Last month, when Tesla eclipsed America’s century-old car manufacturers to become the most valuable automaker in the United States, it was a stark reminder of just how fast the world is changing.
Yes, dramatic shifts have always been a part of the business world – but today’s companies are contending with a faster pace of change, coming from more places, than ever before. Virtually every industry is vulnerable to disruption, and that means there are a few things that every company should focus on to ensure their long-term success.
The first is building a workforce for the future. As a global firm with more than 250,000 people in over 150 countries, we at EY have seen firsthand how, as the global economy changes, the nature of work is changing along with it. In response, companies that want to attract and retain the best talent need to adapt. At the same time, companies need to make a conscious effort to disrupt themselves in a larger sense – because if you don’t, someone else will.
At EY, we are taking on these two challenges – modernizing our workforce and disrupting our business – hand in hand.
Building a Workforce for the Future
For example, we know that the skills our people need to succeed are constantly changing. That’s why we are investing more than ever in ongoing training opportunities for our employees. In 2016, EY invested more than $500 million in over 12 million hours of classroom learning for our people – an increase of three million hours from the previous year.
Often, this means putting people through exercises that simulate real business challenges, so they can clearly see how the new skills they acquire apply to the work they’re doing – and will do in the future. Notably, this training also comes on top of mentoring, sponsorship, and other professional development opportunities that ensure our people are ready to advance.
This year, we are also rolling out a new system that enables our people to earn certificates, or “keys,” for each new skill they learn. For instance, if a person gains valuable experience in data analytics, we recognize this with a “key” that they can add to their qualifications both internally and externally. That way, as people gain additional skills that will be in-demand going forward, they will be able to build their personal brand in a public way. The more keys employees have, the more doors they’ll be able to open for themselves.
Creating a Culture of Innovation
At the same, as organizations work to train people for new challenges, it’s also important to take action to create a larger culture of innovation. That starts with recruiting talent from new places and people with different backgrounds – the very people who will help us disrupt ourselves from within.
Today, when EY hires new employees, we aren’t just looking for traditional skillsets that come to mind when you think about professional services. We’re looking for candidates with expertise in areas like statistical analytics, coding, and computer science.
In fact, we expect to hire more graduates with technological and data backgrounds this year than Google will. And once we recruit them, we’re increasingly building teams that combine tech people with people who have traditional professional services backgrounds, so they can combine their skillsets to solve evolving challenges in new and innovative ways.
Finally, as part of this culture of innovation, we’ve created a Global Innovation Team, which has embarked on a worldwide effort to disrupt our organization and adapt for the future. This effort is headed by our Chief Innovation Officer, an experienced Silicon Valley executive, and has the freedom to operate outside our existing structures. They are using that freedom to run a series of pilot projects that operate a lot like internal startups, looking for ways to disrupt some of our core business areas. Our logic is simple: if the world of tax and assurance is going to be disrupted soon, we want to be the ones to do it.
No matter what field you’re in, it’s steps like these that will enable your organization to succeed in a rapidly changing world. Because ultimately, the only proven response to disruption is innovation. That means not only reacting to what is happening in the world today, but actively preparing for the world of tomorrow – and then working to make it a reality.
(Originally published on LinkedIn)