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Showing the benefits of upskilling to finance, IT and operations

How HR teams can convey the ROI of digital upskilling to Finance, IT and Operations

Human resources teams have long known that building new skills in their workforce is critical. But the pandemic has underscored a new urgency for upskilling. As many knowledge companies moved their entire team to working remotely almost overnight, and others scrambled to reinvent their business models, it became clear that tech-enabled organizations that had invested in upskilling their employees were able to pivot and adapt more quickly. With generative AI (GenAI), 69% of CEOs believe that GenAI will require most of their workforce to develop new skills in the next three years.

What’s more, they’re likely in a stronger position to recover, achieve their strategic objectives and plan for the future.  

When companies invest, it’s sometimes difficult to see the benefit of it. For example, in PwC’s 26th Annual CEO Survey we found that 69% of leaders planned to invest in technologies such as AI that year. Yet our Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey of the same year surveyed nearly 54,000 workers in 46 countries and territories, found that many employees are either uncertain or unaware of these technologies’ potential impact on them.   

That’s where HR and training teams can make a difference. These leaders can help other groups across the organization understand the real benefits of enterprise learning and upskilling. But what does it take to get others on board, especially key strategic decision-making partners in finance, operations and IT?  

How PwC got buy-in — and results  

At PwC, we’ve been on our own upskilling journey for years, and along the way, we’ve learned a lot about what it takes to succeed and get buy-in. We’ve invested in learning applications and immersive training programs so our people can develop skills that are vital for our firm’s future, like data analysis and visualization, and automation, as well as presentation, collaboration and storytelling. 

Starting 2023, PwC US is investing $1B over the next three years to expand and scale our AI capabilities and offerings, while helping clients reimagine their businesses using the power of generative AI. We provided our employees with ChatPwC, our own GenAI tool, which personifies our global strategy, The New Equation, where our human-led and tech-powered approach empowers our people to deliver sustained outcomes for our clients. 

One critical component of this success: our learning team made sure to clearly communicate the return on investment we expected to see from this transformation. It was important to lay out all the risks and benefits with transparency and clarity so partners across the organization — especially key stakeholders in Finance, Operations, and IT — would validate and champion the firm’s upskilling efforts.  

So, how can this story translate into success for your organization? First, you need to have a worthy solution to bring to the table that can help deliver the ROI. And we have some suggestions as you consider your options.   

Adopt a holistic ‘one platform’ approach  

The kind of program that worked for PwC was led by both the business and by individual employees. It wasn’t a hard sell to leadership because they understood the urgent need for upskilling and our learning teams were able to communicate what mattered most to them in terms of ROI. And we can help take the guesswork out of this approach for you.  

We used what we learned on our own journey and created a holistic upskilling solution for other organizations. ProEdge weaves together the range of capabilities companies need to digitally transform their workforce.  

The platform has two main components: Plan and Learn. 

  • Plan helps organizations identify digital skill gaps and deploy learning pathways to help close them. It also benchmarks an organization’s skills against current and future industry trends. You can uncover areas of strengths and potential areas for development and use this data to develop robust forward-looking plans for individuals, teams, functional groups and at the enterprise level. 

  • Learn helps people build the digital skills they need to drive innovation—and to give their organization a competitive edge. Gamification and engaging learning experiences keep employees and teams coming back for more.  

If you and your HR team are considering implementing ProEdge and need to bring your cross-departmental partners along for the journey, consider focusing on the elements that are likely to matter to them the most. That includes: 

  • Removing the roadblocks to transformation 

  • Saving time (and money)   

  • Improving performance and increasing productivity  

  • Reducing risk and enabling security 

Here’s a closer look at how ProEdge can help your people and your organization deliver a new future of work. 

1. Removing the roadblocks to transformation

Forward-thinking organizations are improving the way they work through new technology, such as automation and GenAI as well as design thinking, agile project management and data analytics and insight tools. But while having the right tools is important, real transformation is about having the right people with the right skills who can make the most of new tech.  

In nearly every industry, the top talent is in short supply, threatening business growth. Leaders often say they lack the talent they need, but often they don’t really know what they need. It’s not uncommon for companies to face this roadblock — they just don’t have the ability to identify the skills they need or identify trending skills in the market. If you can show your counterparts that you’ve found something like ProEdge which maps the skills a company has to the ones they need for the future, then you can get their attention. 

Companies also need a way to develop a knowledgeable, flexible, and proficient workforce. That means having people who can leverage GenAI, analyze data, invent and apply solutions with bots and more, and who are ready to move into new roles as needed. 

With the ProEdge platform, you can enable and accelerate transformation. For example, you can find new areas to automate and identify areas where the benefits of automation would deliver a high return on investment right away.  

How can ProEdge help deliver that? 

  • Find the gaps: Introduce coursework and a customized curriculum that helps your employees develop the tools that meet your business needs, such as robotic process automation (RPA). 

  • Share the wealth: Use a unified platform to share digital assets, with governance and oversight to make sure the right content is available to the right teams at the right time. 

  • Make it fun: Use gamification, incentives, and change management to encourage participation and usage. 

  • Scale success: Make upskilling coursework available widely across an organization to increase digital acumen and create a culture of innovation. 

  • Get results: Track usage and return on investment, celebrate wins, and evolve the operating model to support evolving workforce needs. 

To succeed, any kind of digital transformation initiative should be supported by investment in digital upskilling. For PwC, the results have been significant. Since the start of our digital journey in 2017, we’ve reduced the cost of running the business by 3% of total revenue, while also boosting productivity by as much as 8% and automating 6.5 million total employee hours. Our ChatPwC initiative has been demonstrated to increase productivity by 40% in some areas.  

2. Saving time (and money)   

Automation has a huge number of benefits — but it also has a negative perception in some workplaces because of the potential workforce implications.  

But successful companies focus on harnessing the talents of workers who won’t be replaced by automation anytime soon. It’s those people who will play pivotal roles in how organizations develop, compete, create and innovate, and help drive success. And when people use what they learn, they can save time and money. 

PwC has also achieved significant results by relying on upskilling to drive automation initiatives and then turn people toward more valuable, less manual work. During a recent financial statement audit, as PwC conducted planning, risk assessment, and testing, our team of auditors was continually looking for ways to save client and team time through automation technology.  

No one gave them a task list or told them where to focus. But they had the skills they needed to use their learned skills in building bots, automated workflows and data visualizations. The result? A single team built 33 automations for their unique work environment, including several that were designed and created by junior staff members.  

While upskilling can represent a significant cost, particularly when you go beyond flat training expenses, it also delivers substantial returns. Yes, full-time training can take weeks, which means paying people a salary and making sure their roles are covered by others. But when you weigh those expenses against severance costs, as well as the time and expense of recruitment and on-boarding of people with in-demand skills, the payoff for upskilling is clear.  

Further, with the advent of GenAI, entire business models are ripe for reinvention. Encouraging experimentation will lead to a truly radical rethink of value chains and business models.  

PwC’s return-on-investment analysis for existing cases shows a yield of at least $2 in revenue or savings for each dollar invested in upskilling. 

3. Improving performance and boosting productivity  

Automation can help teams complete projects faster, with improved accuracy and efficiency. It can also improve engagement by reducing the amount of repetitive, unrewarding tasks workers must complete. But there is plenty of data that demonstrates how upskilling itself drives employee engagement — which also improves performance and productivity. 

The World Economic Forum – Future of Work found that two-thirds of companies expect to see a return on investment from skills training within a year of their investment. This was found in increased worker satisfaction, worker productivity, enhanced cross-role mobility, and more.  

Engagement also leads to long-term benefits to the business. Highly engaged business units tend to have less absenteeism and higher productivity, which can lead to better customer ratings and higher sales and profits than units with lower engagement. Employees appreciate and respond positively when they perceive that their company is investing in their skills — and their future.  

Clearly there’s a significant ROI to giving people the space to experiment and apply their learning in ways that help the business. This approach is often referred to as citizen-led innovation — the ability of employees to choose the activities, including the skills and the means of learning them, that will make a difference to them and their work. Employees are encouraged to experiment with their own ideas for innovations and to find entirely new ways of working. This freedom to explore new ideas is key to discovering the maximum benefits of new GenAI workflows and practices. 

4. Reducing risk and promoting security 

Finance, Operations and IT will also care about another benefit of ProEdge: how it can help reduce security issues and help decrease organization risk by prioritizing data security, providing learning content controls, and governing assets and outputs. A holistic platform — one that contains potentially sensitive data about employees — needs a thorough technical evaluation to make sure employee and privileged data will always be handled securely.  

ProEdge adheres to strict ethical data handling and security practices. These considerations include securely managing where data is stored and what is collected, how personally identifying information (PII) is handled, and how the solution integrates with other platforms and data sources. 

It’s easier to make sure employees are always accessing the most recent, accurate, and vetted content with ProEdge, because it provides a single platform and dashboard for skills development. This can help prevent employees from relying on ad hoc or unreliable sources, which can lead them to inaccurate, inconsistent or out-of-date information.  

A focus on security, reliability, and responsible adoption of GenAI is the cornerstone of PwC’s approach to upskilling. Practical safeguards and guidelines help organizations move forward faster, with more confidence.  

While it’s important to teach skills, it’s also important for your people to be able to post solutions like automations and other types of projects for wider use within the organization with ProEdge. The platform allows you to govern these assets and serves as a central point for monitoring to prevent duplications as well as provide oversight and control of the outputs shared across the company. 

Proposing a viable upskilling solution 

Most companies invest in training and new technology to drive innovation. But in order to realize lasting and significant payback on those investments, you need big-picture thinking combined with a people-led strategy and an infrastructure that supports planning, learning, collaborating and sharing.  

Armed with these insights, you can approach your organization’s leadership with a viable solution with proven results. You can suggest the kind of platform that can empower your people to learn and develop the skills your organization needs and contribute to your overall digital transformation. 

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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