As the digital revolution takes hold, it promises to change the way we do everything. For employers, this will require a plan to build a workforce for the future.
At PwC, that plan is called the "New World, New Skills" training initiative — and it's backed by a $3 billion investment.
While other learning and development professionals may not have that budget, the company's goals may serve as food for thought. The plan is aimed not only at upskilling PwC's 276,000 employees but also at developing and sharing tech for clients and communities. "We consider this a brand-defining commitment building upon a commitment we already made to not leave anyone behind in our firm," Mike Fenlon, chief people officer at PwC U.S., told HR Dive.
Even for companies that were born digital, there's work to be done. "We're in an ever-receding horizon of knowledge and skills," said Fenlon, meaning that even new grads may not have the digital skills and knowledge required today.
So how do employer acquire these skills? Talent acquisition and M&As may be part of the equation. "But you can't hire your way out of this," Fenlon said, "there simply aren't enough people in market today with the skills."
No employee left behind
While the business need is obvious, employers also should think about how the digital revolution is affecting employees, Fenlon said. Consider the anxiety and fear of being left behind in a growing digital world and how that impacts the growth of income inequality and concentration of wealth.
It's a core element of PwC's business strategy not to leave anyone behind. Employees are expected to take responsibility for their own development, while PwC provides the access to learning. "People have to opt in and take responsibility for their development and future proof their careers," Fenlon said.
PwC also aims to personalize at scale, providing everyone access to a tailored program. With a combination of offerings that includes internal subject matter experts, the employer says it has curated best-in-class learning content that's available to employees through virtually any device.
From basics to deep dives
PwC begins with a digital acumen assessment and then helps workers customize their own learning paths. Employees have access to a one-stop shop of courses, skill-building experiences and more. Some are gamified: There's a live trivia quiz twice a week; for 10 minutes on Tuesdays and Fridays, employees compete for prizes as individuals or in teams to add a social element. Others take the form of podcasts on digital topics.
"The digital quest is layered," said Fenlon; “it starts with foundational knowledge across a wide variety of topics: we all need to understand ... bots, RPA, coding, blockchain, drones, agile, etc. for the 21st century." And while not every topic will be specific to the work or growth of every employee, there's still value in that basic knowledge.
"The response has been tremendous," Fenlon said, with more than 45,000 employees completing the self assessment so far.
In addition to fast-track learning, PwC offers digital academies: one-and-a-half day learning experiences on topics like data analytics, visualization automation tech, building bots and more. More than 30,000 employees accessed these courses in the past year. "Not everyone has to get a degree," Fenlon said, but a deeper look is still worthwhile. "It's important to understand every job is transforming to a hybrid role that will require deeper skills related to data, analytics, process automation."
So what does PwC hope to see in the near term? "We're looking for citizen-led innovation," Fenlon said. "Part of our goal is to unleash the innovative capacity of our people, and to do that you have to create a truly innovative culture. Give them the tools to innovate." To that end, the employer offers a platform where employees can upload and search for automation solutions.
In the community
But the work can't start and stop at PwC's doors. The company is working with its clients to understand the digital challenges they face. Along with governments and others, PwC is working to develop everyone's digital skills, with a particular focus on at-risk populations.
The company has invested $320 million in building capabilities for educators, students and guidance counselors. It provides free access to its digital fitness apps for teachers and is working to bring digital upskilling to 10 million in underserved communities
PwC staff also spend thousands of hours in classrooms and with teachers, volunteering to build digital skills. They work on pro bono projects for nonprofits and their boards, helping them tackle challenging issues. For some stakeholders, volunteers are helping with data analytics to guide strategy for fund allocation. "Our people love these projects," said Fenlon. "They accelerate development for others and themselves, and make a difference in their communities."
"Framed in all of this is the path to secure your future and future-proof your career," Fenlon said. An employer can make massive investments and make time for learning on the job, employees still retain the responsibility to upskill. "Those who opt in are recognized and rewarded, but those who do not are leaving themselves behind. The spirit is anchored in an infinite learner mindset — none of us are ever done learning. That may have been a cliché in the past, but it's a stark reality today."