15 March 2022

Workplace Stories Season 4, Skills Odyssey II: Precision Development at Scale

Dani Johnson
Co-Founder & Principal Analyst
Stacia Garr
Co-Founder & Principal Analyst

TL;DR

  • This is the fifth episode of our podcast: The Skills Odyssey II, Season 4 of Workplace Stories.
  • In this episode, Stacia Garr and Dani Johnson of RedThread Research chat with Eric Dingler Chief Learning Officer of Deloitte’s US operation.
  • Eric explains how they are being a little more intentional about Skills and how they are enabling agility.
  • “Whether you’re an experienced hire, whether you’re an acquisition, or whether you come up out of school and work your way up … this is about organizational agility and individual agility. This is what we want to create—the structures of processes, systems, et cetera, that can also help that individual take greater ownership and be more agile as well.”
  • Three Es: Education, Experience and Exposures.
  • Eric and Deloitte may be at the beginning of their journey, but they already have the oars in the water. Eric talks about how Deloitte is moving from the bus approach to bicycle paths and “precision development at scale.”
  • A special thanks to our sponsors, Visier and Degreed, for their support of this season!

Listen

Guest:

Eric Dingler, Chief Learning Officer, Deloitte US

DETAILS

Deloitte is different. It’s different for, of course, its unique approach to solving customer problems, as well as its sheer size and scale. But in the context of a Skills Odyssey, it’s also pretty unique for having a) an ‘agency’ structure that makes it peculiarly receptive to new ways of organizing around Skills, and b) an openness to try new things. It’s also full, of course, of very smart people… we’d know, as both Stacia and Dani are alumni! But today’s guest, Chief Learning Officer of Deloitte’s US operation, Eric Dingler, isn’t interested in the past. In fact, he’s pretty critical about what Deloitte (and the rest of us in L&D) didn’t get right historically (“a talent/career model-level role hasn't allowed us to be as agile as we need to be and enable our organization to be as agile”) around career development. Instead, he’s very, very much about the future. In our discussion, you’ll see that for yourself as we cover a wide range of topics, from what it’s like to be in the CLO cockpit for a 145,000 person end of a half million-strong people organization, the central importance of agility as the lens Deloitte wants to see things through going forward, the role of data and analytics—even how he knows what L&D does really can touch so many people, making a better world for us all. We’re really glad we spoke to this fellow Skills Odyssey voyager; we suspect you will be, too.

Resources

  • Eric’s LinkedIn profile is here and his employer’s, Deloitte US, is here.
  • All three previous seasons of Workplace Stories, along with relevant Show Notes, transcriptions, and links, are available here.

Webinar

Our culminating final live The Skills Odyssey II webinar has been announced! This is where we will share our conclusions about the show’s findings, and we’d love you to join in on this discussion about what it means to put Skills at the forefront of all talent practices. Put March 22, 12pm EST, in your calendar; you can register a spot for free here.

In the session, we'll be diving right into a Skills mindset for talent management and recap the season's best moments so that you can apply ALL our collective knowledge and experience at your own org. So catch up with RedThread’s Dani Johnson and Stacia Sherman Garr, along with fellow podcast host Chris Pirie (The Learning Futures Group) and expert representations from our great Season sponsors Yustina Saleh, Ph.D.(Visier Inc.), and Todd Tauber (Degreed).

See you there!

Partner

Find out more about our Workplace Stories podcast helpmate and facilitator Chris Pirie and his work here.

Season Sponsors

 

 

We are very grateful to our second ‘Skills Odyssey’ sponsors, Visier and Degreed. Visier is a recognized leader in people analytics and workforce planning; with Visier, organizations can answer questions that shape business strategy, provide the impetus for taking action, and drive better business outcomes through workforce optimization. Visier has 11,000 customers in 75 countries, including enterprises like Adobe, BASF, Electronic Arts, McKesson, and more. Degreed is the upscaling platform that connects Learning to opportunities; they integrate everything people use to learn and build their careers, Skills, insights, LMSs, courses, videos, articles, and projects, and match everyone to growth opportunities that fit their unique Skills, roles and goals: learn more about the Degreed platform at degreed.com. We encourage you to show your support for their involvement by checking out both websites—and thanks once again to both organizations.

All three previous seasons of Workplace Stories, as well as our series on Purpose, which was a co-production with the ‘Learning is The New Working’ podcast, along with relevant Show Notes and links, is available here. Find out more about our Workplace Stories podcast helpmate and facilitator Chris and his work here.

Finally, if you like what you hear, please follow Workplace Stories by RedThread Research on your podcast hub of choice—and it wouldn't hurt to give us a 5-star review and share a favorite episode with a friend, as we start to tell more and more of the Workplace Stories that we think matter.

TRANSCRIPT

Five Key Quotes:

If we as a learning and development function are going to enable organizational agility, taking a Skills-based approach where you are clear about the Skills, you design and develop learning assets that are agnostic to level, role, type of business or whatever, and you focus on building this library of learning assets, and you focus on building a capability around adaptive—having that then enables you to deliver learning that's more tailored and relevant to the individual. The orientation we've had, whether it's been learning rewards and recognition, acquisition, et cetera, because we have, we've been approaching a talent/career model-level role hasn't allowed us to be as agile as we need to be, and enable our organization to be as agile. By moving to a Skills-based orientation, we believe it will enable us as an organization to be more agile.

A [Deloitte] individual today could say, I do Python coding today, or I do human capital transformation projects, but I can see that AI is hot: what would it take for me to be eligible to be staffed on AI projects? Today, people figure that out just by talking to through their network: we want to make it more transparent and be able to help shape it, so the individual can look and say, well, if I want to do that type of work, what is it going to take?

I think a lot of times, historically, in learning and development, we haven't been good at being able to look at data, and do the right types of analytics to say is what our correlation impact. If you can never prove a direct one-on-one causality, you can look at correlation.

One of the reasons I think we're making progress on it now is, as we're defined our strategies, we're dedicating resources to it. If you just assume people are going to make this transition on top of doing everything else they do, it's going to be really hard, because systems are designed to get the results they get. So what we've been doing is creating new organizations within our talent organization that are not focused on trying to deliver the current state—I still have teams doing that. If you want to move faster [on Skills], you're going to have to have a level of dedication.

If I can make an impact that matters in this world by touching hundreds of thousands of professionals that come to Deloitte and whether they stay or go someplace else, they are better because of it—and then they make other people better and we contributed to that in some degree, that's an opportunity to impact a hundred million lives or more. Yes, I'm giving them technical Skills, yes, I'm giving them technology Skills, yes, I'm giving them key leadership and professional Skills. But if I take back and make sure we're thinking about that holistically about the whole person, and making them better because of it, giving 'em the power Skills to thrive in the future—that's why I do this work. And [in L&D] we touch all our professionals many, many, many times, in a direct and explicit way; there’s not too many functions that touch professionals so directly, so explicitly or intentionally, and with such a level of frequency, so the opportunity of that impact is pretty profound and weighty. To whom much is given, much is expected.

You are listening to Workplace Stories, a podcast by RedThread Research about the near future of work.

Stacia Garr, RedThread:

I'm Stacia Garr, co-founder and principal analyst at RedThread.

Dani Johnson, RedThread:

And I'm Dani Johnson, co-founder and principal analyst at RedThread.

Chris Pirie, The Learning Futures Group:

And I'm Chris Pirie, from The Learning Futures Group.

The team at RedThread Research would like to thank Visier and Degreed for their sponsorship of this podcast season, The Skills Odyssey II. Degreed is the upskilling platform that connects learning to opportunities; it integrates everything people use to learn and build their careers, including skill insights, LMSs, courses, videos, articles, and projects, and matches everyone to growth opportunities that fit their unique Skills, roles, and goals. Visier is the recognized leader in people analytics and workforce planning; with Visier, organizations can answer questions that shape business strategy, provide the impetus for taking action, and drive better business outcomes through workforce optimization. Visier has 11,000 customers in 75 countries.

Eric Dingler, Deloitte:

The topic of Skills is taking much greater forefront, having a spotlight shined on it now in a way that it didn't because as organizations, and as individuals, we are both are having to think about ‘How do I constantly accumulate and change my Skills and re-skill?’ in a way we didn't have to 10, 20 or 30 years ago.

Dani Johnson, RedThread Research:

This week, we talked to Eric Dingler, the chief learning officer of Deloitte US. This was a fascinating conversation for Stacia and me, because we're Deloitte alum and we were quote unquote developed through many of the initiatives that Eric put into place!

While most companies organize Skills into job roles and then assign work based on those roles, Deloitte is a little bit different because they use an ‘agency’ model: they bring together people with the right Skills to accomplish certain projects, and then once that work is done, those people move on to different projects. This structure presents a really strong business case for understanding the Skills that Deloitte employees have. Eric talked about how he sees this as necessary for, as he puts it, ‘precision development at scale,’ as well as ensuring that the right people have the right opportunities.

Eric also talked about measuring and tracking Skills. Because Deloitte is set up as that agency model, one of the measures that they can use is how often consultants with particular Skills are staffed on projects that require those Skills. This can provide data much more rapidly than most organizations can do it. We see many organizations utilizing talent marketplaces in much the same way, but this is the first opportunity we had to talk to an organization that can use the native structure that they have in place, rather than imposing an artificial one.

Join us for this conversation: Eric's insights provide a different flavor to the Skills discussions, and his passion for the topic is inspiring.

Dani Johnson, RedThread Research:

Eric, welcome to Workplace Stories, and thanks so much for your time and for sharing your insights with our audience today.

Eric Dingler, Deloitte:

Glad to be here 🙂

Dani Johnson, RedThread Research:

We want to start with some quick questions to introduce you and your role at Deloitte, and then we'll go deeper into some of the areas that we’d really like your perspective on with respect to Skills.

Eric Dingler, Deloitte:

Great. Let's go.

Dani Johnson, RedThread Research:

All right. Well, let's start with just a quick overview of Deloitte, its mission, and its purpose.

Eric Dingler, Deloitte:

So Deloitte, at its core, is about making an impact that matters, and that impact can manifest itself in many ways, and the impact that matters can be many different things, but that's what's important to us, whether it's with our clients, in our communities, or in the world. And Deloitte is organized into four businesses to do that. We have an audit and assurance business, a tax business, a risk and financial advisory business, and a consulting business. We've got about 145,000 employees in the US, and close to 500,000 globally.

Dani Johnson, RedThread Research:

So you're just tiny. Just a little company 🙂

Eric Dingler, Deloitte:

Just tiny.

Dani Johnson, RedThread Research:

Great. Tell us a little bit about yourself: what's your role, and what do you do there?

Eric Dingler, Deloitte:

Yeah, so I am the chief learning officer for the US firm and I’ve been with Deloitte for 14 years. And the work I do is really about leading a team to ensure that we develop remarkable and exceptional experiences and environments that help our professionals develop the knowledge and Skills they need to form quality work, provide insights to our clients so that we can make an impact that matters.

Dani Johnson, RedThread Research:

Fantastic answer. And you'll probably hear throughout that both Stacia and I are both Deloitte alum, and we can attest to the amount of effort and time that Deloitte dedicates to making sure that the people have the Skills that they need.

Stacia Garr, RedThread Research:

Well, let's turn to this Season's topic, which is all about Skills, as you know. And one of the things we like to do here at the beginning is to ask everyone, what's your definition of Skills?

Eric Dingler, Deloitte:

It's a very simple question, but actually a very complex question at the exact same time.

Stacia Garr, RedThread Research:

Yeah.

Eric Dingler, Deloitte:

So what I think of a skill is, to me, it is a combination of knowledge, knowing something and having the capability to actually do it or apply it. So if I can do that, I know it, I know something, whatever it is I need to know. So I've got a level of knowledge. I've actually got the capability to apply. Those two to me equal that I've got a skill to do something.

Stacia Garr, RedThread Research:

Hmm. So that's not necessarily a new concept, right? We've had Skills in one form or another for, well, who knows, forever! But why do you think they're really important now?

Eric Dingler, Deloitte:

They've always been important. I think the context and the environment in which we operate has shifted so rapidly, there's an increase in the emphasis on not the concept of Skills, but the concept of how do we rapidly upskill, reskill, and skill large numbers of people very quickly. Because if you were to think back: when I started my education 30 plus years ago and process it, it was a large percentage of your population could get skilled in something and just keep tweaking on the edges, but be able to do that for their lifetime. So there was a small percentage of people that, jumped entrepreneurs, we call them that jumped from this and that and did that, right? Well, since then, technology has changed substantially and the pace of it is increasing exponentially all the time. Then that's now impacting the pace of change for businesses as a whole, demanding a much greater level of agility within a business to be able to pivot, do things differently, bring new market offerings, new products, innovation to the forefront.

And that's demanding that people change very quickly. So as I look into the future, it's going to be the majority of people are going to have to be able to pivot over the course of their career from many different knowledge domain and skill domains in order to continually advance. The percentage that can get skilled in something, do it for a long time, just tweaking on the edge, is going to become a much smaller and smaller population. And so that's why the topic of Skills is taking a much greater forefront, having a spotlight shined on it now in a way that didn't, because as organizations, and as individuals, we are both are having to think about, ‘How do I constantly accumulate and change my Skills and reskill?’ in a way we didn't have to 10, 20 or 30 years ago.

So organizations need to be more agile, and individuals need to be more agile. And it’s a topic of skills, and then at the organization level, it's how do you create the engine and do that, and for the individuals, how do I make sure I'm moving and advancing that I'm given the power Skills of the future that are enable me to survive in and thrive in a tech-driven world.

Stacia Garr, RedThread Research:

Yeah. And I think it's interesting because if you think about it, agility itself is a skill, right? And so you're saying kind of there are, as you mentioned, the power Skills and those are probably going to have that longer shelf life, but then there's these other ones where we are going to need to do that constant tweaking. And it's a balance between which ones you need to do to which extent, and then how to do that, as you said, on an organizational level.

Can you talk to us about Deloitte itself? I mean, I’m sure Dani and I from a number of years ago have a perspective on where it is on its Skills journey, but from your side, where is Deloitte on this journey?

Eric Dingler, Deloitte:

So collectively as an organization, relative to many, you would say there's a solid Skills-based orientation to our organization because of how we staff our job; when we sell work to a client, we want people that can do this type of work, have these certain types of Skills, and as new types of services or market offerings grow, we need more people that can do those things and others, maybe that we did five, 15 years ago, are on the decline. And so we’ve had a level of it, of a Skills-based orientation without being explicit about it.

I think what we're doing now, our journey, is we're becoming much more explicit about it and saying, we need our talent organization, so not just learning and development which my organization is accountable for, but the entire kind of ecosystem to have much more of an explicit Skills-based orientation. We're at the beginning of defining that and saying, let's be really clear what we mean by it; what's important, and how do we organize each aspect, whether it's acquisition, whether it's resource deployment, whether it's rewards, recognition and wellbeing, whether it's learning and development—how do we then align all the parts of the talent channel to support that explicit Skills orientation with a focus of how do we create the Skills much more faster than what we ever did in the past, because we can't buy enough now, right? And then how do we also, back to your comment Stacia, give people those power Skills that will enable them to be able to more effectively pivot over the course of their career.

Dani Johnson, RedThread Research:

So I find this really interesting, Eric: I was super excited to talk to you because we have a little bit of experience with Deloitte, and one of the things that we know from our experience there is that Deloitte is one of those organizations that actually organizes the people around the work—you’re agency based, basically, so a project will come in and you put the people that have the right Skills on it and they execute that work, and then those people are released back into the wild, if you will, to be staffed on another project. And so I find it's interesting that you're talking about Skills: you mentioned just a little bit earlier that you've always had a bent toward Skills, probably because of the way this is set up, but I'd love to understand what you mean by being ‘a little bit more intentional about it’?

Eric Dingler, Deloitte:

I'll give you an example. In learning and development, as we've designed and developed learning and development programs, we've started with an orientation of business, talent model, service or market offering, and level. So you could take our business and say our consulting business and technology implementation seniors (so it's a level). And we start by saying, what does that level within that grouping need? And then we design and develop the program that can consist of formal learning experiences and exposures in order to develop what we think is needed.

That has served us really well, but at the pace of change, it's not going to serve us the way we need to in the future. Because one, when you take out orientation, it takes a long time, it take us six or 12 months to develop everything that's needed for that. Two, we generally developed it at an integrated unit, and it around it was wrapped all those elements of the business, the type of work it was and the level.

And so we are trying to build Skills, but with those wrappers around it, it didn't become portable.

Dani Johnson, RedThread Research:

I see.

Eric Dingler, Deloitte:

And if we as a learning and development function are going to enable organizational agility, because it's not all us, but if we're going to enable it, taking a Skills-based approach where you are clear about the Skills, you design and develop learning assets that are agnostic to level, role, type of business or whatever, and you focus on building this library of learning assets, and you focus on building a capability around adaptive halving, that then enables you to deliver learning that's more tailored and relevant to the individual. The orientation we've had, whether it's been learning rewards and recognition, acquisition, et cetera, because we have, we've been approaching a talent/career model-level role, iit hasn't allowed us to be as agile as we need to be, and enable our organization to be as agile. So by moving to a Skills-based orientation, we believe it will enable us as an organization to be more agile.

Dani Johnson, RedThread Research:

In our pre-call, you used a term that I really liked: you said ‘precision development at scale,’ I think is what you said. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Eric Dingler, Deloitte:

Yeah. So ultimately, if we want organizational agility and individual agility, we have to be able to deliver learning that's tailored and relevant to the individual. Okay. So back to that model orientation of how I historically developed of saying, the level role, this mark, this type of work in this type of business: that assumes that a population is monolithic and all leads to the same thing. That's an erroneous assumption to begin with! It's what I call the bus approach. We've historically designed and developed, not only learning, but designed and structured our talent processes and as bus-based approaches. We need more bicycle paths and professionals on bicycles. And so that's a concept of the learning that's more tailored and relevant to the individual. If we can build the systems, the technology, the processes, the infrastructure, and the learning assets so that we can deliver learning that's tailored and relevant to the individual, we need to be able to do that at scale, given the size we're at.

So to me, that's the concept of precision development at scale. You could call this tailored and relevant or tailored learning for the individual at scale—it's the same concept, but that's what I mean by that.

Dani Johnson, RedThread Research:

I love the fact that you've taken this idea of Skills and basically said, it doesn't matter what level you're at, doesn't matter if you're a manager, senior manager or director level, for example—the skill is the skill, and you need to develop the skill.

Eric Dingler, Deloitte:

And not all managers need the same thing in our organization. We treat them that way today, though.

Dani Johnson, RedThread Research:

Right! Another interesting thing that you talked about in the pre-call that I want to draw attention to here is, you are not just talking about learning assets when you're talking about developing people. And so you said for some of those maybe lower level Skills, or the baseline of those Skills, maybe some of those assets would be fine, but at a higher level it takes a different type of learning in order to develop that skill more deeply. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Eric Dingler, Deloitte:

Yes, so as we think about this concept of development for us at Deloitte, we have a framework and we call it Education, Experience and Exposures. And our belief is that you accelerate one's development through how you orchestrate those ‘Es.’ When we think about the concept of creating development paths for our people, it consists of education, which is formal learning that can be all different types of modalities; it can be a five-day program to a two-minute pop-up video in the flow of work, those are all educational learning assets, right? But then in development paths, we can also provide and give structured or recommendations in terms of different experiences they need to get. That can vary from being a sandbox where they might need to go play in to do a project that gets evaluated to you need to do a hundred hours in this industry, type of deal.

And then exposures are either, again, setting them up in a structured way or giving recommendations so they can do it in a more natural way. How do you learn from other people that are more experienced experts in this, or whatever? Some people create great informal networks, some maybe need to go speak at a conference, some may need to go do different things, but it's being intentional about different types of exposure activities so that you can learn more. So when we talk about development paths at Deloitte, we already think about development paths in terms of how do you orchestrate Education, Experiences and Exposures and give people not just the formal learning, but a broader roadmap as well. Does that answer your question, Dani?

Dani Johnson, RedThread Research:

Yeah, it absolutely does, yeah. Thank you.

Stacia Garr, RedThread Research:

I was just wondering to what extent you are today, or maybe planning in the future, to explicitly map those Skills to Education, Experience and Exposures.

Eric Dingler, Deloitte:

We already do it to some degree today across of our different base and go across our different businesses. Add to that using a consultant senior consultant in a certain area, we do say here's the Education you need to go, here's recommendations for Experiences, here's recommendations for Exposures, but it's based on that bus approach.

Stacia Garr, RedThread Research:

Got it—okay, right.

Eric Dingler, Deloitte:

So it's more monolithic versus 40 different bicycle paths. And when I talk about bicycle pass and bicycles, and one of the things I talk to executives about, this isn't chart your own journey, so there isn't a million ways to do it. I'm talking about going from one to 20 or 30 or whatever: we define some more relevant ones and then there can be some customization even within it. So if someone knows something and can prove they know it, then maybe they can skip from A to G and not have to go B, C, D, et cetera.

So there's elements like that you can build into it, but it is way more flexibility than we have today. But the other thing I'd call out is one of the things I repeat over and over is creating a few buses is way cheaper than creating this whole system that has incredible flexibility and adaptability. The cost of flexibility increases with scale.

Dani Johnson, RedThread Research:

I'd love to understand how you got the organization's buy-in to go with the bike route instead of the bus route?

Eric Dingler, Deloitte:

Well, in an organization like Deloitte, our output are the insights we add to our clients and the impact we make with them in the world. If we're going to improve the quality of our output, we have two, maybe three levers. You hire differently, you develop better, faster, maybe you create some IP—that's it! When I worked at other organizations, there were other levers that one could pull to improve the quality of your output, right? If you’re a manufacturing company, you could improve production processes, you’re a pharmaceutical company, you might invest more in R&D. There's a lot of other levers to pull. So that first says, if you can either acquire differently, or develop differently, it's the people lever you're pulling.

You combine that with the pace of change and the exponential growth in how fast things are moving, and it is hard. It's becoming more and more challenging to hire all the people you need to have that skill, because it used to be there was a whole educational system that took a long time that produced people that had the Skills that you hired. The pace of change doesn't enable that today, so we can't hire all the Skills we need, because lots of times these hot Skills, they're leading-edge, technology-based Skills that the system hasn't had a chance to produce.

So we can't buy 'em: we need to actually develop them. And thus for our business, we're going to add those insights; if we want to capitalize on what's hot in the market right now, our only lever is to develop more, develop better. So going to our leadership and executives, we had to lay out a strategy and we did, and we're moving. They understand the role that development plays, and the importance of that as a lever and being one of the few levers we can pull.

Dani Johnson, RedThread Research:

That makes a ton of sense. I want to go back to one more thing, and then we're going to jump to tech and data: you've mentioned a couple of times you've mentioned rewards. You've mentioned learning, you've mentioned acquisition. There have been a couple of other areas that are all working together on this Skills project, or you're all of the same mind: can you talk a little bit about those other groups and how you're coordinating with them?

Eric Dingler, Deloitte:

Yeah. So it starts with having a workforce strategy, which I think is important for an organization. And my observation is that many organizations don't have a workforce vision and strategy of where we need to go in the next 5, 10, 15 years in terms of our workforce, based upon what the work is going to look like. We have that, and then each of the talent channels is how to develop what we call a nested strategy, so what's the strategy to support those workforce ambitions, and then we collaborate to make sure our strategies are all aligned. That workforce strategy work is also saying they're leading that Skills definitional work and saying what matters. This isn't Skills gone wild, for what matters, and let's be very choiceful about those things that are important to align the system around. And then into our strategies, it's about how do we create the engines to enable a level of agility? Let's say Python coding is one of those hot Skills that we want to upskill or reskill a large number of people. Well, that might be hot today, but two years from now that might not be hot, and we will need to switch to the next thing. And so what's important is as we move each of the talent channels we’re creating, thinking of how do I create the engine that is more agile than the engine we have today?

Stacia Garr, RedThread Research:

Well, let's move on to my favorite area, which is tech and data, so let's start off by talking a bit about your tech architecture that you have for developing and tracking Skills. I’m specifically interested in understanding your needs and approach from a tech perspective.

Eric Dingler, Deloitte:

So as I’d mentioned we're at the beginning of this journey, of doing it, of how I've been talking about it. We've had different things in place to, in the past that have been okay, but won't get us where we need to go. So, when I think about this tech architecture starts with, you got to have a Skills strategy, you've got to define what are the ones that are most important, what is it about out them that you want to be able to track, based upon your business and your business needs, and how you would use that information to make decisions?

So to me, it starts with defining the Skills that matter, then saying, what decisions would you make or do you need to be able to make, with a greater precision at an organizational level and where would greater agency given to the individual level make a difference? And then you let those two ends define what you need what it looks like. And then from a learning and develop perspective, we had to be able to define, take the Skills that matter break 'em down into their sub-components, be able to map all the learning assets, or develop the learning assets, over time and create that library of things, whether it's technical or this could be in some of the key professional leadership spaces as well, where we'd say, does everyone need to be certified as a coach? Maybe, maybe not. But there are things in that.

We develop all those assets and then we need to have the ability to track learning completions, track certification, whether it's external certifications or own internal certifications. So a level of assessment capabilities so that you've got an additional type of stamp. For us, it's also the ability to track experience doing work on the jobs. Because we believe the combination of learning and certifications to achieve badges plus relevant work experience mean we can then begin to apply a credential to somebody that then implies what level they could potentially do that job, that type of work in the future. So you need the systems and the processes that can track those things again for what matters so that then staffing decisions can look at that and say, okay, we need someone that's got this. So that organization, we could say, this is a declining skill area, meaning it's not as hot as it was, and this is hot; we've got a thousand people here. Let's take 800 of 'em and re-skill 'em so they can be stacked in this other area. So that's a way in which the data can be used by our acquisition functions. Say, we want to go to this is a growing area. We want to go target more people in this area if possible. So our business, so it's, you need to think about what's the data set you want, that you'd want to, that would give you that ability to make those organizational decisions, or to have individuals make a decision and then figure that out.

We're just in the beginning of this journey. So I can't say we've got this, this and this in place, but that's what we're headed.

Stacia Garr, RedThread Research:

So that opens up so many questions I have!

Dani Johnson, RedThread Research:

Before you go there, can I just, can I ask a question, Stacia, with respect to that? Eric, you mentioned twice in that little definition—

Eric Dingler, Deloitte:

You’re jumping on everything I say, aren't you? 😉

Dani Johnson, RedThread Research:

Yes I am, we're going to analyze it afterwards 🙂 You mentioned the ability to increase the decision-making ability of the people on the ground, like the individuals. Is that the Deloitte way, or did you have to convince people that more autonomy is better?

Eric Dingler, Deloitte:

You've been at Deloitte, right? (Laughter) There's an incredible amount of individual agency that's allowed for our people; we've had it in the past, right? People say, what's the next hottest thing, how do I go do that, et cetera. And if you take more of a Skills-based approach and we have development paths, we have many more bicycle paths and we're clear about expectations, what does it take? An individual today could say, I do Python coding today, or I do human capital transformation projects, but I can see that AI is hot: what would it take for me to be eligible to be staffed on AI projects?

So I go look and say, gosh, I need to go through these learning programs and boot camps, and I need to get past these certifications. And then I could be stamped as ‘project ready’ to do that. Today, people figure that out just by talking to through their network: we want to make it more transparent and be able to help shape it, and again, those things that matter. And so the individual can look and say, gosh, they could go do that, or maybe there's a different area they're interested in: by being able to map all that out and have a credentialing program as well, then people can say, well, if I want to do that type of work, what is it going to take?

Dani Johnson, RedThread Research:

Yeah. I love this discussion, because it involves three things; it involves the Skills discussion that's happening right now, but it also involves the mobility discussion that's happening right now. A lot of organizations wish that they were set up like you, and because it provides a natural motivation of individuals to, I want to be staffed on, I want to do that kind of work, how do I make sure that that happens?

I love that idea that more autonomy with some structure in other areas leads to the types of agility that you've been talking about.

Eric Dingler, Deloitte:

Yeah, yeah, yeah. More, it also goes to the ‘too much choice’ parallel: right now all our people are really, really busy, so if we can make it easier for them to understand and really clear about the steps and what it takes versus just having to find it out on their own or maybe build a relationship with a partner that takes on them and staff project.

Dani Johnson, RedThread Research:

Right. I’ll shut up now, Stacia.

Stacia Garr, RedThread Research:

If you hadn't noticed, we are trying to be impartial researchers—not biased, not bringing all of our experience in, so, we're really trying here, Eric.

But I'm going to completely wipe that aside 🙂 One of the things I love about what you're sharing here is, Dani and I both came in Deloitte through an acquisition, and because that we didn't come in with the great big networks that a lot of people do to know where the work is, or what the opportunities are, the hot Skills or all the rest of that. And as you think again about your workforce, I imagine they're increasingly having to tap into different talent pools, potentially more experienced hires, not necessarily bring 'em up from the consultant level all the way through. And so by doing this, you're enabling the effectiveness of people who maybe—no judgment, no comment on our own experience—but maybe didn't succeed because they came in from the outside, because they didn't have those networks, but now you're giving opportunity and connection and the ability to develop one's own Skills, even if they don’t come in and weren't kind of born and bred in Deloitte, which I think is amazing.

Eric Dingler, Deloitte:

Yeah. And even though the ‘born and bred’ want this opportunity as well. And we're on the journey to do it; it's not easy, this is a big change, we're not where we want to be yet—but absolutely, yeah, whether you're an experienced hire, whether you're an acquisition, or whether you come up out of school and work your way up. So this is about organizational agility and individual agility, this is what we want to create the structures of processes, systems, et cetera, that can also help that individual take greater ownership and be more agile as well. Whether they stay with Deloitte or not, that's only going to make them better for the long-term.

Stacia Garr, RedThread Research:

Yeah, definitely. So where I was going to go before we like went down that bicycle trail is, you mentioned several times something that Dani and I and Chris have had a debate about, which is, you said ‘we are working to identify the Skills that matter the most.’ And we've heard that perspective that there's a certain set of Skills that matter the most at a given organization, and then we've heard another perspective, which is we're going to start with these Skills, but it could be the entire universe basically of Skills that matter. And so my question for you is, first, how have you gone about determining those Skills that you think matter most, and have you thought about what might be outside that original realm of what you've identified?

Eric Dingler, Deloitte:

Couple thoughts. We're on the journey, so I can't answer your question ‘How did you identify?’ other than to say it starts with our work and what is the work we do and both currently, and what do we see on the immediate horizon. And that's where it starts. I think organizations then also need to have some sensing type of function to say, even as I think about my own learning and development function, how are we staying close to the business and understanding what might be emerging as the next hot Skills area, and how do we start thinking about that?

So one you've got to define, but I think this is a big change. I don't want to go too big. I want, we need to know to start with and it definitely needs to start with this type of work that you're going to do. We don't produce and manufacture drugs, we don't need to go from R&D capability, ok, but we do do certain types of work. And so it's the Skills that matter for doing those types of work. Both, we're thinking about it in the technology space, we're thinking about it in a technical space, and for us ‘technical’ is the type of work we’re doing per day, right? So there's a difference between giving people Skills in cyber or cloud computing, or different things, versus how do I actually consult? How do I do those things?

And then there's what we'd call professional leadership as well and saying, likewise, we need to be clear about expectations and how they matter, have a badge certification approach to tracking those Skills as well, and bring that into the equation.

So we're on that journey where maybe a year or two from now, I can tell you how we identified them, but it is starting with our work.

Stacia Garr, RedThread Research:

Yes.

Eric Dingler, Deloitte:

And we know we do SAP implementations, we do Oracle, we do human capital transformation projects, we do tax work: the work begins to define that to a big degree so you need to look at what's coming and what might need to be added. So you could say, gosh our audit assurance business, which is doing auditing financial statements primarily, doesn't need to know AI. Well actually they do, because their companies have algorithms now and through which their financial data may get processed, but then, results in assumptions or conclusions about things. So auditors now might need to know level of AI in order audit algorithms. So while the technology that we're building, learning paths in, from a Skills-based orientation—they might need some of that as well.

Stacia Garr, RedThread Research:

In our pre-call, we talked a little bit about how you're planning to measure the effectiveness of your efforts to develop Skills. Can you talk a little bit more about that?

Eric Dingler, Deloitte:

Yeah. Something I care about: we're trying to work on a monitoring and measurement strategy of ultimately, how do we measure impact? Easier said than done, but I think there are things we need to start putting in place. We have the traditional volume type of metrics to be able to say, we believe we need 10,000 people that have this skill, and we get 10,000 people through programs to develop that skill. Because we're one channel part of a talent machine. I think then there's things we need to look at in conjunction with other functions.

So for example, if we put X number of people and get them credentialed to a level of AI proficiency, then we should track if they are deployed doing that type of work so that the investment we made in them is paying off. So if we put people through a robust series of Education, Experiences and Exposures in order to be ready to do AI work, and they’ve not staffed in AI, as an organization that was a wasted investment. And so having some factor looking at what I call ‘deployment yield’—X number of people got this, how many are doing that type of work or have done that type of work, right? Because we know if they don't use it, the forgetting curve is fine. So that might be what we need to look at those types of things in terms of, are people deployed. We can then begin to look at things like as people, as we move more to Skills and people get certain Skills, get certain credentials, et cetera, versus others that don't, we can then be able to look at retention, statistics, performance statistics.

As you begin to get this data over time, you can begin to take different cohorts, and be able to look at different types of key statistics. So we can look at performance: do people that get a level of credential in something and get staffed on it versus say, we're short. And we take other people that don't and just say, learn it on the job. And then ultimately to be known externally as a place that enables people to thrive in a driven world, is known for developing purpose driven leaders. If those are ultimate measures I think externally, that will take time.

I think a lot of times, historically, in learning and development, we haven't been good at being able to look at data and do the right types of analytics to say what is our correlation impact. You can never prove direct one-on-one causality, but we can look at correlation.

Dani Johnson, RedThread Research:

I actually love this conversation, Eric, and I was just commenting to Stacia on the chat that I love talking to you about these types of things because you're in a position to actually measure probably a little quicker than a lot of organizations are because they're focused on roles versus staffing on particular projects. And the turnover is greater. That means the data that you can collect around that is greater.

We've seen people put things in place like talent marketplaces with the hopes of doing some of this, and I think they will continue to do it, but this is the first time we've talked to somebody that is using the way that they're set up as a business, in your case an agency model, to gather this information much quicker and make better decisions much more quickly.

Eric Dingler, Deloitte:

And we are already looking at where we've made investments from a learning and development perspective over the past six months, those people that have got the investment versus those that don't: is it impacting engagement, is it impacting retention, right? Given the current context in which we operate, retention and turnover are really important. And is it making a difference, right? Looking at those things.

Dani Johnson, RedThread Research:

So we have a couple of questions to wrap this up. The first one is that you've talked about being at the beginning of this journey, and we love the way that you've thought about it so far. What do you see in five years?

Eric Dingler, Deloitte:

For Deloitte, I could see us having a different way in which we talk about things internally in terms of this knowledge Skills and what does that mean in terms of the type of work I do: a lot more variability, right? A lot more heterogeneity in terms of how we think about things, and yet there's still a common thread amongst all of us so that as leaders, it's like, what's that common thread that, how do we enable all this flexibility at the exact same time?

And to be known as an organization that does that, and does that really well, whether in terms of how we target to recruit from a lot more diverse sources to how we then enable to develop that, having a lot more, diversity coming in the door to begin with. And then how do we translate that into making an impact our clients: we are already the world's largest professional services firm and going faster than, than our competitors, how do we continue that?

The other thing that, that jazzes me about this as well, so yes, it's about the organization, but it's about the people too. So if we can equip you with those Skills to thrive in a tech driven world, or to understand what it means to be a purpose driven leader, whether I'm leading myself, leading others, or leading clients, you, I don't want this to sound bad, but you're going to be better as an individual. And if you're better, you're going to be better with your teams, you're going to be better with our clients, you're going to be better with your families, you're going to be better beyond.

And as a result, those people are going to be impacted by you, and hopefully they turn around and be better. And that is making an impact in the world, whether that person stays with Deloitte or goes someplace else. And so to me, that's part of the power of this—this fundamental shift—is that it helps organizational agility, but helping that individual as well could pay off immensely.

Dani Johnson, RedThread Research:

I love that. One more big question, and that is, you're at the beginning of this journey, but you're farther along than a lot of organizations. What's the one piece of advice you would offer to those that are behind you?

Eric Dingler, Deloitte:

Guess we're ahead, and that we got a foundation to build upon. But one of the reasons I think we're making progress on it now is, as we're defined our strategies, we're dedicating resources to it. So if you just assume people are going to make this transition on top of doing everything else they do, it's going to be really hard because a system has a certain orientation, and systems are designed to get the results they get. And so to me, what we've been doing is creating new organizations within our talent organization, whether it's one's focus on our workforce strategy or in my team now I've got some separate dedicated teams that are focused on, in our technology space and in our leadership space, moving to Skills-based models.

They are not focused on trying to deliver the current state—I still have teams doing that, so across our business we've had to dedicate resources to enable us to move in this direction. And some places might need more resources or others, but if you want to move faster you're going to have to have a level of dedication.

Stacia Garr, RedThread Research:

Well, Eric, I think I get the true final last question, and it's the one that we ask every guest who comes on and it's what we call the Purpose question, which is why do you personally do the work that you do?

Eric Dingler, Deloitte:

So if I can make an impact that matters in this world by touching hundreds of thousands of professionals that come to Deloitte, and whether they stay or go someplace else, they are better because of it—and then they make other people better and we contributed to that in some degree, that's an opportunity to impact a hundred million lives or more.

Yes, I'm giving them technical Skills, yes, I'm giving them technology Skills, yes, I'm giving them key leadership and professional Skills. But if I take back and make sure we're thinking about that holistically about the whole person, and making them better because of it, giving 'em the power Skills to thrive in the future—that's why I do this work.

And as a learning and development function at Deloitte, we touch all our professionals many, many, many times, in a direct and explicit way. There's not too many functions that touch professionals so directly, so explicitly or intentionally, and with such a level of frequency. And so the opportunity of that impact is pretty profound, and weighty. To whom much is given, much is expected.

Stacia Garr, RedThread Research:

Well, from two people who have been given that gift … thank you.

Eric Dingler, Deloitte:

Happy to gift it. This has been fun.

[Stacia Garr, Red Thread Research & Dani Johnson, RedThread Research:]

Thank you so much, Eric, for sharing with us: this has been awesome.

Chris Pirie, The Learning Futures Group:

Thanks for listening to this episode of Workplace Stories. Dani and Stacia: how can our listeners get more involved in the podcast?

Dani Johnson, RedThread Research:

Well, they can subscribe and rate us on the podcast platform of their choice.

Stacia Garr, RedThread Research:

They can also share this, or their favorite episode, with a colleague or a friend.

Dani Johnson, RedThread Research:

You can check out the beautiful handcrafted transcripts at redthrearesearch.com/podcast, and see what else we have to offer as far as research goes.

Chris Pirie, The Learning Futures Group:

Or Stacia, they could…?

Stacia Garr, RedThread Research:

Consider joining the conversation and community by joining our RedThread membership.

Chris Pirie, The Learning Futures Group:

A big thanks to our guests, on all our podcast Seasons, for sharing their insights and thoughts. Of course, we should thank our beloved listeners: thank you!

[Stacia Garr, RedThread Research & Dani Johnson, RedThread Research:]

Thank you.

The team would like to thank Visier and Degreed for their sponsorship of this podcast season, The Skills Odyssey II. A big thank you to our season sponsors: for more information you can find links to their websites in the Show Notes for this podcast.

This podcast is a production of RedThread Research and The Learning Futures Group.

About the author

Dani Johnson

Dani is Co-founder and Principal Analyst for RedThread Research. She has spent the majority of her career writing about, conducting research in, and consulting on human capital practices and technology. Her ideas can be found in publications such as Wall Street Journal, CLO Magazine, HR Magazine, and Employment Relations. Dani holds an MBA and an MS and BS in Mechanical Engineering from BYU.

Stacia Garr Redthread Research
Stacia Garr
Co-Founder & Principal Analyst

Stacia is a Co-founder and Principal Analyst for RedThread Research and focuses on employee engagement/experience, leadership, DE&I, people analytics, and HR technology. A frequent speaker and writer, her work has been featured in Fortune, Forbes, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal as well as in numerous HR trade publications. She has been listed as a Top 100 influencer in HR Technology and in D&I. Stacia has an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree from the London School of Economics.

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