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Watch Now: Deloitte Consulting CEO Discusses Business Impact in a Changing World, Answers Students’ Top-of-Mind Questions During Ross Event


Deloitte Consulting CEO Dan Helfrich joined Michigan Ross Dean Scott DeRue for an insightful conversation on how students and business professionals can strive for a successful career, lead in the virtual workplace, and create more inclusive teams and organizations.

Building a more inclusive workplace environment is more important than ever before.

With that backdrop, Dan Helfrich, CEO of Deloitte Consulting, joined Scott DeRue, Edward J. Frey Dean at the Ross School of Business, for an insightful conversation on how students and business professionals can strive for a successful career, lead in the virtual workplace, and create more inclusive teams and organizations.

 The discussion was moderated by Jazmyn Becker, MBA ’21, and offered students in the audience the ability to submit questions and participate in real-time polling on topics related to diversity, equity, and inclusion; the future of work and the consulting industry post-pandemic; and the role of business in solving societal issues.

 As CEO, Helfrich leads a team of more than 50,000 consultants who help clients solve their most complex problems. As the oldest of seven in a diverse family, his experiences have shown him the value of inclusivity for business and society. Most recently, Helfrich has released a “Everyday Equations” video series focused on responsible change, where he gives his personal perspective on leadership, building a purpose-driven, inclusive work culture, and challenging traditional business orthodoxies.

Watch Business Impact in a Changing World: A Conversation with Dean Scott DeRue and Deloitte Consulting CEO Dan Helfrich

Q&A with Deloitte Consulting’s CEO

Before the event, Helfrich answered four most frequently asked questions of Michigan Ross students.

  1. How do you foresee consulting workforces changing as the pandemic ends, and how do you see the “going virtual” trend impacting long-term relationships between consultants and clients?

The pandemic has rapidly accelerated the future of work in consulting and across industries. For some time, I've been pushing our consulting profession to change the way that we work to be much more experience based, much more virtual, and to change the rhythm of a vision you have in your head of a consultant who's on an airplane or in a hotel room.

And the reason I've always felt like we needed to change that is because I’m confident we can do the work, or lots of the work, virtually. It is beneficial to our people from a well-being and a sustainability standpoint.

Most importantly, though, our clients are experiencing every day how productive our teams can be – whether our teams are on client sites or working virtually. For example, we’ve done some very large and complex go-lives virtually with great results. We’ve learned a lot along the way, and we’ll keep iterating on those learnings. But we keep demonstrating in the work we are delivering right now that virtual delivery can and will continue to be an option for many of our client teams.

But delivering outstanding work is only part of our client work -- building meaningful relationships and being a trusted advisor is the other part. We’ve been helping our teams understand how to do that in a virtual environment. It takes more intentionality – those hallway conversations are no longer happening, so we’ve been coaching our teams about other ways to set up meaningful virtual time that’s incremental in building those relationships with our clients.

  1. How has your opinion of an ideal incoming consulting candidate changed for the coming season of applicants? How does the pandemic affect recruitment this year, and do you anticipate any current trends to stay even after COVID-19 is over?

 I’ve always felt that consultants need to assess the situation – whether that is with a client, internal project, or now in a pandemic – and determine what the best path forward is. It’s that ability to read the room, to be agile, and figure out what makes sense for the client or situation – be able to adjust and go off script. This ability to be agile is more important than ever before. So much of what has been traditionally been done or thought no longer applies.

I also want to emphasize how much the consulting profession has changed and the skills needed today are very different than when I became a consultant. For example, 20 years ago this was an advice profession, and you were an advisor to an executive, giving them ideas and, you know, sage wisdom, maybe doing research for them. Now we package together interesting data, insights, technology, and advice together, to have an integrated solution to a challenge the client is facing.

From a recruiting perspective, our teams – like the one here at University of Michigan – are figuring out how to have meaningful virtual experiences and I think some of that will carry over into recruitment post-pandemic. I am so glad that because of the advancements in technology, I could still spend time with everyone today and see your faces and hear your questions.

In the course of a day, I can meet with teams and clients from around the world – something that would have normally taken weeks or months before. Don’t get me wrong, there’s still tremendous value in face-to-face experiences, but in a post-pandemic world, we will all ask more questions about “the why” for meeting in-person, instead of it always being the default. Those questions and the need behind in-person events and meetings will continue post-pandemic in our approach to recruiting and across other aspects of our business.

  1. What makes Michigan Ross graduates such strong candidates for positions with Deloitte? What characteristics set them apart from other candidates?

We have a long and proud relationship with the University of Michigan, in general and Michigan Ross, specifically. There are more than 700 U-M alumni that work across Deloitte, with over 400 of those alums working for Deloitte Consulting. More than numbers, a reason we have long valued U-M as a source of talent because of our similar cultures and values, including:

  • Collaboration and the importance of working effectively in teams, which is central to almost all of the work that we do;
  • Emphasis on building a diverse and inclusive culture, which is clearly more important than ever; and
  • Belief in purpose and the role of business in solving our biggest societal challenges.

We also applaud innovation in education, such as Ross’s focus on positive organizational studies and its renowned approach to leadership – including the Ross Leaders Academy, where the Deloitte Foundation and Deloitte professionals have funded this program since inception.

Because so much of the work we do has a strong industry focus – such as healthcare – we need people who have that business understanding and acumen as well as expertise in a specific field. The demand for people with that educational experience will only increase in the coming years. Dean DeRue’s emphasis on fostering cross-college collaboration and increasing dual-degree programs mirrors our view of where skills are needed now and in the future.   

  1. Both Ross and Deloitte have impact-driven missions. How would you describe the relationship between the culture at Ross and Deloitte, and why is that important?

At the heart of Deloitte and of Ross is purpose. We at Deloitte want to make an impact that matters – for our teams, clients, and society at large. That desire to make an impact manifests itself in many ways – in the ingenuity and creativity that our people bring to problem solving, in the tens of thousands of hours we do pro bono to advance the mission of nonprofits on a variety of issues, and in how we support and treat each other.

Both of our organizations have very clear and defined values that guide our decision-making. Whether it’s who we decide to team with in the market or work we decide to take on, we have clear values and processes to guide those decisions. We have a goal to be the most responsible and influential consulting organization and to reach that goal we need to stay committed to our values and act on them every day.

Attaining that goal is driven by having a value-based culture. Personally, I spend a lot of time on building a strong culture and I know that is something Dean DeRue does as well. A lot of that time is talking with our people and understanding what motivates and frustrates them, being transparent and asking for their transparency in return about ideas to change what’s not working. How can we build on that motivation and what roadblocks can we remove? A strong culture creates the stickiness – the community that drew us to our respective organizations and inspires us to be here every day. That community, that stickiness is something common between our organizations.