Belfast Telegraph

Investment in new office reflects change


An artist's impression of Deloitte's new head office at the Ewart building in Belfast
An artist's impression of Deloitte's new head office at the Ewart building in Belfast

By Jackie Henry, senior partner, Deloitte

As we announced that Deloitte has chosen Bedford Square as the location for our new head office in Belfast, the focus was on the investment we're making in the city, the growth of our business and the significant heritage aspect of the regeneration and refurbishment of the historic listed building formerly known as the Ewart Building.

While it is undoubtedly a statement of Deloitte's confidence in Belfast, it's important to me that people understand the move is about more than a desire to have impressive new offices. It's also about making sure Deloitte is prepared for the future of work which, in many respects, is already here in Northern Ireland.

Driven by accelerating connectivity, new talent models, and cognitive tools, work is changing. Robotics, AI, the gig economy and crowdsourcing are reinventing jobs, creating a workforce of digital natives who bring a technology-based approach to solving problems. This means reconsidering how we design jobs.

As machines replace repetitive tasks traditionally done by people in sectors like transport, medicine, education and entertainment, we believe new roles, professions and responsibilities will be created. While the world is talking about the 35% of the UK workforce that could be replaced by automation in the next 20 years, we are talking about the 3.5 million jobs it's going to create and we want to encourage an environment where people can develop the new skills needed.

Our new Belfast office will accommodate all of Deloitte's core business areas, including audit, tax and consulting but will also incorporate teams from new exciting areas such as cloud, analytics, cyber and robotics and a state-of-the-art Deloitte Digital and Greenhouse space in the Ewart building.

The key to successfully setting up the new teams within Deloitte has been nurturing our own talent. The average shelf life of a technical skill in the workplace is only 2.5 years, so we need our people to be adaptable, with a skillset based around communication, creativity and cognitive skills.

This led us to collaborate with the Department for the Economy, which has funded upwards of 400 roles through our Academy programmes and our BrightStart higher apprenticeship scheme.

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Bringing all our expertise in Belfast together under one roof will foster innovation and collaboration between teams.

We know the physical space will of course be important. Millennials have driven big changes to the design of offices with some employers making them almost extensions of their social settings.

Deloitte will be bringing together an internal working group to decide on the design and feel inside Bedford Square, creating an environment that helps us attract and retain good talent, as well as encouraging innovation. The new head office will also be geared to the changing nature of employment.

Last year the UK Government estimated that roughly five million people were engaged in "gig" work. From lawyers and project managers to massage therapists and chefs, no matter what you do for a living, the allure of being able to decide where and when you do means increasing numbers of people with in-demand skills are opting for freelance work.

All organisations need to ensure they are offering their people a working experience that suits them. People of all ages are moving jobs in search of the right experiences. As a result, we need to think about how we design organisations that people can integrate into quickly and ensure that knowledge is retained after people leave.

If people are only getting out of bed and into the office for the pay cheque, they will leave the minute a competitor waves a better salary under their nose. The movement towards more flexible, fluid career paths puts the power in the hands of the individual, and all organisations need a convincing argument for why they should stay.

Investing in a new home for Deloitte's workforce as we grow to 1,000 and beyond will, we believe, position us strongly for this new world of work.

Belfast Telegraph