One on One with Protiviti's Scott Redfearn

Scott Redfearn Campus recruiting was highly competitive—and costly. MBA starting salaries set records across many firms. In the next few months you’ll be onboarding the Class of 2011. Now what? The first step is usually an intensive training program, preparing new hires for life as consultants inside your firm. Protiviti recently reinvented their training program and the results have been remarkable. To learn more, Consulting One on One sat down with Protiviti’s VP of HR Scott Redfearn.

Consulting: Why did you feel a change was necessary?

Redfearn: For campus hires, it was clear to us that we had to rethink our training program to better engage with the changing workforce. We had to change to meet the needs of Generation Y. We believe that our approach to teaching has to capitalize on who they are. At the risk of over-generalizing, Generation Y is comprised of people who are less interested in training and more interested in learning. They fully embrace new technologies, including social media. They are socially oriented, time-sensitive and direct their attention to what engages them. It’s not that their attention span is lower, but they are more impatient than previous generations—they’ve grown up with a large number of options at their disposal. We’ve seen these changes emerge in the DNA of our new hires and realized that our old way of training did not sufficiently engage them. Our old approach was Death by PowerPoint. It was very much lecture-based and instructor led and we found that the people were not emerging from our training any more prepared than they were when they went into training.

Consulting: So, what are you doing differently?

Redfearn: We introduced simulation-based learning into our training challenges. Simulation-based learning puts individuals or teams into a scenario in which they have to identify opportunities or issues and work together to apply their knowledge and skills. For example, we introduced a scenario in which an online retailer with explosive growth is having issues securely processing payments, which could derail its IPO. We then walk them through the process of acquiring relevant insight and knowledge. We explain the industry, provide training on how to conduct interviews, introduce controls and work in a team environment. The beauty of simulation-based training is that they get to practice what they’ve learned. They are thrown into a situation where they conduct interviews and get feedback immediately. They then have to build the process map, a series of recommendations and propose solutions. At each step, they get feedback from our leaders.

Consulting: What’s been the reaction to the change in training?

Redfearn: We’ve rolled this out to mid-level and senior talent training, not just the new campus hires. And from those that have been in the profession—and at our firm—for a while, we’re hearing over and over that this is ‘the best training I’ve ever attended.’ The feedback remains excellent and the key now is to keep the content fresh and relevant. We want to constantly incorporate the latest technology and incorporate the use of social media.

Consulting: What’s been the reaction of senior leadership?

Redfearn: Our top leadership, including our whole executive team, is fully behind us. They will show up anytime, anywhere we have a Challenge School around the world. Their sponsorship has been an important element in how our people see the importance of learning. They also participate in the training by sharing their experiences and providing real-life experience.