SkillingNow Podcast: Episode 4 - Transcript

Manon Bosma: Hello everyone. Welcome to the GAN Global Podcast on SkillingNow. We’re here today at the Accenture Future Camp in Geneva for its Chair Handover Ceremony. I am Manon Bosma, Managing Director, Talent and Organisation, Accenture.


I am here with Alain Dehaze, outgoing GAN Chair, CEO, The Adecco Group, Laurent Freixe, incoming GAN Chair, Executive Vice President, CEO Zone Americas, Nestlé, and Thomas Meyer, GAN Board Member, CEO Accenture Austria, Switzerland, Germany. The topic today is all about work-based learning (WBL) and its role for business. Welcome Gentlemen. What would you say are the main incentives for companies to invest in WBL?


Alain Dehaze: WBL is a wonderful, very efficient way to ensure a talent-based pipeline. Thanks to WBL, such as apprenticeships, we are able to give the right capabilities to our future employees. Through WBL, we can provide not only the capabilities that the company needs but we can also influence certain behaviors.


Laurent Freixe: Adding to what Alain has already pointed out, WBL is the best way to recruit, as this will allow a business to train for its needs. For the apprentice, this allows them to explore whether the company fits with their values and expectations. Apprenticeship is an efficient way to train for companies and this ensures that we have the rights skills for the future.  


Thomas Meyer: Coming from a country like Switzerland, where apprenticeship has a long tradition as part of its education system, and 70% of its people go through this programme, an apprenticeship type of education is the norm. For Accenture, it’s normal that we provide opportunities through apprenticeship. More importantly, this is the kind of education that prepares people for the future, as it combines work with education at the same time. It creates a mentality for lifelong learning for people early on in their careers, which is important for our future.


MB: Apprenticeship is a huge investment. Do your companies have ROI figures to justify the investment?


LF: We evaluated the business case, as the spirit of the global youth initiative programme we started was to create value for business and society at the same time. We worked with academic partners and consultants to evaluate what was the investment and what was the return. What was found, was that for Nestlé, for each 1 CHF invested, there is a return of 1.2-1.5 CHF, depending on types of impact. 1.5 CHF is is our estimated return including the reputational impact, whereas the impact on society, has a one to five ratio. The business case is clear, with a win-win outcome for companies and society.


AD: There have been studies in Switzerland, on the black zero ROI, which means that if a company invests 100K CHF into the salary and employment-related expenses of an apprentice over the period of duration of the apprenticeship (of four years), the return will be at least the same of 100K CHF because the apprentice will be delivering good work for four years, and she or he will be immediately employable, with highly relevant skills, upon completion of the apprenticeship.


TM: On a more global basis, there are other local situations that we have to take into account. At Accenture, apprenticeship is moving from a CSR to a HR model. This is part of the workforce of the future, and part of being a good and attractive employer for young people. This is where the business case is very evident.


MB: What is your vision about the future of employment in your particular sector?


LF: Employment is taking new shapes and forms, following technology. We have a more open and more connected work environment, this is visible even in the way workspaces are organised. As we work across countries, time boundaries are evolving and there is more flexibility in the ways we work. Generally speaking, it is also less hierarchical and more product focused. These are the changes we see happening.


AD: We see talent being amplified with more technology, and increasing productivity, allowing us to focus more on core activities, replacing more repetitive tasks with tools such as ChatBot. On the flipside, we also see technology being amplified with talent. This is a great opportunity going forward, especially in new models such as platform business.


We are also living in a VUCA world - volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. This requires us to be more flexible and agile, combining core activities with core people, and using this flexibility as freelancers, or outsourcing. This is how I see and anticipate the future of work.   


TM: Accenture’s mission is to bring innovation, to improve how the world works and lives. Traditionally, for this, we have been a strong promotor of the need for T-shaped skills, specialists in an industry, while having social and communications capabilities, etc. What we do see emerging is that to a certain degree, one needs to have the courage to move out of your industry, as innovation is happening in between industries, so cross-industry knowledge is becoming a key element. In general, I would say that the horizontal bar of the T is becoming thicker. The more general skills one has, such as collaboration, an open mindset (at Accenture, we are in the business of orchestrating collaboration), will help you to embark on new paths and will be in high-demand.


MB: How do you see the role of lifelong learning in all of this?


AD: Lifelong learning is one of the key ingredients for companies, employees and governments, because it is a component of the future of work. One way to prepare for what lies ahead is to structure lifelong learning. One recommendation we have for government is to deploy the portable, individual, learning accounts, allowing employees to save money during their work to invest at some point in their career on upskilling/reskilling. We see that people on average are losing 30% of their competences after four years. So after 10 years, many competences one has may be considered obsolete, and we will need to be upskilled to remain employable. 


LF: Knowledge is evolving very quickly and has a shelf life. It’s important that people stay updated and have an attitude of learning all the time. In life, learning every day is important, not necessarily for technology, but technology makes the aspect of learning more compulsory. This is about staying relevant in a time of extraordinary changes in technology and knowledge. Lifelong learning should be a focus for everyone to stay employable for the long-term.


TM: If you’re looking for a business model for lifelong learning, then look to a professional services company like Accenture. In such an organisation, learning is a continuous motivator. If you’re not learning, then you quickly become irrelevant, and out of business. We have the luxury of having those that are in the business of staying relevant and learning all the time for themselves, and for our clients. 


MB: Laurent, what are your goals as incoming GAN Chair?


LF: The main goal is to achieve the strategy and vision laid out by the GAN Board Members, particularly the 20 x 20 x 20 GAN Challenge, to achieve through 20 member companies and 20 country networks, 20 million opportunities for youth. My main goal is to make this a reality. The sub goals are to attract other like-minded companies. We know that there are many out there whom we can collaborate with, and we will send out invitations to them to become members.


The GAN through its networks has the power to change regulations, and this is what we need as companies to move from piloting to scaling up apprenticeship schemes in the countries where we operate. GAN because of its membership and its unique composition of companies, the public sector and international organisations, such as the International Labour Organization (ILO), the International Organisation of Employers (IOE) and the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), has the power to frame and shape regulation. These are my goals and that of the Board, and I take this moment to thank Alain, The Adecco Group, and Thomi, Accenture, for being prominent leaders for this cause. I know I’ll be able to count on them for the future to turn this 20 x 20 x 20 GAN Challenge into a reality.


MB: Thank you Gentlemen for being here today and sharing your perspectives. Thank you Alain and thank you Laurent, we look forward to the next chapter.