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CHROs and human capital leaders

Shortage of cloud-related skills likely to shift people strategies

Human capital leaders recognize the power of cloud solutions to transform the ways employees work, according to our PwC US Cloud Business Survey. More than half (55%) say the biggest impact of cloud on their business would be changes to processes and ways of working. But finding and retaining employees with the right cloud-related skills remains a significant challenge. Nearly half (44%) of CHROs are concerned about attracting cloud professionals and 42% worry about retaining their cloud talent. 

A shortage of cloud professionals is one of the most common barriers to taking full advantage of this technology, along with regulatory challenges, security concerns and a lack of understanding among executives and other leaders about the value of cloud and how it affects the business. 

Cloud is rapidly becoming a business imperative, and there’s the danger of a “digital divide” emerging between organizations that understand the power of cloud and how it affects talent across the organization — and those that do not.

In addition to developing strategies to attract and retain cloud talent, CHROs may also need to develop an upskilling strategy to help their existing workforce, including developing a mindset that emphasizes agility and rapid innovation and leveraging approaches such as microlearning to fill skill gaps. These kinds of contemporary programs can be important elements in building lifelong learning into the culture of the organization. 

Among our recommendations, we suggest that rather than chasing a limited pool of highly experienced professionals, consider pairing junior talent with strong foundational cloud skills with more experienced employees without these skills. This strategy could build a symbiotic culture of learning in which younger employees continuously develop their cloud skills by helping senior leaders and, at the same time, benefit from the mentorship of those senior leaders. Not only can upskilling help ease the pressure to compete for new talent, it can also help the company keep up with innovations as cloud evolves. Finally, CHROs, working with business leaders, will need to consider new career paths, performance management and progression plans for IT professionals related to the cloud. 

Bar chart titled
CHROs worry about a widening skills gap
Changes to business processes and ways of working
%
Ability to attract cloud-related talent
%
Ability to retain cloud-related talent
%
Upskilling related to cloud processes, systems and technologies
%
Change management and culture
%
Redefining roles
%
Too early to say; still evaluating the impact of cloud
%
Q. What will be the most significant impact on your company’s cloud transformation on your people strategy? Source: PwC US Cloud Business Survey. June 15, 2021: CHRO base of 84

Data insights will inform workforce strategy

CHROs see the ability to make workforce plans based on data as one of the biggest benefits of cloud, with 40% saying cloud will enable data-driven decision-making. Almost a third (29%) say it will allow for better access to data, and more than a quarter (27%) say cloud will enable better reporting. Many HR leaders have long struggled to gather, share and analyze data efficiently. Cloud solutions enable data collection and analysis in formats that can be readily accessed and shared across the organization, allowing CHROs to make analytics-driven decisions, run what-if scenarios and pivot quickly as workforce needs shift. For example, CHROs could plan their return-to-the-office strategy by using data about the percent of employees who have been tested and vaccinated for COVID-19 or how different regions across multiple office locations are progressing in terms of vaccination rates. These insights can help CHROs make decisions such as which offices to reopen or what protocols are needed to enhance employee safety.

However, data is only useful if it leads to insights, and many organizations lack strong analysis capabilities. HR leaders may need to consider how to build these skills among their employees, whether it’s through hiring, upskilling or both. Data also comes with responsibility, and organizations need to protect that data, manage who has access to it and make sure it’s used ethically. That requires an element of trust between employee and employer — something some organizations may need to work to develop.

Bar chart titled
Cloud: a secret ingredient to workplace flexibility
Enable data-driven decision-making
%
Support employee flexibility
%
Streamline and simplify processes
%
Allow better access to data
%
Enable better reporting
%
Enable collaboration
%
Better manage a hybrid work environment
%
Enhance the employee experience
%
Enable automation
%
Support our culture
%
Q. How will cloud most benefit your HR function in the next 12 months? Source: PwC US Cloud Business Survey. June 15, 2021: CHRO base of 84

CHROs aren’t seeing the connections to innovation — and worry about cloud risks

CHROs are significantly less likely than other business leaders to see cloud as an enabler of innovation. While 27% of all business leaders say cloud is a platform for innovation, including developing new capabilities or products and services, only 17% of CHROs say the same.

HR leaders may not see the potential for cloud to reshape the employee experience or enable new ways of working, including hybrid work.

For example, cloud technology offers powerful ways to collaborate, such as allowing employees to access files anywhere from any device, and enabling multiple teams to work on the same file, making it easier and more efficient for remote and in-person teams to work together. 

Meanwhile, CHROs are concerned about associated security and business risks of cloud solutions. While 19% of all business leaders share this concern, 25% of CHROs worry about this. 

Their concerns are valid. We’ve found that few companies factor in risk and security concerns early enough in the cloud journey. It’s also imperative to build trust with employees and customers, which means protecting sensitive data. As organizations increasingly embed cloud solutions into their day-to-day processes, CHROs will need to collaborate with CISOs and other leaders to implement the appropriate safeguards to protect employee and customer data and privacy and roll out enhanced policies and training that resonate with employees.

Bar chart titled
CHROs agree with C-suite peers on cloud’s benefits
All executives
CHROs
Cloud is central to our business strategy and critical to revenue growth
%
%
Cloud creates security and business risk that we have to address
%
%
Cloud is a platform for innovation, including developing new products and services or capabilities
%
%
Cloud is an essential enabler of our M&A strategy
%
%
Cloud is synonymous with IT and a way to cut data center and other infrastructure costs
%
%
Q. Please select the statement that best describes how your organization views cloud. Source: PwC US Cloud Business Survey. June 15, 2021: base of 524, CHRO base of 84

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Jenny Koehler

Partner, US Cloud & Digital Leader, PwC US

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Diane Youden

Principal, Transformation, PwC US

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Ali Khan

Financial Services Advisory Principal, PwC US

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Venkatesh Jayaraman

Principal, Cloud & Digital Strategy Leader, PwC US

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