HR’s new imperative: the time to future-proof is now

PwC's Rod Adams says new technology-based skills are impacting jobs throughout the world economy, from teachers to bankers to truck drivers.
By: | July 5, 2019

The pace of change in today’s business environment is unparalleled — and with this change comes the inherent need to field talent that’s ready for the future of work: talent that has the right digital and tech skills to drive innovation. Leaders need to consider the right balance of hiring and upskilling their existing workforce to have access to these skills. By coupling upskilling with the right mix of hiring, your organisation can future-proof today in order to be ready for the business landscape of tomorrow. That is a landscape that will require most employees to be well-versed in technology-based skills such as design thinking, artificial intelligence, data aggregation and visualisation, and process automation.

In PwC’s 2018 CEO Survey, 75% of financial-services leaders polled were concerned about shortages of digital skills within the industry. More broadly, the US Bureau of Labour Statistics reports that there will be a need for 1.3 million IT professionals across the US by 2026, and yet only 60,000 computer science graduates are coming out of local universities there each year, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics.

That said, the technology revolution goes well beyond traditional tech roles; changing technologies are impacting nearly every job from professional services to teachers to truck drivers. That means professionals in nearly all fields must have a base level of knowledge of new technologies—and a willingness to learn as technology continues to change.

For today’s business leaders, here’s what you can do now to build the workforce of the future in your company:

Commit to leaving no one behind

Internally, upskilling must apply to the entire workforce. At PwC, we have committed to advancing the technology-based skills at all job levels. Each and every employee is given the tools they need to remain relevant in our ever-changing business landscape. From app-based learnings to hands-on digital hubs, from trivia to all day immersion sessions, we give our people options to opt into learning in whatever way makes the most sense for them.

And, in the most extreme cases, we’ve taken 100% of the existing workload away from some of our employees— those who are part of PwC’s Digital Accelerators programme — so they can completely focus on learning new skills, automating business processes, and teaching their peers. Upskilling our workforce is by far one of the biggest investments we make, and I believe most businesses need to make that level of commitment to stay competitive.

It’s also important to consider training the future workforce. We do so by collaborating with educators at all levels, through initiatives such as Access Your Potential (our US$320 million commitment to inspire students and train teachers), digital academies for professors, and online learning courses. This way, we are not only building our brand in the space of digital learning, but also investing in the development of tomorrow’s talent.

Create a culture of “infinite learning”

Management must provide the foundational support, but it’s not just about the tools. We have many programmes in place to help our people digitally upskill, but beyond these tools, we’ve committed to instill a culture of “infinite learning.” The pace of change that most companies are facing today is unparalleled, and the technologies used in business today may not be relevant a year or two from now. To be truly prepared for the future, we need to ensure our employees become comfortable with life-long learning.

In our hiring, we focus on identifying individuals who have a personal appetite to learn. As we consider our messaging, the events we host and how we assess candidates, we are looking to attract and hire individuals who adapt to change and are agile learners. We don’t host events and simply talk about the work we do and how we help our clients. We host events where participants get a chance to learn new technology-based skills, thus experiencing our culture and the experiences our staff have access to. In our interviews, we talk to candidates about the actions they need to take to commit to learning. This desire to learn is just as important as being technologically savvy.

Due to the enormity of the skills gap, companies cannot solve these challenges through either hiring or upskilling alone. The “future of work” is already here, and it’s imperative for business leaders to take a fresh approach when evaluating talent needs. By making the investment to upskill the existing workforce, while simultaneously considering external factors and hiring new talent thoughtfully, there’s no doubt that companies can be prepared to compete in the future marketplace.

Rod Adams is the Talent Acquisition Leader for PwC in the US and Mexico.