How EY prepares its people for the future of work

By Elaine Lim

EY's Asean Talent Development Leader, Elaine Lim, shares the initiatives performed at EY to make its people future-proofed.

#1 How has EY adapted to the changes COVID-19 has brought about in terms reframing the nature of work and learning?

When COVID-19 cases spiked in March 2020, we told our teams that we would see them in two weeks. It has been a year plus since and the pandemic has proven to be the greatest disruptor witnessed by our teams. While it has impacted many negatively, it has also been a catalyst for many changes to the way we work and deliver learning. We saw many firsts in the last 12 months, for example, first time deploying learning 100% virtually; first time running supplementary learning for topics such as wellbeing, online teaming, productivity from home, virtual collaboration tools and presenting virtually. In fact, in many ways, we have continued to push the envelope in the delivery of our work and learning till today.

We have had to seriously consider the user experience in every decision made since the start of the pandemic. For example,

  • Before the pandemic – young graduates joining EY enjoyed many face-to-face networking opportunities, quick catch-ups over lunch or coffee and pantry conversations.
  • During the pandemic – additional virtual networking opportunities needed to be created or developed to ensure new joiners continued to be able to connect with their teams via non-work Zoom or Microsoft Teams calls; team building by playing virtual games; and regular scheduled check-ins with the team.

This reframing of the way we work naturally extended itself to how we deliver learning. EY has a fantastic remote working infrastructure in place and that has been a tremendous advantage to teams across Malaysia and Asean. We also had the advantage of being the first mover in online learning - we had intentionally carved out partnerships with Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) like Udemy and Coursera. EY Badges, which is the learn-at-your-own-pace program, has also been leveraged extensively during the pandemic to deliver future skills to our people.

The transition from 80% physical classrooms to 100% virtual delivery of learning came in stages:

  • March 2020 – deferment of large-scale training except for onboarding via Zoom; shorter programs proceeded virtually.
  • May 2020 – conversion of materials to full virtual experiences, including large-scale regional programs. The challenge now was learning had become a near “Netflix-binge” type of experience and we had to make learning interesting, engaging and fun.
  • October 2020 – full-scale learning successfully deployed virtually (100%).

How did that go for us? Well, in the last 12 months, our feedback ratings have been better than when learning was just physically deployed. We are getting much better traction and more positive feedback. For the first time in many years, we have also been able to deploy double the amount of learning programs, reaching double the number of learners. Therefore, while learning did require reframing, it has been very much a win-win experience for us at EY.

#2 What are some skills EY is placing emphasis on, going into the post-pandemic world?

At EY, we acknowledge that the future of industries, the economy and our clients’ challenges are unpredictable. While skills around human-centered technology are valuable, how these evolve are not set in stone.

To prepare for when vaccines return the world to some order, EY’s response is our NextWave strategy and its supporting Transformative Leadership model. The purpose-led strategy looks at creating long-term value by building a better working world for all. The leadership model that supports this focuses on purpose-led EY-ians who bring their best self to work, are curious, agile and innovative, and who care for society.

This way, we are confident that while we provide learning on valuable technical future skills like data analytics, AI and robotics, we are also providing leadership development opportunities for our people to become purpose-led future leaders who can adapt and thrive. Leadership development covers a range of ‘Better Me’ (agility, curiosity and wellbeing), ‘Better Us’ (teaming, belonging and inspiring) and client-centric programs available to all levels of EY people.

(Picture taken in March 2019 (pre-COVID-19))

#3 How does EY ensure that its people are future-proofed?

For new joiners, they have opportunities to undertake future skills courses or programs via the EY Asean Leadership Academy (ALA) and EY Badges (e.g. Robotics, Data Analytics, Digital, etc). Depending on the Service Line, technical learning programs are now steeped in digital simulations and sector or industry-based programs to enable our people to understand the latest impacts to clients and businesses.

#4 How is EY helping its people to broaden their career horizon through digital skills?

EY is the first professional services organization to offer its people an opportunity to complete a Tech MBA conferred by the HULT University, US. HULT has a highly acclaimed MBA program and its partnership with EY to deliver the program digitally has helped many EY people broaden their career prospects within the organization. The MBA is 100% sponsored by EY and our people are given the opportunity to learn at their own pace.

In addition to the EY Tech MBA, EY also partners with the SAP Academy to enable our people to extend their current capabilities and acquire new skills for new or future projects. Many of our people are also sent for external learning with alliance partners so they can continue to impact client projects.

#5 Referring to one of EY’s employer value propositions (EVP), “The mindset and skillset to navigate what’s next. It’s yours to build” – Can you elaborate what this means and how is it connected to the way EY is developing its people?

We place a lot of emphasis on our people’s exceptional EY experience. EY takes great pride in ensuring we receive feedback in a timely manner so our organization can course correct if needed. To the point of how this applies to developing our people, feedback tells us that our people want the flexibility to learn at their own pace, to undertake just-in-time learning for special projects and to be able to learn new skills should they wish to make career changes.

We believe that our Transformative Leadership model provides the foundation for building the right mindset and culture that are key to navigating ’what’s next’. As Peter Drucker famously said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. For us, the right mindset leads to the right culture, which leads to the right developmental opportunities to acquire the right skillsets.

At EY, our learning culture is ingrained into our teams. You can choose to participate in a range of leadership development courses from ‘Discover your purpose’ to ‘Mastering C-Suite presentations’. You may sign up for any technical future skills courses, based on your needs. Your development and career are literally yours to build, at the pace and manner you choose.

EY is well-poised to support our people’s journey into the future of work because it has the right infrastructure in place - be it technology or learning and leadership development programs. Hence, it is their choice, their career, their future.

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