Andersen's Training Program Gets High Marks

Reprinted with permission from Training Magazine's 2001 Top 50 Report. For the complete report, see the March 2001 issue or visit www.trainingmag.com

On the surface, Arthur Andersen certainly boasts the numbers to qualify for the No. 3 spot on the Training Magazine Top 50. After all, an annual training budget of $504 million (second only to IBM's $1 billion) for its 77,000 global employees is a concrete valuation of the company’s commitment to training. Behind the numbers, however, is a well-oiled machine that grasps the value of a progressively trained staff, honed into a collective unit of leaders.

Last year, Andersen launched a strategic direction for its people and clients. Of chief concern for the consulting and accounting firm is becoming a leading employer in all major markets in the areas of recruitment, development, retention, diversity and international mobility. For Andersen, that means a continued commitment to traditional training, including coaching and mentoring, and expanding learning opportunities to its clients, family members and even suppliers.

For its mentors and coaches, the company looks at qualified people from within its ranks. In most cases, management either approaches high-potential employees or accepts volunteers. The individuals’ experience and base-level skills are evaluated to determine whether or not to include them in an intensive, three-day certification course that prepares them to become classroom instructors.

“The certification course makes them more effective teachers,” says Susan Hopkins, director of learning solutions. “We provide a model of a good coach, so when they return to the job they can use those skills and transfer them to the people they work with in their offices.”

Andersen’s Global Management Partner program keeps its partners universally linked, regardless of location or job. The program was designed to rapidly increase the number of U.S. partners with the salient skills to serve in the role of GMP—a role that focuses on key global clients across the company’s service offerings.

The program’s agenda features five, three-day sessions conducted over an eight-month period using traditional teaching, case studies, experiential learning, mentoring and peer coaching by the program’s alumni. Also, there are modified action learning sessions in which participants apply concepts and skills to actual clients during and following each session, followed by client feedback on behaviors known to be critical to a GMP's success.

For Michelle Miller, director of GMP, the program serves to build quality networking and a community of practice among all GMPs. “Our participants love it,” says Miller. “We’ve seen significant learning change and performance gain, and we want to continue to cascade this program to all of our career levels.”

Another notable program, Growth and Retention of Women, is one reason why Andersen has ranked for the eighth consecutive year on Working Mother magazine’s list of the “100 Best Companies for Working Mothers.” GROW focuses on accelerating and enhancing the recruitment, retention, advancement and leadership paths of women through mentoring, networking, and work/life policies. After nearly three years of GROW, the number of women in managerial positions has increased, the overall turnover rate has decreased, and women have accounted for four of the last six promotions to office managing partner.

The program has worked well for Karen Kurek—partner in charge of GROW and one of about 1,300 people who also participate in the company’s Flexible Work Arrangement program. Kurek works an 80 percent workload in order to spend time raising her twin daughters while advancing professionally.

With Andersen employees in 84 countries, a single operating business structure is maintained at an actual business structure: the Center for Professional Education, located on the Fox River in St. Charles, IL. The center holds the distinction of being one of the world’s largest corporate training centers. Each year, some 68,000 people from around the world take a seat at one the center’s 1,300 networked computer workstations or in one of its 145 classrooms.

“This center has both physical and symbolic value, and it’s a huge part of our culture,” says Constance Filling, director of performance consulting. “It helps our people build the relationships necessary to network with colleagues from around the world. We’re moving from what was recognized as an excellent training facility and center for our people worldwide to an innovative learning center that expands on the notion of what education and training mean to the company.”

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