To operate smoothly, one of the world’s top professional services organizations must carefully balance independence with cooperation.
The organization* functions as a global network, not a single firm, because decentralization helps it navigate complex regulatory frameworks in many different countries. That’s the independence part. Cooperation comes into play because the network pools its resources and shares expertise to work more efficiently.
This dynamic creates a natural tension, causing problems for the learning and development (L&D) team. The network’s L&D offerings were too disconnected, so the team decided to make some changes. “We really wanted to feel more like one entity when it comes to talent,” an L&D leader said.
Just one year later, knowledge is flowing smoothly across the organization, and the L&D team is pioneering a sophisticated skill strategy. Three pivotal moves powered this talent transformation:
1. Unify a Scattered System
Not long ago, the organization’s learning strategy was limited by each member firm’s independence.
“We have a federated model,” the L&D leader said, noting the organization has dozens of firms. “Everybody can choose what background technology they use.”
Those unique choices caused technical difficulties; employees could not access each other’s resources. The organization needed a solution that could integrate diverse tools. “That’s one of the reasons why Degreed was so great for us,” the L&D leader said. “We wanted to have an organization that could share content a lot easier.”
The organization started with a broad launch of its Degreed platform, inviting early adopters worldwide. L&D identified subject matter experts (SMEs) after the initial launch. They collected feedback from these leaders, brought them together in communities of practice, and leveraged their expertise through Pathways that anyone across the company could access.
2. Enable Collaboration and Empowerment
To take advantage of its new integrated learning platform, the organization had to change its learning culture. “When I first started the community of practice, the firms were very, very hesitant to share with each other,” the L&D leader said. “It was like pulling teeth.”
Eventually, all of the member firms got on board, sharing at least one Pathway with their international partners. L&D watched as this wealth of knowledge swayed the skeptics.
“Now I have countries reaching out to me, saying, ‘Hey, do we have a Pathway on this?’” the L&D leader said. “And when the sharing isn’t set up yet, they’re like, ‘Do you know what the hold up is on that Pathway?’”
L&D had to adjust its approach, too. “L&D teams of the past were the ones who built content all the time,” the L&D leader said. “We are definitely moving away from that, to really empower our employees.” The learning team put more effort into curating, building templates, and supporting SMEs who wanted to share their expertise.
3. Track Skills and High Performers
The organization is looking to L&D to prepare for the future. Using data from Degreed, it can better understand the skills in the organization and the actions of top performers.
One element of this effort is a pilot program that’s building Pathways that promote experiential learning. The program also connects to Credly to confer digital credentials. L&D expects this to power greater internal mobility for employees throughout the organization.
“Once you have the Pathways, the skills identified, and all of the practice time, then they get their badge,” the L&D leader said. “Then, what opportunities are available for them to move into?” To answer that question, the organization is mapping skills to specific roles. This will create targeted opportunities for individuals and scalable efficiencies for the organization.
The company is also working to understand how some employees have already succeeded in using xAPI data from Degreed and the firms’ learning management systems to analyze the activity of top employees.
“The hope,” the L&D leader said, “is to identify those high performers and really see what they’re doing, then replicate that throughout the firms.”
*The organization featured in this case study has asked to remain anonymous.