Corporate Universities continue to offer an exciting array of potential benefits to organizations. They also continue to have their detractors – along with their champions. Perhaps a major part of the debate about Corporate Universities (CUs) is that the phrase instantly conjures up the mental image of a bricks and mortar institution which aim to emulate the likes of Harvard or Oxford; whereas the vast majority of CUs are inevitably much humbler institutions, often not having a physical presence at all.
In this occasional series on Corporate Universities we shall explore the whole variety of structures from the entirely virtual learning hub, through various different emphases of virtual and physical to the handful of those that are very much grounded in their campuses, their physical presence being a major part of their value and impact. All the various versions on the CU spectrum have their individual strengths and benefits – and associated costs. We start this series with a look at the boldest new CU to have emerged in the last few years, Deloitte University in Westlake, Texas and its new sister campus in Belgium for EMEA participants.
Opened in 2011 the Westlake facility has quickly become a central part of the Deloitte landscape in North America, and increasingly for further afield too. Deloitte University is an impressive investment in corporate learning and development, but as its Managing Director, Peter Sackleh told IEDP, it has more than exceeded even the most optimistic of projections. So much so that a European version opened its doors in Belgium in November 2013 to extend the influence of DU further.
But first some statistics to illustrate the influence of the CU project within the organization. Deloitte invested around $300m in creating the Westlake facility. The campus covers 107 acres (43 ha) and the buildings some 712,000 square feet (66,000 m2). It has 800 guest rooms – and five ballrooms, though these are, as Sackleh explains, for plenary conference sessions rather than high-society parties! Since opening its doors in 2011, over 50,000 participants annually have passed through Westlake. While it has seen participants from over 70 countries the vast majority of these are from Deloitte LLP, the U.S. firm, where the employee roll is 61,000.
It is the final statistic that underlines Sackleh’s key point about the decision to invest in a bricks and mortar facility. Deloitte University has quickly become not just the hub for the N American business but its cultural home. More than any other location it is where Deloitte professionals,from the most senior to the newest hires, come to meet and better understand their company. Westlake’s location close to Dallas and its major airport was carefully considered, halfway between the east and west coasts, and with an all-year round climate it is very accessible and unlike many parts of the US in recent weeks unlikely to be off-limits through bad weather.
Deloitte is, of course, a people business – professional services organizations more than almost all other service providers have their value tied up in their human capital. As Peter Sackleh points out, “it is vital for the company to be attracting and retaining top talent” and a centre of excellence that is entirely focused on developing their people’s skills and capabilities is clearly a loud statement of the value the organization attaches to that. Sackleh also notes that “our professionals spend a lot of their time in clients’ offices... so the opportunity to come together is much less than in other organizations. Westlake offers a place they can come together. Our most senior leaders are here regularly, both to meet each other, but they also ensure that when they are here they take part in other programs. It is very much a leader-led environment here – and the flow of people through the campus creates an element of serendipity as to who they meet. It is a great way to foster interactions. This was always a goal but it has far surpassed our expectations; we had not expected this element to be so powerful.”
While Deloitte clients have been involved in some activities on the Westlake campus, attending and participating in industry conferences for example, it is primarily for Deloitte employees. The programs are 92% led by Deloitte personnel, with only the occasional outside expert bringing in specific knowledge. Clearly Deloitte is a ‘knowledge’ organization so in a stronger position than most to internally source its teaching and facilitating faculty.
Sackleh explains that all of the faculty that come ‘out-of-the-field’, that is professionals who are immersed with clients for most of their time, attend the Deloitte Faculty Excellence Program to develop them as coaches and facilitators first. There are no permanent teaching faculty there, though a permanent development team administers the programs.
All participants that attend Westlake are there by invitation – this adds to its aura of rewarding and developing excellence. The focus of the curriculum tries to be as cross-functional as possible, as those are the adaptive skills people require in the real world. The Leadership Center builds broad capabilities, and has a strong anchor in Deloitte’s efforts for its employees to lead, and be seen to be leading, in the communities where the firm works. A specific example is the Leadership Center for Community Impact and its Career Opportunity Redefinition & Exploration (CORE) program that helps veterans translate their military skills to the business world and find corporate employment.
The Deloitte learning system is based around their TIPL approach: Technical knowledge , which is the foundation of all professional services value; Industry, the ability to have and share insights as to how the technical knowledge can impact with clients; Professional, to deliver value in the most appropriate way; and Leadership.
The Westlake campus includes a world-leading level of technology to support the development needs, from its interactive ‘media wall’ through to the linked electronic classrooms elsewhere across the US and further afield.
It is however the human nature of bringing its people together that has been the most powerful success of Westlake. With this benefit in mind Deloitte inaugurated DU EMEA in December 2013 a new campus outside Brussels in Belgium, to create a similar environment for EMEA based employees.
This campus is as ambitious in terms of what it looks to create and achieve, but has been established in partnership with Dolce Hotels and Resorts for the hosting of centrally organised training - Dolce La Hulpe, Brussels is the primary location for DU EMEA, with facilities at Dolce Chantilly in France also being used for some courses. The Dolce Hotels & Resorts facilities are not exclusive to Deloitte, but when Deloitte is on site it will be very clear that it is the home of DU EMEA, with Deloitte signage, branded supplies and so on.
DU EMEA has been developed through a partnership among member firms in the region including South Africa, Belgium, Central Europe, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, United Kingdom, Luxembourg, and Austria. Participation expected to be close to 10,000 training days this year, and rise to at least 30,000 training days annually in the next three years.