PwC’s Upskilling 2.0: business-led, people-powered, results-driven

Amazon’s doing it. So is AT&T. And likely your company is, too — investing in ambitious upskilling programs to help grow the business. With 79% of CEOs saying a lack of key skills is threatening the future growth of their organization, it’s easy to see why. But will these efforts yield the payoff you expect?

Here’s one way to boost the odds: it’s called citizen-led innovation, an approach built around equal parts leadership and employee crowd-sourcing. It’s part of our investment of $3 billion to upskill our entire global network and develop and share technologies to support clients. We’ve seen firsthand that our unique, people-led approach works — and believe that without it, you simply can’t deliver the innovation, productivity and change at scale you’re after.

Unlock the power of your people

Consider a recent financial statement audit: Over the course of the year, as we conducted our planning, risk assessment, testing, and so on, our team of auditors was continually looking for ways to tackle their work and save their clients’ time through automation technology. No one gave them a task list or told them where to focus. But what they did have was the skills and license to take their new-found expertise in building bots, automated workflows, and data visualizations and use them to solve day-to-day pain points. The result? Thirty-three automations built for their unique work environment, including several envisioned and created by junior staff members. That’s a single team.

Now imagine what a company could do if every team had the skills and empowerment to innovate in such a meaningful way every day, and to share those inventions across the entire organization.

This people-led approach is at the heart of the digital journey unfolding with our own employees. And we’re getting results: a year into the program, 95% of our 55,000 US partners and staff are using our digital tools and platforms to learn, create and crowd-source. They’ve invented more than 1,500 bots, visualizations and AI models, shaving a million hours of repetitive work. With that time, they’re able to redirect those hours to the part of their job they love most: helping our clients solve their biggest problems.

So what exactly is citizen-led innovation? And what makes it a breakthrough approach that gets results? Here’s a closer look.

A breakthrough approach that gets results

The freedom to opt-in

In a nutshell, this approach starts with leading in a way that inspires people to want to boost their knowledge and skills. And it’s about giving people the autonomy to apply their learning right away in their day-to-day work, so it feels meaningful and relevant.

We like to think of our approach as a three-step process: upskill, up-knowledge and up-perform. Here’s how it works: Business leaders help people upskill by setting the direction and goals, and provide the training, tools, and resources for people to learn and apply their skills. With that guidance in place, employees are free to take the lead on innovating, building, sharing and test-driving solutions. People are excited to share their ideas and micro-innovations as they “up-knowledge.” Their enthusiasm gets other people invested, and change spreads quickly across the organization, helping everyone improve, or “up-perform.” In our firm, for example, we’ve seen more than 3,200 contributions to our Digital Lab, a collaboration platform where people are crowd-sourcing and sharing solutions they’ve built themselves, like bots and automated workflows.

Nothing is mandated or required. Instead, it’s about giving people the resources and the parameters to shake things up from within. They have the power of choice–to decide what learning methods work best for them, and how much they want to opt-in. For one person, that might mean taking twenty minutes out of their day to listen to a podcast on blockchain or learn on the go through our Digital Fitness app. For another, it might mean joining one of our accelerator programs. And they don’t need to ask permission to invent a solution to a problem. For example, a consulting team recently helped a client shorten a manual process from two or three hours to less than five minutes. Not only did they automate a time-draining task, but they also improved the quality of their work by helping reduce the risk of human error from copying data from one place to another and freed up time to focus on higher-value work.

73% of employees say they know of systems or technology that would help them produce higher quality work

Here’s another great aspect of this approach: People become emotionally committed. They want to get involved. They see more purpose in learning new skills and experimenting with different ways of working. They help create change while making their jobs better—73% of employees say they know of systems or technology that would help them produce higher quality work. That emotional engagement helps make this change lasting and sustainable, rather than a short-term initiative with limited impact.

When people think about upskilling, they often jump to the idea that it’s about preparing people for new roles as automation, AI and other technologies take hold. But a people-led approach isn’t about reducing headcount or moving people to other jobs—it’s about helping them grow with their jobs. People end up being more knowledgeable, but not in a way that will be dated in three years. Instead, they’re infinite learners – opting into a program that helps them keep learning and growing as work changes and evolves. In a way, they’re writing their own roles for the future.

Why it works

Leading in a new way

Let’s be clear: this approach isn’t a free-for-all. It’s not about employees doing whatever they want or learning for the sake of learning. Instead, it’s a blend of thoughtful leadership, business and financial strategy, relevant tools and compelling incentives that tap into what people want and how they prefer to work. It’s about helping the business get people to work the way they need to while also helping employees develop the skills they need in order to help stay relevant as work changes.

Everyone’s in it together

A citizen-led approach is bigger than individuals learning new skills or knowledge; it’s creating a shared movement that everyone is a part of. What’s more, inclusion builds a shared reality—a sense of community rooted in the belief that anyone can and will adapt to changing ways of work. When everyone buys-in, excitement and energy become contagious. And while not everyone in the business will need to upskill to the same degree, you can still scale the change you’re after if you have a platform to capture and share people’s ideas.

The payoff

Crowd-sourced answers to real problems that you can reuse and scale. People who can innovate on the ground to solve problems immediately. A team ready and eager to learn, and keep learning, as work changes. A citizen-led approach can deliver this and more.

To companies that have struggled to see the business impact of their upskilling programs — such as stronger tech adoption, improved efficiencies, higher employee retention rates, and a workforce equipped with the digital skills you need — these results may sound like a fantasy. But we know it can happen. We’ve seen it. And we’re excited to help other organizations put it to work for themselves.

Latest News

President Joe Biden signs his first executive orders in the Oval Office

Biden Administration Already Hard at Work Enacting Numerous Beneficial Policies; Amanda Gorman is America’s New Superstar Poet; and More

President Joe Biden sworn in and new administration already hard at work. Just hours after his emotional, star-studded and highly protected inauguration took place on Jan. 20, President Joe Biden is already working on fulfilling campaign promises and undoing some of the most egregious acts carried out by his predecessor….

Trump commission attempts racist whitewashing of history

Trump Commission Attempts Racist Whitewashing of History; Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert Probed for Potential Role in Capitol Insurrection; and More

Trump commission’s “1776 Report” attempts racist whitewashing of history In the highly controversial “1776 Report” released by the Trump administration yesterday, the outgoing GOP party doesn’t just try to present a nonpartisan, “patriotic” look at the nation’s history (as the President had promised the report would do) it fully rewrites…

Boeing Elects Lynne Doughtie to Board of Directors, Following Resignation of Director Caroline Kennedy

Originally published on boeing.mediaroom.com. The Boeing Company (No. 27 on The 2020 DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list) board of directors today announced that Lynne Doughtie has been elected to the board, replacing Caroline Kennedy who has resigned following three years of dedicated service. Doughtie, 58, retired from KPMG in 2020, after serving as U.S. Chairman and…

Flint, Michigan water plant

Ex-Michigan Governor Charged for Racist Lead Poisoning of Flint Water Supply; COVID-19 Vaccines Not Increasing in Availability; Democrats Plan to Repeal Trump Rules; and More

Former Michigan Governor formally charged for poisoning thousands of predominantly Black Flint citizens with water containing lead. In 2014, when the city of Flint was forced by the state to begin taking its water supply from the Flint river rather than using water from nearby Detroit as it had for…