Complexity Creates Capability

Sometimes a name change can be quite powerful, especially when the change embodies complex learning. As a global management, technology and outsourcing consulting company, Accenture is in a complex business, which drives a complex learning strategy. But most employees have heard about learning strategy. Capability development, on the other hand, perfectly embodies the strategy, organizational vision and mission at Accenture.

In one of the world’s leading corporate learning organizations, the need to build market-relevant capabilities that drive business and individual success prompted Accenture’s learning department to establish six strategic intents:

1. Be trusted partners in executing Accenture’s business strategies, bringing capability development expertise to the business.

2. Create user-centric learning experiences that help employees develop market-relevant capabilities where, when and how they need them.

3. Champion Accenture’s commitment to learning and deliver on the capability development promise to its people.

4. Drive globally consistent processes while balancing local needs.

5. Be purposeful about innovation, driving new and effective solutions.

6. Continually improve as a learning organization.

Accenture’s business strategy calls for its people to deliver deep expertise to its clients. The company’s growth and its clients’ success depend on its employees delivering this on-the-job expertise in hundreds of different areas of specialization. It can be quite a challenge to forecast what will be needed and schedule learning to develop the necessary skills in its people.

It also can be challenging to build a strategy to develop those specialized skills. The Accenture-wide capability development strategy defines a consistent approach to identify competencies and proficiency needs, as well as how to build expertise through formal learning, collaboration and job experience.

It breaks down specialized competency needs into three types: industry, functional and technical, with five levels of proficiency possible. For each specialized competency there is an associated curriculum that includes formal learning, collaboration and job experience activities employees engage in.The result is a learning road map for each specialized area delivered to employees via myLearning, Accenture’s internal LMS.

These learning road maps have become valuable metrics for the company. Currently, Accenture has more than 6,000 skills tracked in its skills inventory catalog, with more than 500 specialty and capability combinations. Capability road maps define required and recommended curriculum for employees and are integrated into individualized learning plans in the LMS.

Accenture has more than 400 capability road maps to guide its employees in planning their learning across 125 industries, 70 functional areas and 110 technical areas. These road maps combine learning assets to guide employees in increasing proficiency in their specialized areas. On the output side, Accenture also tracks action items in employees’ development plans to determine how improvements in necessary capability-building will be achieved.

Accenture’s executive team determines the impact and value of its learning strategy holistically and operationally. On an operational level, Accenture’s executive team is concerned with whether learning assets deliver the results the company needs and whether the right people receive development. Its CLO Scorecard, updated monthly, tracks course throughput against previously defined annual targets. Its Business Sponsor Satisfaction Survey, conducted annually, gathers feedback from executive sponsors on the value capability development delivers against business leaders’ expectations.

Its single, common evaluation tool for all learning assets provides comparisons across workforces, geography and vendors, and allows high-level decisions on learning spending to be data-driven. The Decision Support Center, a customized database that gathers and reports on metrics collected by Accenture’s LMS, is updated daily and tracks course attendance, evaluation and financials.

Each year, Accenture invests hundreds of millions of dollars on learning; in fiscal 2009, the company spent nearly $800 million. Company leadership understands that it needs to have the best, most highly skilled people in order to deliver high performance to its customers. These leaders recognize that first and foremost, developing people is about business. As Accenture develops its people, they take new skills to the various industries in which they work — as they apply these skills, they grow the industries in which they work. The L&D function serves as a catalyst to advance thinking, build skills and create innovative solutions for Accenture’s clients.

Daniel Margolis is managing editor at Chief Learning Officer. He can be reached at dmargolis@CLOmedia.com.