‘Silence promotes thinking’: L&D lessons learnt at Deloitte

by John Hilton26 Aug 2016
Nick Mackeson-Smith has learnt an important lesson during his 13 years as an L&D practitioner.

“L&D professionals tend to want to fill silence with their own wisdom and impart their knowledge on other people, said the L&D Senior Manager at Deloitte in New Zealand.

“But I have found that leaving silence is significantly more powerful. Silence promotes thinking and thinking often leads to people discovering that they had the answer all along.”

Indeed, Mackeson-Smith’s role at Deloitte involves coaching the next generation of leaders, something which he finds particularly rewarding.

“I get a great sense of enjoyment from watching them learn and have that lightbulb moment,” he said.

“They realise that something that may have been holding them back actually isn’t a barrier to their success anymore.

“And they go away and try new things and are very successful.”

However, the fact that employees at Deloitte are often not in the office is a significant challenge in terms of L&D.

It’s not easy for them to come in to attend training because they are frequently out with clients and many are geographically dispersed. Consequently, ensuring the learning is accessible wherever the employees are is essential.

The answer involves a combination of e-learning and face-to-face learning, and they opt for the latter as often as they can.

“We use a combination of approaches such as Skype calls to get people on board, micro-learning, and encouraging people to learn for themselves,” said Mackeson-Smith.  

“But most of our learning takes place out on the job.”

Another key L&D challenge involves the expectations that employees have when they arrive at the organisation.

“Part of it is a generational shift,” said Mackeson-Smith.

“We have people who are looking after very different things compared to what they would have done a few years ago.”

In particular, employees at Deloitte are now looking for a much flatter leadership structure and for greater access to do big things quickly.

“We have got to make certain that the programs that we create give them the right experiences and prepare them to do the things that they are hungry to do,” he said.

Mackeson-Smith added that the people Deloitte employ are keen to learn and grow, and are realistic that unless they do they will be left behind.

“It is particularly important for our people to take responsibility for their own careers,” he said.

“We certainly don’t see ourselves as the central point that everything has to go through.”