KPMG Lakehouse: KPMG Professional Development Center

KPMG Lakehouse is changing the training game. Prior to the launch of the KPMG Lakehouse training center in Orlando, Florida, you’d never hear a KPMG consultant saying, “I really love corporate training. It’s so much fun. It’s especially enjoyable when combined with stays at ‘Hotel Ho Hum’ after endless traveling to and from those training sessions. Waiting for hours inside airports is a blast, too … it’s exactly how I love to spend my time.”

With the recent opening of KPMG Lakehouse Orlando, it’s safe to say that the “training game” has radically changed for KPMG. It’s worth examining this new paradigm—and how the firm’s new training model could benefit you as you consider your various consulting career options.

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KPMG Lakehouse: The Who, the What, and the Why

Inaugurated in January 2020, KPMG Lakehouse Orlando serves as a professional development and innovation hub for the firm’s 32,000 US-based employees and partners. KPMG Lakehouse began as both a visionary idea, and a cost-cutting measure.

Cost-cutting, it seemed, became a necessity. A total of $100M annually was being spent on hotel expenses for employee training sessions across the US. In addition, holding workshops in different locations necessitated repeat spending for new signage, tech set-up, and other logistical details. It was a “no-brainer” for KPMG to put that annual expenditure towards building its own facility.

But it wasn’t just a practical, bottom-line decision to centralize KPMG’s training efforts. Prior to the KPMG Lakehouse opening, the company’s training model was less than ideal. It wasn’t just the time-robbing travel hours and related logistics of hopping around the country. It was also the training itself. Overall, KPMG’s professional development program has always been touted as good-to-excellent. Understandably, however, it tended to differ in quality from location to location. Also missing was the lack of accessibility to potential mentors as well as a wider span of networking opportunities and sharing of ideas.

Then, there was the lack of access to “higher-ups.” Inside the office, such attempts at brain-picking might be construed as brown-nosing … or even harassment. Outside of the office, such valuable learning opportunities rarely exist. A final drawback to having a decentralized training model is that it’s less likely that an intern or first-year consultant will ever feel part of “something bigger.” This can be both demoralizing and disincentivizing.

All of these factors created the need for a new paradigm in professional development. What was clearly needed was a centralized, “one-stop” training center that encouraged interaction, collaboration and discovery. Today, drawing on advanced technology and a learning model that moves beyond classroom lectures, KPMG Lakehouse Orlando has become that new paradigm. It’s an ambitious one as well. During 2020, KPMG plans to deliver more than 1M hours of in-person professional development to 800 of its professionals each week.

KPMG Lakehouse Training: Learner-Led at Lake Nona

At the core of the KPMG Lakehouse training paradigm is a “learner-centric” experience. “We’re putting the learner at the center of our KPMG Lakehouse location,” said KPMG’s Chief Learning Officer, Corey Munoz in an interview with Accounting Today. “Our aim is to create an environment that goes beyond training to actively explore new ideas.”

One way KPMG Lakehouse is channeling those new ideas is through the creation of KPMG Lakehouse’s Ignition Center. Dialing client relations up a notch, the Center provides a place for professionals to meet with clients to explore potential disruptors, new business models and breakthrough solutions. It’s a perfect “spill-over” companion to the innovative consultant training model.

Besides having a place where they can gather to learn, collaborate and innovate, it was essential that each learner felt part of a larger family: the KPMG family. That cold, corporate, soulless feeling was to be avoided at all costs. “We wanted to build one personalized training location—a cultural home—for our employees,” states David Turner, KPMG’s Chief Financial Officer. “And that’s exactly what we did.”

KPMG Lakehouse: A Cultural Home

Designing and building this “cultural home” was a big risk. KPMG spent $450M to build the sprawling 55-acre KPMG Lakehouse location complex. The design was intended to give the center an “outside in” windowless look that mirrored its core philosophy of open learning, innovation and accessibility. Both the KPMG Lakehouse itself and the guest amenities are impressive—combining the luxury of a resort with the warmth and comfort of home. This “second home” includes 800 single-occupancy guest rooms, 90 classrooms, innovation labs, and a 1,000-seat auditorium.

Since “all work and no play make Jack a dull boy,” KPMG Lakehouse Orlando designers got creative. They “threw in” a 15,000-square-foot gym along with miles of cycling and running paths that run along Orlando’s Lake Nona. Mornings begin at the on-site Starbucks coffee lounge and evenings wind down with a—wait for it—wine bar. Incoming trainees to KPMG also have access to cutting-edge mobile applications. These apps steer learners through each day—helping with everything from registration, schedules, dining and exercise options. The apps also make connecting with fellow learners and opportunities to network a breeze.

This attentiveness to detail that helps to ensure a guest’s comfort is called “experience design.” It’s a forward way of customer-centric thinking that believes an engaged customer (in this case, the KPMG learner) is of more value than a loyal customer. (It’s actually a symbiotic relationship—an engaged learner should ultimately create a loyal employee.) This engagement factor is particularly true when it comes to technology. The goal is to have humans interacting with technology in a, for lack of a better word, humanizing way. As one seasoned experience designer states, “Our ultimate goal is to make using technology not only usable, but also fun and enjoyable.” (Think gaming at work … without worrying about getting caught.)

KPMG Lakehouse’s Finer Points: “My Space” Is Back … and Wow, Is It “Mesmerizing!”

No doubt, $400M buys you a lot of comfort and convenience—not to mention that coveted “fun and enjoyable” experience. Joe Davis, an intern at KPMG, was certainly impressed. “As soon the words “aromatic towels,” came up, I knew we were in for a luxurious experience,” shares Davis. Adam Silverstone, a KPMG consultant, was similarly wowed. His first impression of KPMG Lakehouse Orlando evoked a kind of Wizard of Oz sensation. “Just pulling up and going through the big gates and seeing this huge building with all this glass … well, it was mesmerizing,” remarks Silverstone.

But it’s the accessibility that Davis, Silverstone and others really embrace. “It’s a great space because it’s our space,” emphasizes Davis. “It’s inclusive in that you can go up to anyone and talk to them—making it a great place to establish connections.”

This egalitarian kind of “connection” is evident throughout the KPMG Lakehouse training experience. For all intensive purposes, there are no “higher-ups” at the KPMG Lakehouse. Here, an intern is just as likely to be bunking next door to a senior consultant as they are a fellow newbie. And a morning run can include a top executive jogging alongside a flock of “eager-to-fly” KPMG fledglings seeking career advice. In this setting, rather than “shooing” them away, the upper echelon encourages such interaction—reflecting KPMG’s ethos that “territory folks should stick together.”

KPMG Lakehouse Orlando: The Locale and the Locals

Thus far, KPMG employees training at KPMG Lakehouse seem to be more than satisfied with their experience. They also cite the convenience of KPMG Lakehouse Orlando. This, of course, was part of the strategy from the get-go. KPMG chose Orlando out of 50 other cities largely because of the availability of direct flights from the firm’s headquarters in New York and other key KPMG office locations. “We were very focused on the experience our people would have getting to the Lakehouse,” states one KPMG planning executive. (They all agree that no one should have to ask, “Where is KPMG Lakehouse?”)

In addition, KPMG wanted both its KPMG Lakehouse employees and those coming in for training to feel part of the surrounding community … and vice-versa. Thus far, Orlando locals seem to have really taken to KPMG Lakehouse. One local observer describes the complex as a “great training facility—reimagined and designed from the ground up.” Another local yokel (who dubs himself “The Corporate Explorer”) describes the complex as “an amazing experience for anyone who has the privilege to visit!” Even more beneficial for the community is the boost to their economy. Nearly 375 local jobs have been created since the KPMG Lakehouse opening just five months ago.

KPMG Lakehouse’s Not-So-Fine Points: Okay, There’s Two.

Nothing is ever perfect … even in Corporate Training Paradise. Yet being in its infancy, it’s too soon to see many downsides to the ambitious KPMG Lakehouse training center—unless you count humidity and hurricanes. Also, while some dub the KPMG Lakehouse Orlando building as “beautiful” others may not take to the imposing, modern glass-and-concrete leviathan of a building. Some claim that it looks more downtown Chicago than southern Florida. (It’s a bit of an architectural challenge to build a “down-home” 8,000-square-foot log cabin-style training center. Or, for that matter, a 1930s Miami-style art deco showcase.)

There also might be the “odd man out” who actually prefers to flit and fly all over the country to different training session locations. But for KPMG consultants who already log a lot of flying miles, adding more plane times and “fossilizing” in airports is “so 2000.” For them, having just one place to “lodge and learn” for their training and professional development is a godsend.

The Wind Up … and the Pitch

No one can escape the reality that “work-life” balance is a common concern among team members of the “Big 4.” Let’s be honest, it’s true for the consulting business in general—and beyond. It can be fast, furious and frenetic—not to mention a time robber. For this reason alone, KPMG Lakehouse offers a preferred alternative to the older training model. It gives back personal time, allows hard-working team members to “just chill,” while also providing unparalleled opportunities for professional growth. Thus far, KPMG Orlando’s combo of resort-style accommodations with a learner-centric training model seems to be working. Anytime consultants—be they newbies or seasoned professionals—can, recharge, reconnect and refocus on new challenges and opportunities, it’s a win-win for everyone.

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Filed Under: KPMG, Leadership, management consulting