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Interview with Emma Grundy
Interview with Emma Grundy
Emma Gundy is the Learning and Development Manager, KPMG. Emma Grundy has worked at KPMG for over 12 years, the last eight of those in learning and development. She has been heavily involved in the implementation and development of KPMG’s Leadership Development Program, since it began in 2003. She has presented and facilitated on a range of courses to different levels of staff, from new joiners at graduate level to partners: on topics such as business writing, personal effectiveness, effective coaching and facilitation skills. Her involvement in European programs has given her valuable exposure to multinational audiences. She also has experience as a coach and mentor within the firm. She has a degree in Accountancy Studies from the University of Exeter and is a qualified chartered accountant. In her spare time, Emma sings with The English Chamber Choir performing in many prestigious London venues! Here she talks to DLO about her work
What attracted you to working in this field?
I have always had a desire to help people make a difference to what they actually do. After completing an accountancy degree I went directly into auditing at KPMG. Then I was offered the opportunity to get involved in audit training. We have quite structured training programs at KPMG and I initially started as a facilitator. I then got involved in the actual presenting and then took a permanent role in the audit training team. The more senior I became, the less I was able to present, which is what I really enjoy. So three-and-a-half years ago I moved out of auditing into the “Skills Group” which provides soft skills training across the whole firm.
What do you see as the biggest challenge in your current role?
Getting participants to take responsibility for their own development and put into practice what they learn on a course. People think that by attending a course they can then “do” the skill, but it all takes practice.
Are these issues attracting the attention they deserve in organizations today?
If you look back just five years, auditors were selected only on the basis of their technical ability. Today, auditors are expected to have the technical ability and clients are looking for somebody they can genuinely work with. That is when the soft skills come into play. For example, is this auditor someone you can trust? Can they present well? Are they effective communicators? Ultimately you do not buy from companies, you buy from people and therefore developing the softer skills of our auditors is crucial.
However, an organization like KPMG is also a commercial entity. Consequently, any money spent on learning and development must be a good investment.
For example, we recently introduced a successful leadership development program across the organization. We obtained buy-in from senior management by stressing the need for some sort of succession plan which, in turn, highlighted the business need for a talent management program. At the end of the day, I am sure we are in the same position as most other organizations where training and development needs to be considered as an investment rather than a cost.
In your opinion what are the biggest obstacles to effective learning and development in organizations?
The major challenges are about making things stick – getting the follow through. Overcoming this challenge has been a major focus of our action learning initiative. In the past, people might say they have “gone on a course” where they have “been taught”. This is not the way we operate. We carry out a lot of accelerated learning techniques on our courses. However, the really tricky bit is getting employees to use this knowledge back in their daily lives when they have so many other demands on their time.
Where do you see development and learning in organizations in, say, ten years’ time?
I think there will be a lot more variety. The buzzword three to four years ago was e-learning. Then there was a transition towards blended learning as people realized that e-learning was not the only answer. I think there will also be greater understanding of how individuals learn, particularly in terms of finding the media to suit them.
What is the most influential book you have read and why?
Read this! Business Writing that Works by Robert Gentle is a fantastic book. It is quick and easy to read and practices what it preaches. I run a course about business writing and recommend this to anyone who participates.
Who would you consider to be the key influencers in this field?
There are lots of people that spring to mind but I do like Edward De Bono’s work. I enjoyed reading about his Six Thinking Hats which introduces a concept to improve thinking skills in group problem-solving situations. De Bono suggests adopting a type of mental imagery whereby you put on your “yellow” hat to think about all the positives about an issue or problem. Then you put on the “black” hat to think of all the weaknesses. This structuring of meetings really works as people are forced to focus their thinking.
What is your biggest achievement to date in the learning and development field?
I work in a really great team where we are able to recognize each other’s strengths and therefore develop and implement fantastic ideas. I am most proud of the work that the team has done in relation to the Leadership Development Program that was introduced two years ago. A lot of work went into it and the initiative has been a success. The partners are supportive as we are winning the cost-investment argument in terms of investing in the future.
However, it was most definitely a leap of faith. We were given six months to create this program so the whole team had to pull out all the stops and invest 100 percent in this idea.
What is the key learning and development event in your calendar this year?
The CIPD HRD conference is the main learning and development event for us this year. It is useful to visit both the exhibition and the conference in order to ensure we are incorporating the latest ideas.
How do you tackle the dilemma of measuring ROI of training/development?
Whilst we do have evaluation forms, the main way in which I know whether a course has been successful is if an employee gets back in touch maybe to ask advice, be reminded of a book I mentioned or a web site I recommended. However, this issue will come up at conferences year after year because it is so difficult to measure!