for the business, Varma said.
With different career aspirations and work challenges, people require individualized approaches to learning. Different entry points ensure a company meets people where they are in their learning journey, helping them define, pursue and accelerate it.
For learning organizations to be successful, “One environment isn’t enough,” Varma said.