Progressing people at EY

Written by
Changeboard Team

12 Mar 2014

12 Mar 2014 • by Changeboard Team

Holding onto talent

Global brand name and local market penetration strategies are crucial in recruiting top talent to Ernst & Young, says MENA D&I leader Zaid Al-Hadhrami. He believes that a growing percentage of talented people are looking for high compensation packages, but have become more sophisticated in their search for appropriate job opportunities. This means career development often takes priority over financial benefits. “EY is well known in this region for its programs that are focused on building the experiences and skills of its employees at all levels,” he says.

In a bid to boost retention, the organization has several talent management programs which are usually categorized and designed to develop the skills of partners, senior leaders, managers and senior managers. Al-Hadhrami explains that participants take part in technical and soft skills training based on business needs and relevance to their level and role in the organization. When progressing through the ranks, employees go through mandatory tailored developmental programs: ‘new senior’, ‘new manager’ and ‘new senior manager’. Some employees also take part in technical training.

“We want to help all our employees reach their full potential,” he explains. “This applies whether they are fresh graduates or experienced executives whose roles are to grow the business, enhance client relations and help build a future talent pipeline. University leavers go through the graduate development program. This is a three-year structured scheme built on business requirements, which leads these employees to achieve their professional qualifications with the support of the company.”

Global NextGen is a high level, two-year leadership program for senior managers and directors on their way to becoming partners. The three modules focus on building business, people and account leadership skills. The organisation is hiring more partners that have graduated from this program, reveals Al-Hadhrami.

Another priority is deploying gender-specific programs which are aimed at helping female employees achieve their potential. “Our Navigator program helps women challenge beliefs, build their personal brand and strike a balance between their social life and the career options available to them,” he says.

Peer-to-peer learning

To help their personal development, all employees have counselors and access to mentors and coaches. “Our performance management system is built around the employees taking charge of their own career development, but at the same time counselors have a major role in the development and career guidance of their counselees,” states Al-Hadhrami. “All partners and senior executives have KPIs in their business scorecards to measure their success in meeting their objectives as counselors.”

The company has also introduced the Career Watch program – where high performing senior managers are directly sponsored by senior partners (watchers). Here, ‘watchers’ ensure line managers are held accountable for retaining, guiding and supporting high potentials to partnership or senior leadership positions.

Feedback & lessons learned

So how does EY measure return on investment of these intensive programs? “We consistently ask for feedback from our people through channels such as counseling sessions, post-training or program evaluations and anonymous surveys sent through email,” says Al-Hadhrami. “These methods help our people who are responsible for career development and training to assess the success of their efforts.” 

Al-Hadrhami says the company has learned to adapt to change. “What works today may not work tomorrow,” he says. “Our counseling and training programs are continually being reviewed and updated to match the changing needs of our people who come from diverse backgrounds and experiences.”

Developing future talent

Talent management programs exist at regional and global level. There is a strong focus on the talent pipeline for managers and above where high performers come together with their counterparts from across the world to attend global leadership programs. For Al-Hadhrami, part of the mission to ‘build a better working world’ comes from building teams that excel and finding suitable opportunities for strong performers to progress. “People are evaluated on their merit and what they can achieve for themselves and for the business,” he says. 

“Our people demand the learning, experiences and coaching they need to grow, develop and progress their careers here. By addressing their needs and equipping them with the right competencies, they will be more able to communicate and do business across geographies and cultures. This is particularly important in a mobile and virtual world. This along with other business priorities, is our insurance policy to having a strong talent pipeline for the future,” he concludes.

HRs role in developing future talent

Al-Hadhrami has this advice for HR professionals: 

Business leaders need to focus efforts on the changing client requirements and the leap in the clients’ expectations. Following the lead of global markets, regional markets are becoming extremely competitive too, so there’s no room for complacency.

The role of HR professionals and recruiters is to lead the curve in supporting their business leaders through these rapid changes and difficult times. Organisations need to recruit and retain the right mix of people with the right set of skills, cultural intelligence and competencies in order to meet – if not exceed – client expectations. This will not happen without skilled recruiters who are well versed in the nature and the necessary requirements of their businesses. HR directors should introduce appropriate training programs to enhance and upgrade the skills and competencies of their employees in order to meet the ever changing and more sophisticated expectations of their clients. Competitive salaries, an appropriate work environment and employee empowerment and engagement policies are among the most important elements to retain a strong pipeline so as to enjoy long term growth and prosperity.