Suits The C-Suite

In a professional services organization like SGV, we recognize that developing talent in all its forms is integral to our underlying objective of building a better working world. With businesses evolving rapidly, we understand how training our people well is vital to our ability to deliver the quality audits and exceptional service that our clients deserve.

This is particularly true in light of the regular disruption that is happening across the global business environment. Digitalization and the rise of the millennials are some of the forces that drive the current wave of disruption.

In order to deliver new value to customers, companies are transforming their business models by using digital technologies. We have seen the unprecedented rise of e-commerce, with retailers seeking to improve the performance of their brick-and-mortar stores by using digital channels. This, in turn, has led to opportunities for retailers to create new customer experiences, such as allowing customers to customize their orders and providing recommendations based on the customer’s historical purchases. While these new business ideas are propelling growth, they are also posing new risks to the companies. This is the reason why digitalization is high on the agenda of the C-suites of every company.

Another important force that drives the current wave of disruption is the rise of the millennial work force. According to a report released by the Philippine Statistics Authority in September, the largest group of employed persons (about 26.6%) is between 25 to 34 years. The second largest group of employed persons was the age group 35 to 44, making up 23.1% of the total labor force. This is followed by the age group 15 to 24 with 16.7%. In the Philippines, if we look at the current labor force, millennials take up 43.3% of our labor force. Understanding this statistic is important because each demographic cohort is typically defined by unique characteristics — each have different needs and respond to different motivational triggers.

Disruption can bring about both opportunities and threats. Nevertheless, disruption is an inevitable phenomenon. How well a company can cope or take advantage of this opportunity depends on how well-equipped its people and leaders are. They need to be as dynamic as the changes and the complexities that organizations face. They need to be able to adapt and learn new things very quickly. This includes how an organization looks at enhancing or developing the skills of its people.

Case in point, EY Global, of which SGV is a member firm, undertook a transformation journey to “disrupt” the way we train and develop our people, particularly in our Assurance practice. This is in response to the changes in the business landscape and the demographics of our work force. The aim is to prepare our auditors to be more agile and more adaptable to changes. This project paved the way for what EY now call the Audit Academy. In this project, auditors were gathered from different areas and regions to develop courses tailored for a new generation of auditors. Working closely to identify, address and anticipate complexities in our evolving working environment and common pain points encountered, the team designed transformative learning solutions to help our people on the ground perform better.

The Audit Academy identified five key change points:

“What to think” versus “how to think.” The core principle of the Audit Academy is finding the right balance of teaching people not just “what to think” but also “how to think” — the critical thinking, creative thinking and systemic thinking required to make good decisions and exercise professional judgment.

The right learning solution. The Academy uses blended-learning solutions including self-paced learning, simulations and gamification to deliver the right content in the right form and at the right time. It recognizes that the typical instructor-monologue style of training is outmoded. It also recognizes that extremely long courses are no longer effective. Therefore, the Academy developed bite-sized courses deliver just in time to ensure proper consumption of learning. Modern training needs to proactively engage the millennials and deliver the right motivational triggers.   

Mental model shifts. In simple words, a mental model is the lens through which a person sees the world. Every role in an organization requires a specific set of mental models. When someone transitions from one role to another, a mental model shift should happen. Our training programs were designed to proactively help learners to stop, think and re-evaluate their mental models. Activities were designed to allow them to analyze situations, apply their theoretical knowledge and challenge their old practices.

Asking better questions. In traditional lecture-style training, instructors are commonly comfortable doing the presentation and providing the learners with all the solutions. In the Audit Academy, we train facilitators to pose intelligent and relevant questions to the learners to help them reach their own insights into how to eliminate their limiting beliefs and adjust their own thinking or behavior.

On-the-job learning. We continue the learning in Audit Academy on the job by providing the right experience and coaching to our people. There is real application of learning as they work where the auditors are challenged but guided. This helps our people actively apply the learning to real-world situations, thereby enhancing their personal development.

Most organizations today understand the competitive value of training its people, whether in-house or through external providers. However, we should also keep in mind that training is not just an exercise but it should rise from a deep and embedded culture of continuous learning that is part of an organization’s corporate DNA. At the same time, training should be fluid enough to continuously adapt to changing business needs so that the professionals we are developing are taught not just “what to think,” but more importantly, “how to think.”

This article is for general information only and is not a substitute for professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant. The views and opinion expressed above are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of SGV & Co.

Jennifer Jeanne S. Lim Bok-Uyking is a Senior Director of SGV & Co.