EY's innovation leader explains why all leaders should invest in learning and development — and the strategy the firm is using to upskill its 300,000 employees

Courtesy of EYJeff Wong, global chief innovation leader at Ernst & Young (EY).
  • Jeff Wong is the global chief innovation leader at Ernst & Young (EY).
  • Wong shared that upskilling and reskilling employees has become more important amid the pandemic.
  • EY employees are encouraged to acquire skills in design thinking and robotics, and a pursue an accredited MBA.
  • This article is part of a series called “Leaders by Day,” which takes a look at how prominent business leaders are tackling various challenges in today’s economy.

There’s no doubt that the business world is evolving rapidly.

Business leaders have had to adapt to the current climate by making budget cuts, investing in data analytics and AI technologies, and building new partnerships with vendors.

But Jeff Wong, the global chief innovation leader at Ernst & Young (EY), thinks the best thing leaders can do right now is invest in employee growth.

“If the world is changing this quickly, that means that individuals will also need to think about their careers differently than they did before,” he told Insider.

There are a number of ways execs can support their employee’s personal and career development. Wong and EY, for example, is focused on upskilling and reskilling programs for employees.

Why all leaders should invest in learning and development

Leaders need to think about how they can seriously invest in employee’s long-term growth and career development, Wong said.

“We need to think systematically about how we can support our people in terms of their career development and skills, and that’s also how we can best serve our clients in the long-run,” he said.

Employee training will make your workforce more productive in the long-run, Wong said.

“That helps them become more productive in a sense that they’d know more about the world,” he said.

Training also has positive impacts for rentention and work-life balance.

When employees are trained to take on different roles, it can create better work-life balance, employee resilience coach Faun Zarge previously told Fast Company.

It’s easier for employees to take time off, for example, when there’s soneone else in the office who can do their job.

Training like upskilling and reskilling also increases employee retention. Your most talented employees are valuable assets to growth, and replacing employees can be expensive.

Joe Lipham, an expert training account manager, wrote in Training Magazine that a well-designed training program helps people feel that their jobs are important, and that the business is investing time and money in them to have the job done correctly.

In other words, your workforce is more likely to stick around if they feel like you’re setting them up for success and that they’re valued.

How EY is investing in training programs

In 2020, EY invested $US450 million in employee training. While part of that money involves mandatory training that’s specific to accounting and auditing roles. But a chunk of that investment also went toward giving staffers’ an option to customise their own learning outside of their jobs, Wong said.

EY, for example, has it’s own accelerated MBA program. In partnership with Hult International Business School, employees can build their own business school curriculum in subjects ranging from blockchain and robotics to diversity and inclusion initiatives and sustainability, Wong said. Enrolled students must complete 16 courses, write three pillar papers, complete a capstone project, and commit more than 300 hours to the program in order to receive the full MBA credential.

The company also has a badges program, which is similar to you getting a minor in undergrad, Wong said. Some program topics include design thinking, data visualisation, and emerging technologies.

“The idea is to provide people the ability to have a pathway and train themselves on different topics, and showcase that they have have those new skills through a variety of gold, platinum, and bronze badges,” Wong said.

The innovation leader explained that pushing workers to adopt a growth mindset and fostering a culture of continuous learning is important right now.

“We owe it to our employees to provide them the best opportunities that will make them more competitive in this world,” Wong said.

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