Capgemini Consulting’s reputation as a truly global and culturally diverse organisation was certainly one of the main factors that persuaded me to join its Consultant Development Community (CDC) a couple of months ago. And nowhere has this ethos been more evident than at the Consulting Skills Workshop (CSW) that I attended in October.
The CSW is a three day training event offered to all new joiners, and represents a pretty significant landmark in the early career of a CDCer. For UK grads, the CSW comes just over a month or so into that often challenging first project; a chance to take a step back and reflect on your experience so far and to revisit and build upon those core consulting concepts first introduced during induction. The intense three day format at times tests the energy levels, but staying focused brings rich rewards; attentive grads are able to soak up a wealth of invaluable instruction and advice from the experienced facilitators as they share their insights through fast paced knowledge sharing sessions and interactive skills workshops. In short, Capgemini provides a secure learning environment and exposes its new joiners to everything they need to know to become a successful consultant in the Capgemini mould. The rest is up to us.
Learning and personal development is only one side of what the CSW has to offer. Personally speaking, the most enjoyable aspect of the CSW was the fact that it drew in recent joiners from all across Europe. It provided us all with a great opportunity to put Capgemini’s collaborative ethos to the test by working in cross-cultural teams over the course of the three days, to ultimately present a complete business case to the facilitators, drawing on all the skills and tools learnt since joining.
My intake was split into two groups; half of which were to be whisked off by Eurostar to the fabulous Capgemini University in Les Fontaines on the outskirts of Paris, while the rest of us were invited to make our way one Tuesday evening to the London satellite town of St. Albans. Any envy at our Paris bound colleagues soon evaporated as we settled into our luxurious 5-star spa hotel! There was little time to relax however, as we met our fellow team members and after some brief, very English small talk about train journeys and the drizzly weather outside, we got to work on our first assignment of the week – a presentation for the following morning.
As the next three days passed in a whirlwind of workshops, facilitations and presentations, I was often struck by the difference in temperament and approach to tasks particular to each nationality. To take presenting styles for example; lines could be drawn between the laidback Swedes, the precise Germans, the brusque French and the ever-so-polite English. Encouraged by our facilitators to consider the intercultural aspect of our interactions, we undertook an intriguing exercise in which we were to split into groups by country and think of 5 national stereotypes and 5 things about our country that we were proud of. A noticeable difference was what each group found pride in; the Dutch were proud of their liberalism and civic values; the Germans of their products and exports; whilst the French boasted mainly of their cultural and gastronomic achievements. A few other national quirks and characteristics were on display over the three days; the Germans first down to breakfast, the French usually last back from lunch, perhaps having lingered too long over a glass of red wine, and the Swedes always immaculately dressed and coiffured, even after a late night at the hotel bar the night before.
When it came down to work, acknowledging our differences in approach and discussing how best our working methods might overlap and complement each other meant that we were able to effectively combine our strengths and be productive as a team. When styles did clash, usually under the stress of a deadline, a compromise was reached through calm negotiation and mediation. Overall, it was clear to me that the diversity of method and perspective within our cross-cultural team brought a richer quality of output.
Outside of working hours, there was a great chance for the language enthusiasts among us to practice our French or German – for better or worse; engaging a colleague in their mother tongue can impress or amuse, but is always a great way to bridge cultural gaps and create stronger international relationships. As a keen Francophone, I happily seized every opportunity to corner the nearest unfortunate French colleague within chatting distance and subject them to a drawn out conversation full of grammatical errors and dodgy slang. I found myself one evening in deep discussion with colleagues from Morocco and Cameroon; what other company provides grads the opportunity to discuss North African politics and learn some Douala dialect over dinner at a training event!? Enorme !
The CSW clearly demonstrates that Capgemini cares about giving new joiners the best possible start on their journey to growing a successful career with the company. As a valuable learning experience, it equips grads with the essential consulting skills and tools they can take away and put into practice on their early projects. Beyond that, it gives new joiners an impressive picture of the global nature of the organisation and provides them with an early chance to build their international networks. Looking ahead to future international projects or secondments, or even considering everyday interaction in the multinational Holborn office, learning how to work effectively in a cross-cultural team will undoubtedly prove a vital skill for our future careers.