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The CLO Toolkit

CLO Q&A: Learning and the Performance Review

Jeff Orlando talks about Deloitte's overhaul of its performance review process and when to put the freeze on developing more learning.

Jeff Orlando is chief learning officer, leader development & performance for Deloitte where he’s worked for the last 10 years. He sat down with Chief Learning Officer at the CLO Breakfast Club event in Philadelphia in March and shared his perspective on the role of a learning executive, his background as an industrial-organizational psychologist and his advice for CLOs.

In the excerpt below, Orlando talks about Deloitte’s complete overhaul of its performance review process, what that meant for the learning function and when CLOs should put the freeze on developing more learning. For more on Orlando’s talk along with highlights from the event series, visit the CLO Breakfast Club library.

Chief Learning Officer: Deloitte over the last two years has done away with the traditional performance management review. A lot of companies have taken up that call to do away with this process that nobody really likes. Give us background on that movement within Deloitte. What spurred it? What are the results and most importantly how did it change how you developed people?

Jeff Orlando, chief learning officer, leader development & performance, Deloitte.

Orlando: Where our system came from in the very beginning was research we had done on what makes up the most high performing teams at Deloitte. In that study, we took our 60 most high performing teams as judged by our CEOs. It could be because they’re profitable, innovative, sustainable, whatever the reasons are. We assessed those teams on a set of questions against a random stratified sample.  The no. 1 thing that stood out is the difference between the incredible, awesome teams and the normal teams was the folks on those awesome teams get to use their strengths every day. They perceive they’re using their strengths everyday.

The foundation of our development change around performance management is to convert from a less integrated leader development approach to one that’s really centered on [helping] people figure out what their strengths are, how they can deploy them in the work they’re doing today and how they can migrate their jobs over time to be something that fulfills them even more. That’s been a finding that’s been really foundational to the work – getting a really juicy piece of data and using it over time is giving us incredible credibility with a business to push that change.

The second point is we chose not to use a big formal learning intervention to do it and frankly we chose to roll it out without significant formal development. I was out at a client a couple years ago and they said, “It seems like kind of a risky choice and Deloitte’s kind of a risk-averse place.” Which is true. “Why did you make that decision?” The best answer I can come up with: We thought we were good enough. We thought we were good enough to pull off the system, to trust our managers and teams to make this happen in a way that wouldn’t be perfect but would be substantially better than the prior state. That’s what’s happened. It’s substantially better and it’s not perfect.

Now, we have integrated into all of our milestone development programs a strengths-based focus and a focus on performance management. We’ve also put out … a number of microlearning and individualized development approaches to give more pinpoint solutions to people who have roles in the system over time.

CLO: That idea about the risk you took in not using a formal learning program sounds a bit like sacrilege if you’re from the traditional CLO role. This is a big corporate wide initiative with a big target on it. Take the opportunity to do something big from an L & D perspective but you scaled it back. It relates to the fact that you’ve put an informal freeze on learning hours for employees. Again that is not what most CLOs would think to do in a situation like yours. Why take that approach?

Orlando: I wouldn’t say that everyone at Deloitte would share this exact perspective but at Deloitte right now we create about 5 million learning hours a year in total for all of our 80,000 practitioners in the U.S. That’s a lot of hours – even more than our performance management hours. My personal view is that’s plenty of hours … and it should be much more about how we redeploy and redistribute those hours against our priorities instead of creating new hours to do new things.

When we came around to performance management, we have significant governance around performance management. There wasn’t energy to create new hours on this because we’ve reached that saturation point. It’s been about challenging the total team to say how do we use what we have today and get rid of some of the old stuff and bring in the new. We’ve tried to adopt this essentialism mindset which basically says, “Stop trying to add to your plate, just get stuff off your plate so you can make room for new things.”

It’s been a good limiter. I love using constraint at work because it … lets you really focus on what’s important.

For more on Orlando’s talk along with highlights from the event series, visit the CLO Breakfast Club library.

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