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Showing the benefits of upskilling to HR

How finance, operations and IT can show the benefits of upskilling to HR and across the entire enterprise

Traditionally, finance, operations and IT organizations appreciate more tangible returns on investment (ROI), especially when it comes to big leaps and investments. Some of the biggest initiatives companies are considering in today’s landscape involve upskilling. Being able to communicate ROI is critical to getting buy-in from leadership across an organization, even when it’s from departments that would generally advocate for learning programs. They know the value of upskilling, but arming everyone with evidence might be just the nudge needed to convince them to invest.

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Training staff is an excellent way to help increase productivity and provide opportunities for growth. It’s also a proven strategy that helps organizations thrive in today’s rapidly evolving digital world and compete in tomorrow’s tech-driven workplace.

The 2020 pandemic has underscored the urgent need for upskilling. Many knowledge companies moved their workforce to working remotely, while others had to scramble to reinvent their business models. It became clear that tech-enabled organizations that had previously invested in upskilling were able to adapt more quickly.

The value of enterprise learning and upskilling is self-evident, but how can finance, operations and IT teams help other groups across the organization understand the benefits? What does it take to convey the ROI, especially to strategic decision-making partners? If you’re working with colleagues who are focused on culture and engagement, where the returns are harder to measure quantitatively, you may need to make the case in a way that focuses on the benefits to people, in addition to the positive impacts on the bottom line.

How PwC got buy-in—and results 

At PwC, we’ve been on our own upskilling transformation journey for the past three years, and along the way, we’ve learned a lot about what it takes to succeed and how to get buy-in. We’ve invested in learning applications and immersive training programs so our people can develop important skills around data analysis, automation, collaboration and storytelling.

The best part? We’ve seen great results. By upskilling our people, we provided them with the knowledge, skills and tools they need to adapt to the digital future. At PwC, this goes beyond just driving business value. We’re giving employees opportunities to apply their skills beyond the workplace, while also building a more diverse, tech-skilled workforce, and creating ground-breaking digital solutions for our clients and our communities.

One critical component of this success was that our learning team clearly communicated how digital upskilling could meet the strategic needs and goals of the organization, as well as the growth and well-being of the individuals working at our company. We also made sure that our cultural development and employee engagement efforts would help us attract, retain and grow key talent. 

We ran reward programs and celebrated the people who built their own digital assets and shared them with their teams. We identified the people with the highest digital acumen and recruited them to teach others. This kind of recognition and collaboration resulted in a culture of continuous learning and innovation that generated enthusiasm as well as measurable efficiencies across our firm. 

So, how can this story translate into success for your organization? First, you need a worthy solution to bring to the table—one that can deliver the ROI.  We’ve built a platform that focuses on three key areas of workforce development and retention. 

Adopt a holistic, one-platform approach 

The program that worked for PwC was led by both the business and individual employees. Leadership already understood the urgent need for upskilling, and our learning teams and HR worked together to communicate what mattered most to them in terms of ROI. Once leaders asked employees to embark on a digital skill-building journey where they could take the reins, responses were overwhelmingly positive, and adoption rates were high. 

We can help take the guesswork out of this approach for you. We used what we learned on our journey to create a holistic upskilling platform for other organizations: ProEdge brings together the complete range of capabilities companies need to digitally transform their workforce. 

The ProEdge platform has four components: Plan, Learn, Create and Share.

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

  • 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. 

  • Create provides access to a sandbox environment where people can practice new skills and earn credentials by completing projects.

  • Share gives access to a cloud-based exchange where everyone can find and distribute digital assets across the organization. This collaborative approach can inspire people to improve productivity and discover new ways of working.

If you and your teams 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, including:

  1. Creating personalized plans that develop individual skills 

  2. Building the skills that drive productivity, engagement and innovation

  3. Improving retention and happiness across the workforce.

Let’s look at each area and see how ProEdge can help drive employee skill development, improve engagement and help ensure a more satisfied, productive workforce.

1. Creating personalized plans that develop individual skills 

The success of any organization depends on the people who work there. That’s always been true, and it will be even more so in the future. Employees will continue to play a pivotal role in how organizations evolve, compete, create, innovate and drive success. 

PwC’s research shows CEOs value emotion-based skills such as leadership, resilience, problem solving and creativity. However, many CEOs are struggling to find people with those skills. Developing these “softer skills” is critical now and will be in the future as well. 

The workforce of tomorrow also needs to be flexible, agile, and able to adapt quickly and confidently. Companies can support this by helping employees gain a variety of diverse experiences and by providing opportunities for personalized learning across career stages. 

A key benefit of the ProEdge platform is that you can create personalized plans focused on the individual skills that can help both the learner and the company. For example, you can enable employees to earn credentials they need for professional development. They can use those skills to build value for your company, while also developing loyalty to an organization that invests time and resources in their career growth.

ProEdge helps support personalized learning so you can develop needed talent and invest in your organization’s future success by

  • Leveraging hands-on coursework and training to support broad upskilling and credentialing; enabling employees to practice new skills by providing sandboxes or workbenches populated with digital tools.

  • Providing incentives that deliver certifications or credentials for your people and motivate them to leverage their new digital toolkits (outputs) to work smarter.

  • Putting skills in context by supporting upskilling initiatives with an associated program on change management and adoption tracking, enabling employees to immediately see the relevance, and the benefits, of the skills they’ve learned.

  • Developing the tools your business needs by fully embracing upskilling and embedding digital champions within business units or departments.

  • Scaling innovation by allowing employees to download and run assets, and letting creators upload and distribute assets, so the products of everyone’s skills get shared across the organization. 

Upskilling isn’t just about preparing workers for new roles in the face of automation and technologies, such as AI. A people-first approach helps employees grow with their jobs. That way, they do more than learn new skills—they also learn how to continue learning and growing as their work evolves. Considering the typically high expense of hiring a new employee, upskilling is not just the right thing to do, it’s also good for the business.

2. Building the skills that drive productivity, engagement and innovation

Data shows that in addition to saving money, upskilling drives employee engagement, which improves performance and productivity. 

A recent survey indicates that more than half of CEOs who’ve introduced an upskilling program said their program was highly effective in improving culture and employee engagement. In the PwC 2020 Global Digital IQ survey, 86% of respondents said that their digital training and education programs have improved employee engagement and performance.

Clearly, giving people the space to experiment and apply their learning in ways that help the business can result in significant ROI. At PwC, we call this 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. Research suggests that with the right mindset, technological literacy and community engagement, companies can bring their entire workforce into the digital future. 

When all individuals are decision-makers, they have the power to choose the projects they work on—the ones that are most relevant and meaningful to them. This citizen-led approach also encourages participation in a community of innovators. But it’s not a free-for-all. Companies need a dedicated platform to orchestrate collaboration, propose new ideas for tools, post prototypes, recognize the value of other submissions, refine them in a transparent way and gain digital skills. It’s a recipe for innovation — one that drives lasting engagement.

3. Improving retention and happiness across the workforce

What’s the ROI on joy? Engaged employees can deliver 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 where workers aren’t as engaged. Engagement also saves money, since it costs more to hire people who have desired skills than it does to help existing employees build those skills. 

Employees appreciate and respond positively when they see their company investing in their skills—and their future. PwC recently asked more than 22,000 people across the world whether they would upskill in order to be more employable, and 77% said they would.

Citizen-led innovation is about giving people permission to experiment, to play with what they’ve learned and to try new things. It also gives them the freedom to immediately use their new skills on the job, making the lessons they learned meaningful and relevant.

This approach also earns people’s emotional commitment. They’re often proud and excited to share ideas and innovations, and that enthusiasm can be contagious. Emotional engagement helps make change lasting, scalable and sustainable, rather than being a short-term initiative with limited impact.

The results of using upskilling to drive engagement include better performance, streamlined operations, innovative solutions, and a workforce with the skills and mindset to stay sharp as work evolves. 

Propose 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, they need big-picture thinking, a people-first 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 upskilling solution. You can suggest the kind of platform that will empower your people to learn, grow the skills your organization needs and contribute to your company’s overall digital transformation.

Invest in Tomorrow 

Stay ahead of the curve with PwC ProEdge, the revolutionary way to upskill your people and prepare your organization for tomorrow. This unique platform allows you to pinpoint critical skill gaps and effectively help close them with automatically generated personalized learning pathways. Leading curated content, coursework and hands-on learning empowers your workforce to make an immediate impact at scale. ProEdge enables your people to perform at their highest level—giving them the power to help transform your entire organization. 

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

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