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Upskilling is the new 401K

Tech-enabled employees are the lifeblood of any thriving enterprise today. To remain relevant, employers need to inspire employees to upskill. Treating upskilling as an employee benefit can work to catalyze adoption, according to Joe Atkinson, the Vice Chair and Chief Products and Technology Officer at PwC.

 “The way we see it, we’re going to equip you, we’re going to train you and that’ll give you value, whether you’re here at PwC for your career or wherever your career takes you,” said Atkinson.

Atkinson is setting an ambitious upskilling pace for the marketplace. He has led the charge to level up PwC’s 55,000 US employees with automation, AI, and data analytics skills over the past four years. More than 45,000 PwC employees have learned how to implement automation, with more than 2,000 people becoming “digital accelerators” by going all in on building automation assets that can be utilized by the rest of the firm to drive citizen-led innovation.

Inviting vs. mandating affects adoption attitudes

Atkinson said, “We massively underestimated how much our people wanted to consume this kind of capability and asset and training. We discovered there’s a whole population of people that are willing to dig into technical skills with the capability to learn it. They were all-in from the beginning. I do think part of the reason was we didn’t tell them: you must do this. We told them that this is available to you. It’s a benefit. Upskilling is the new 401K.”

According to Atkinson, the traditional model, a platform of solely hiring technical people with deep technical backgrounds, still makes logical sense, but employees from other backgrounds have been clamoring for uplevel opportunities, and PwC wanted to meet their needs.

Boosting basic skills with bot training

“We made a decision that it doesn’t matter where you are in the organization,you should have access to training,” said Atkinson. “We saw our people eager to learn. So we said, ‘If you have that desire and skill, we will actually develop your skills alongside the work that you’re doing in the field and for our clients,’ and over a two-year period, you can go deep on those skills. If you have a desire and an inclination, then we believe that employers have a degree of obligation.”

Taking transformation on the road: How do I get one of those 7,000 bots?

As part of the upskilling mindset, Atkinson updates employees on the latest tech trends and provides them with the proper tools to execute their responsibilities. In this case, PwC created a flexible platform for employees to automate and create, empowering employees to develop bots, 7,000 to date and counting, freeing themselves up for more meaningful work.

“We have taken our transformation journey across all of our people around the world, and we have equipped them with technology and tools to help them innovate on the job.”

Joe AtkinsonVice Chair and Chief Products and Technology Officer

According to Atkinson, employees took the tech to client meetings... and clients noticed.

“Our clients started to ask us, where did that come from, how do I get one of those?” he said.

“We started to take the output of our people around the world, all the innovation, and all the effort that they’ve put in to solve problems, and putting them through an enterprise-grade hardening process so our clients can consume the benefit of our citizen-led innovation,” Atkinson said. “We call it Digital On Demand."

Digital on Demand hit the market for clients in 2021, many of whom were reeling from the economic downturn but stayed committed to digital transformation investments.

The marketplace of intelligent automations gives companies of various sizes and automation maturity levels the ability to increase efficiencies, improve cost savings, and importantly, evolve over time to support their expanding goals.

“That is the kind of thing we look for,” he said, about targeting opportunities when the client has a complex problem. “They see us as a trusted provider that can help solve it. And we have the scale and the technology assets to do it,” Atkinson continued.

Equipping employees with elevated coding and automation skills is enabling PwC to evolve how business works. The firm is positioning upskilling as the new 401K and liberating employees for more innovative work, such as training clients on what they have learned. With thousands of busy bots, PwC is showing that growing employees grows the business.

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