Global HR Leader
Our firm is on a path of steady growth, and I’m very happy to report that we hired more than 1,200 new colleagues in 2017. In the highly competitive market for digitally savvy talent, this is not a matter of course. I believe there is a good reason for our success in attracting talent: we understand that it’s all about the ecosystem of work. While a competitive salary must be a given, the factors determining your everyday work make all the difference – for example, the company culture, your interactions with leadership, the quality of the projects you are working on, and the environment you are working in. This is what counts day in, day out, and this is what we focused our people strategy on.
BearingPoint is and always has been a client-centric organization. To execute our people strategy, we are simply applying this same guiding principle to the clients we have as an HR function – the people working at this firm. The question is how we improve their customer experience. Rather than developing a big program at the corporate head office and then rolling it out across the firm, we need to understand our people’s experience, try things out, and, if they work, distribute them.
Before taking on the role as HR Leader, I worked as a Partner on projects, and from my point of view, we can easily apply our strategic business approach to the HR function, too. As our Chief Development Officer Patrick Palmgren puts it, we have to collaborate and co-create with our clients, focus on some strategic choices, execute on them, but also be quick to change if they don’t pay off. Our strategic choice for HR is to focus on the ecosystem of work because it matters to our people, and our goal is to improve the experience our people get at BearingPoint. To get their perspective, we listen to people and try things out, as we do with our clients in innovation labs.
For example, in 2017, we piloted new performance-management models in Norway and Ireland where we partly moved away from the traditional performance-management model to one focused on more continuous feedback. It’s important to run these kinds of pilot projects because if we don’t try, things will never change. So, what are we doing to improve the experience of our internal clients? For the purpose of this piece, I will focus on three important aspects: the onboarding phase, our leadership development, and matching working environments with lifestyles.
As you might expect, we do have a standardized onboarding procedure for new employees, including introductions to everything from administration and tools, over culture and values, to strategy and leadership. We also make sure that every new employee has a mentor to talk to and gets opportunities to start building a network. Shortly after this, all new employees from across the firm attend our week-long Be.School for a full induction to the way we do business at BearingPoint. Our approach is to fully apply the concept of customer experience to this process. In particular, with regard to the question how we assign the right people to the right projects. This is probably the most important piece to the onboarding process, since our people will spend most of their time on project work.
Training is, of course, a very important part of our people development, and you will find some facts and figures to support this here. However, we can’t overestimate the impact of everyday leadership on the development of our people, and hence, we made a significant investment into our leadership development last year. In 2017, we launched a program to strengthen our leadership culture with the objective of focusing on developing our people’s full potential. We want to better prepare our leaders to develop their teams, because our people learn most when they are working on projects with inspiring leaders. In addition, we also offer training to widen the professional horizon of our leaders such as a new Partner training program in cooperation with the Saïd Business School in Oxford, a revised training program for new Managers (focusing on leading oneself, leading teams, and leading clients), or our management and leadership training programs in Yale.
While working on interesting projects with inspiring leaders is a main source of energy for every consultant, there is, of course, much more to our people’s ecosystem of work. Depending on the stage of their career or general circumstances of their lives, priorities change. For instance, new employees might be keen to work in a start-up environment for a while; experienced consultants with families might prefer to travel less while their kids are young. Our goal is to match working environments with lifestyles, and we have a couple of tools to facilitate this.
There are options to request to work from home, part-time working arrangements, sabbaticals, and we have doubled the size of our global mobility program “develop abroad.” The set-up of our business units Consulting, Solutions, and Ventures allows for more diverse career paths so that we can offer different options to suit different lifestyles. For example, the BearingPoint Ventures unit provides the opportunity to work in a start-up environment, and our more product-focused Solutions unit provides an opportunity for people who need to travel less. However, we will always have to balance the needs of our people with the demands of the business when making decisions.
There are also areas where the demands of people and business are aligned anyway, and diversity is such an area. Diversity of staff is not only something our people expect, it is a prerequisite for an innovative culture. It’s an opportunity to become better because diverse perspectives will lead to better results. Incidentally, we might even have a head start on start-ups when it comes to diversity, as they are typically made up of one generation of employees. Our pool of people is much broader. I’m not saying we have achieved all of our diversity objectives yet, but we are committed to getting there in the interest of our people and our business. One of our priorities for 2018 is to go beyond diversity of gender and push for diversity of generations. Overall, we will continue to build a more holistic view on our ecosystem of work that ultimately means better aligning our people and business strategy. It just makes sense – and it works.