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Making a Bold Statement

Deloitte’s talent development strategy reads as follows: to “invest in you [our people] to develop the capabilities you need to thrive in the marketplace today and in the future — building a better Deloitte.”

In an unusually bold move, the company has put its money where its mouth is and has committed to build a learning and leadership development facility in Texas that amounts to a roughly $300 million investment in its workforce. Slated to open its doors this year, Deloitte University is living proof that learning is deeply tied to the goals and priorities of the company’s businesses.

“It’s so gratifying to see the transformation we’ve made in our learning, and I’m enormously proud of the team,” said Bill Pelster, managing principal of talent development for Deloitte. “It’s been a collective effort as we prepare to open Deloitte University later in 2011.”

In addition to the new learning facility in Texas, the company is planning other changes, such as a revamp of its milestone schools — three separate transition acceleration programs — to include a greater focus on professional and leadership skills while optimally leveraging learning principles such as team gaming, simulations and interactive scenarios.

“We’ve created a world-class learning environment at Deloitte, with leading-edge methods, the latest technology, and an approach that truly builds our people’s capabilities,” Pelster said. “Nothing is more important, especially in a profession like ours, where the product we offer is the skill and knowledge of our people.”

The company’s learning organization also introduced a cross-functional aspect to the milestone schools recently. In 2010 it launched the first cross-functional learning program for senior managers. While the program is simulation-based, it also offers a fictional scenario that requires collaboration across business units so that participants can network and enhance their relationship-building skills.

Deloitte’s CEO, board of directors, and operating and executive committees all have played a major role in determining the vision for the company’s talent development strategy. The push to increase cross-functional learning as well as promote a greater focus on industry, leadership and professional skill building are just some of the standards Deloitte’s leadership has been instrumental in setting.

Involving high-level stakeholders is critical since all learning at Deloitte must be outcome-driven. To that end, the company has put several models in place to evaluate learning results. Kirkpatrick’s four-level evaluation model is the overall methodology used to plan an evaluation life cycle. Learner satisfaction is an important consideration, as evidenced by the 21,000-plus evaluations a month learners submitted from fall 2009 to fall 2010. Other more substantive metrics to evaluate the impact of Deloitte’s learning strategy involve business impact, or the demonstrable skills company professionals use to add value to clients. In fact, client feedback is so important it informs skill needs assessments and plays a role in defining some of the company’s learning programs.

Deloitte has contributed to the advancement of the learning and development field as a whole, and it remains at the forefront in terms of talent development, as evidenced by innovative learning strategies such as its teleclassroom network, which enables learning to occur in a highly mobile, virtual work environment.

The company also stands out from the crowd because it vets individuals to ensure that only top professionals share their knowledge and skills with future leaders at Deloitte University. Deloitte’s faculty excellence program sharpens their teaching skills and enables them to steer clear of typical lecturing in front of the classroom. Instead they become facilitators or coaches who guide participants’ efforts to acquire new capabilities.

Like any company, Deloitte’s learning function has faced — and overcome — challenges that cropped up during its journey. But its reaction to adversity and a demonstrable, persistent spirit deserve to be mentioned.

“When the going gets tough, the tough stick to their strategy,” Pelster said. “For us, it’s been all about a laser focus on the strategic objectives we identified when we first started down the road of transformation. When resources were short, we made decisions based on those strategic priorities, and they’ve proven to be a lifesaver more than once.”

Deanna Hartley is associate editor of Chief Learning Officer magazine. She can be reached at dhartley@clomedia.com.