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How digital upskilling can help you create a culture of innovation

Sixty-nine percent of CEO’s agree that generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) will require most of their workforce to develop new skills in the next three years.

However, one of the greatest challenges to upskilling efforts is the lack of clarity employees have around how their jobs will change in the future. To help create a culture of innovation, avoid top-down mandates for corporate learning and development. A bottom-up approach can encourage more people across your organization to take ownership of their learning and helps increase participation in upskilling programs. Feeling in control of skill development can foster a do-it-yourself attitude and generate enthusiasm. 

Particularly with GenAI, employers should think about upskilling their overall workforce. Opportunities for increased revenue, new product development, along with improved efficiency and productivity are available to different size organizations today. But the benefits to employees are nearly unparalleled in modern corporate history. Taking ownership of GenAI with a bottom-up approach can encourage more experimentation that ultimately leads to innovation. 

Personalize the learning journey where possible. Showing your people a customized roadmap that outlines specific skills to improve — while staying competitive throughout their career — can get them excited. Building an inclusive upskilling program where people feel they belong and are free to participate also goes a long way.  

Explain how ramping up an individual’s learning contributes to the business at large. Human resources and professional development leaders should be able to demonstrate how training individuals — with new skills they can promptly apply to their jobs — can ultimately help the company achieve its growth objectives. This alignment of personal and organizational goals reinforces the new cultural mindset of mutually beneficial innovation and creativity you’re creating. And it can help your workforce remain nimble in the face of change and willing to keep learning. 

Develop talent from within 

A platform that offers dynamic and adaptive content from respected industry professionals can challenge your top talent to become lifelong learners and keep them coming back for more. When coursework is presented to employees based on their function or role, it better suits their daily tasks. For example, agile project management should be taught differently to someone in supply chain and procurement than someone who works in sales. 

Employees should also have autonomy to seek additional learning pathways for related subjects or solutions they’re interested in. For instance, finance function staff might take courses in data management, preparation and visualization training. For frontline or industrial workers, augmented reality or artificial intelligence skills may be more applicable. 

To realize the gains available with GenAI, employees should infuse it into their day-to-day tasks and find opportunities to transform big parts of their organization. Citizen-led innovation spawned from grassroots innovation is key to business transformation, as employees participate in the ownership of the new ways of working.  

Allowing people to spend time learning skills that pique their interest — even those better applied outside their current role or function — can be a powerful demonstration of a company’s commitment to building an innovative upskilling culture. In addition to access to customized, dynamic content, giving learners opportunities to earn credentials relevant to their roles and functions can also go a long way to advancing individual careers while confirming skills acquisition and competency across your organization.  

Also encourage experienced staff to mentor and coach more junior employees. A supportive manager, who treats upskilling as the business and performance imperative it is, can have an enormous impact. This kind of support can affect how quickly employees acquire new skills, how often they put those skills into practice and the team’s ongoing return on investment. 

Automate talent recruitment processes  

The proper solution can also help automate parts of the hiring process, including recruitment, retention and onboarding. Artificial intelligence and machine learning solutions, for instance, can sift through applications and resumes, sort out unqualified applicants and select a smaller pool of candidates with the skills and experience you need.  

Other time-consuming HR processes and tasks that could be automated include: 

  • Analyzing the ratio of job candidates who ultimately accept offers 

  • Analyzing the reasons cited by people who decline job offers 

  • Identifying trends in promotions and compensation  

  • Studying attrition rate changes by department or group 

  • Spotting a “brain drain” before it becomes a crisis 

  • Conducting culture indicator activities, like employee satisfaction surveys and 360 reviews  

  • Creating initial job description drafts with GenAI, faster and with more clarity 

As HR and corporate learning executives demonstrate the value of digital skills in their own line of work, they can more effectively advocate for investments in upskilling. 

Celebrate collaboration  

When leadership carves out dedicated time for skill-building activities, it can contribute to a culture of continuous learning. Celebrating employees who take advantage of learning opportunities with rewards and incentives can jumpstart company-wide participation, too. 

Culture-building can also extend to operations. Employees work more strategically when leaders redevelop their operating models to create more opportunities for staff to use new skills. Assess your employees’ current AI skills and knowledge. Consider teaming up with educational institutions or GenAI training providers to offer these programs. Create mentorship opportunities that can give employees guidance on their AI journey and provide a way for them to get advice and feedback from AI specialists within your company. 

For example, if the finance team is analyzing an acquisition target, a manager could proactively suggest employees build their own GenAI chatbot to fine-tune and organize information. They could then use data visualization solutions to inform their assessments and help make better recommendations. 

The finance team could share their chatbot with other colleagues in the organization. Someone in the procurement group might then be inspired to create their own chatbot and use it to analyze the terms of contract proposals from vendors. Upskilling that empowers employees to support their colleagues across the business — without having to wait for help from IT or a shared services group — can help save time and money and also advance the culture of innovation and problem solving.  

Continuous upskilling can pay off  

As more people acquire skills — like data automation, artificial intelligence and agile project management — they’ll be unencumbered by repetitive tasks that eat into their time. Your leading and brightest talent can then spend more energy on higher-impact strategic work such as analysis, decision making and creative endeavors. The desire to grow is clear.

Our 26th Annual Global CEO Survey found that 69% of leaders planned to invest in technologies such as AI this year. During PwC’s upskilling journey, we created the infinite learner initiative to encourage a more innovative and dynamic mindset as we work to close our own digital skills gaps, simplify processes and save costs across the business. In the first year of our upskilling program, we experienced improved operating margins, top-line growth and enhanced employee experience.

In fiscal 2019 alone, we saved almost 160,000 hours by automating work in our Business Services functions. Robotic process automation (RPA) helped us reduce the time it takes to complete a contract by as much as 80%. To date, we’ve automated over eight million hours of work.  We were one of the first large enterprises to roll out a firmwide GenAI upskilling program. We are investing in upskilling our 75,000 people in AI to give them in-demand skills to build their careers, transform our business and serve our clients.

We wanted our employees to learn and enable experimentation in a safe and responsible environment. We’re already seeing advantages in finance and other areas beyond IT. According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, GenAI platforms boost worker productivity by 14%, and much higher in key areas across a company’s value chain.  

Gain a competitive advantage 

Companies that lack a culture of continuous learning and innovation will likely face competitive threats. As more digital natives enter the workforce and employees who are deeper into their careers seek to learn more skills, companies large and small should prioritize ongoing upskilling programs if they want to remain competitive. 

Using a dynamic and adaptive upskilling platform that lets employees obtain skills on their own can help companies develop talent from within and create a highly innovative culture. Gamified features, citizen-built automations that can be shared with other users, project-based learning and opportunities to earn credentials all help deepen engagement and deliver ROI, too. A commitment to cultivating lifelong learners is an investment worth making — they’re the driving force of a successful enterprise.  

Invest in Tomorrow 

Accelerate your employees’ learning and help drive scalable impact for your business with ProEdge, a PwC product — an intuitive, AI-powered learning platform that leverages hands-on experience and aggregated content to prepare your learners for real business challenges. 

Take the first step on a new path toward transforming both your organization and the learning experience of your employees.

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