Responsible for the development of more than 4,000 staff, Clare Allum is well aware that success depends on finding the right combination of formal instruction, diverse experiences and specific coaching for each individual.
A clear framework encompassing all the basics for structured learning and development is a prerequisite. In addition, though, there must be scope and intent to innovate, so that up-and-coming managers - and those already in senior roles - continue to meet new challenges and learn from coping with unfamiliar situations.
Outlining her firm's approach at the HR Magazine conference, for which Classified Post is the exclusive media partner, the Asia-Pacific people leader for Ernst & Young's tax division explains that the key is to look beyond 'the technical bit' of accountancy training.
'We still like the classroom for getting people up to speed in the formal part of what we do,' Allum says. 'But we are also trying to change the way the business delivers on-the-job experience, so people can learn more effectively from the work they are doing.'
This means devoting more thought and planning not just to client needs, but also to what assigned members of staff stand to learn on a particular job. The practice in most firms is to steer employees into areas of specialisation relatively early. That might suit clients who want to deal with 'experts', but it serves to restrict opportunities and stunt career development.
'It is great [for the firm] to have specialist skills, but it is not always great for the individual,' Allum says. 'You need a good range of experience to deliver better service for clients in the long run.'
To ensure that happens, she has introduced the concept of 'experience maps', showing what each person requires to be more rounded and ready for advancement. Practical steps include coaching, job rotations, regular reviews, and a systematic log recording hours of experience gained in specific areas.