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PwC’s $3 billion digital upskilling drive is paying healthy dividends

How PwC gamified upskilling to create an unstoppable workforce

Photo by Headway on Unsplash

Most companies have come to realize how important it is to undergo digital transformation, but few have set the wheels in motion to ensure their employees become digital citizens.

PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Chief Product officer, Suneet Dua, describes why a gap exists between what needs to be done and what is happening at companies.

“80% of the CEOs are worried about the key skills of their individuals,” he explains. “However, 20% haven’t done anything about it. So why have one out of five CEOs not done anything about it? It’s because they don’t know how.”

Dua has spent several years looking into how PwC’s workforce should be upskilled to set them up for success in the digital future. After years of analysis, he began to see where processes were breaking down. To him, it was like a pothole that he hit every day, so he set out to fix it. And the number one task on his list was listening to PwC internal workforce — which he calls ‘citizens’ — to find out what problems they were facing in applying the digital tools available to them.

“They work with systems and processes that are old and broken,” Dua says. “And they’ve been telling us for years on years, ‘It’s hard to work here. It’s hard to work with our clients.’ So, we said, ‘How do we take care of our staff?’ And then essentially the model came as they started building all these advancements in automations, it became what we call the citizen-led revolution in our firm.”

To address the issue at PwC, Dua had a budget of $3 billion to create new skills at the firm. The first step was to get a baseline reading of the biggest gaps in digital knowledge to determine what kind of training PwC employees needed. To determine this baseline, Dua and his team developed an app, the Digital Fitness app to determine how digitally fit PwC employees were. The idea was also to ensure that people were getting excited about learning. Instead of deep learning, it involved what he called micro-learning.

His innovative approach to learning and acquiring digital skills paid off.

“Our results have been phenomenal, our outcomes quantitative,” Dua says. “The great margin and revenue have been phenomenal… If you can change the culture at scale, you have a firm that can’t be stopped.”

When Suneet and the PwC leaders saw these kinds of results, they knew they were on to something that could not only change PwC, it could transform the global workforce. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit,they set the wheels in motion to start bringing their X factor to the world at scale.

“I said, ‘We can turn our app to a consumer app and offer it for free,’” Dua says. “‘And I think that would be our give-back to the world because of what’s happening now. Everyone’s home, they’re learning from home…We can maybe upskill the digital acumen of people like your uncle, my aunt, your mom, your dad. And let’s just go crazy. Let’s just send it out there and let’s give it to our global network.’”

The app is now in 80 countries all over the world and has been downloaded more than 400,000 times.

“I got an email from a teacher in Africa,” Dua remembers. “And I don’t know how she found me, but she said, ‘Thank you. We would have never had access to this.’”

Giving this technology away is a bit of a pattern for Dua. In fact, Dua is a strong believer that the way to build things is not by sitting in a silo with a bunch of smart people, but to bring people together.

“The real great way to build is you take the outside-in view,” Dua says.“Our customers, our clients have been telling us for years…You guys are the best learning organization ever, because when we hire your people, they know so much, they’re so trained, they’re so equipped. We have continuous learning. We have this asset and this brand underneath us, and we didn’t even know it. We’ve been a learning organization for 170 years and we just didn’t package it the way we should have packaged it earlier on.”

Upskilling isn’t just allowing PwC to weather new seasons in tech — it’s allowing the company to lead the way in how people use tech. It’s innovative, human-centric, and world-changing — everything PwC needs to stay in business for another 170 years.

To hear more about that and more tune in to Business X factors, here.

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