EY and Thrive Partners: reshaping learning culture

Patricia McEvoy
People Development, Director
EY

Pam Bateson
CEO
Thrive Partners

What do new expectations for development and progression mean for in-house learning teams? Can you create fast, effortless Netflix-like learning experiences for employees? And can you offer personalised learning, that connects to both long-term career goals and immediate work challenges? The HR Vision Content Hub speak to Patricia McEvoy, People Development Director at EY and Pam Bateson, CEO, Thrive Partners to find out more…


We’re looking forward to hosting you in conversation on the Vision Interactive Stream next week in a session on futureproof learning. What does a futureproof learning function look like, or do differently?

Patricia: At EY we have the bold goal to actively disrupt our own function, to stay relevant for the future of work and the future of learning. Our Vision is to be the leader in self-directed learning in Professional Services. This came from a conviction that L&D is no longer the expert on what or how to learn; it’s not about compliance or the delivery and control of learning consumption. Instead, we’re meeting the evolving needs of our leaners by meeting their desire for mobility, variety and flexibility in the way they build their capabilities to be fit for the future working world.

In practice, this means more focus on agility, adaptability, integration and learning that directly supports workplace performance; ring-fenced learning time is in short supply so bite-sized, accessible content is critical.

Increasingly in our business, learners are directly designing and iterating their own content and can then see their needs reflected in it. For example, our suite of offerings for line managers and coaches is co-designed by groups of individuals working in partnership with L&D professionals.

Pam: The learner-led piece is one of the reasons we first found common ground. At Thrive we offer learner-led coaching and mentoring – with coachees selecting a coach on whatever they need support with, on-demand in less than an hour. Our business is trying to meet the changing needs of forward-thinking businesses. Our clients recognise that personalised, human-to-human conversations are a key part of a futureproof learning mix. And we’ve focused on designing a product for a new generation of learners, who expect high levels of both speed and relevance – in line with the experiences they get with other digital-first services in every other aspect of their lives, from dating to watching a box set.

We’ve heard lots in the news and media about the benefits of blended learning. Do you agree with the view that blended learning will only work with a positive and systematic culture to support. How can you help organisations with that?

Patricia: The culture in which the learning framework sits is essential. As we transition to the new norm of learning in the flow of work, enabled by blended learning offerings, EY is deliberately reshaping its learning culture.
We’re also really turning up the volume on communications as a driver of change on learning. We’ve developed an engagement and communication programme to persuade stakeholders and give permission to learners to consume what they need in new ways – particularly in terms of the time and space to consume bite sized offerings ‘at desk’ during billable work time. This is requiring us to think creatively to forge an even stronger between learning needs and work performance. Stakeholders need even more visibility over how building capability through learning will directly impact the achievement of business results.

How important is it in a digital age that learning still provides an emphasis on people skills, like EQ, collaboration and negotiation? Is there a call to action for L&D to refine the social skills of their workforce?

Pam: In an increasingly digital age, we’re forgetting some of our core human skills – and it’s these skills, like collaboration and creativity, which CEOs prize most. It’s these skills that will help us to think our way around increasingly complex societal challenges. One of our founding principles at Thrive is to scale the benefits of a really great conversation – using that conversation at work and home to rise to the challenges of modern life. In an age when we bark commands at Alexa, and tap our smartphones 2,600 times a day, we can’t forget the generations of accrued knowledge that show us how to really connect with each other as people.

Patricia: I think that, in an era of automation, AI and the diminishing importance of the knowledge economy, social skills are in more demand than ever. In our business at EY social intelligence is what drives both exceptional client service and leadership of the highest performing teams, both of which are central pillars of our strategy. Robots may be on the rise but it is the ability to make a meaningful, interesting and memorable human connection that sets us apart in our marketplace.
This social connection is also a core component of group or cohort learning that is an increasing feature of our learning agenda. Groups of learners, engaged together in their development, experience far more than the enjoyment of camaraderie. We are creating cohorts of fellow learners who are well positioned to innovate, collaborate and provide the mutual support that builds emotional resilience – which means better outcomes for EY.

VR and AR are now recognised as a viable means of training, brining real life, in-situ working experiences into the classroom. What other advancements in technology do you predict to drive learning experiences in the next 2-3 years? Is there anything which you are piloting within EY now or have seen in other organisations?

Patricia: So, to start with, the availability of new and innovative technologies should not drive the learning agenda – the learning agenda comes first with technology as the enabler to this!
At EY we are seeing the demise of the learner as passive recipient and rise of learners as intelligent consumers who expect fast, convenient and tech-enabled learning. Therefore, learning resources must be easy to find & navigate, relevant and immediately applicable to the learner’s current experience.

Pam: The intelligent learner demands a Netflix-style economy for learning. And I think EY has been really impressive at building a learning eco system that gives every learner the chance to effortlessly get the learning and support they need.

Patricia: For time poor learners, modular and virtual routes to learning are persuasive and this is what we are co-creating with our partners at Thrive. After a pilot in 2018, next year we’ll be introducing democratised coaching via a technology platform that enables a virtual coaching conversation at the time and point of need. It also deploys analytics to mine the themes in the data – an invaluable asset for organisational learning. We’re really excited to see the results.

Pam: As are we!

You are going to be joining this year’s HR Vision event in London. What can we expect from your session and how will our audience benefit from meeting you both?

Pam: We want to offer up something that’s practical, relevant and useful for attendees. We’re all too familiar with sessions like this which can be a bit flat, so we’re offering something interactive, thought-provoking and – dare I say it – hopefully fun too. Plus it will have plenty of case study examples and takeaways for practical application in your own organisations.


Join us at the HR Vision London Summit with Pam Bateson and Patricia McEvoy and discover how new paradigms for learning are being put into practice today. Their interactive session will leave you with clear and practical takeaways about how to transform your learning agenda. Find out more www.hrvisionevent.com/london.

Despite HR being a human-centric discipline, technology is rapidly evolving the conventions of good practice. We have put together a free 11 page e-book which includes:

– NASA’s perspective on the rise of the bots
– ‘Getting social’ with Deutsche Telecom

– Karen Brown at Baker McKenzie address humanised technology
– The concept of human robotic partnership

You can sign-up for your copy here.

rise of the machines e-book

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