Training Top 100 Hall of Fame Outstanding Training Initiatives (October 2021)

Each year Training magazine requires all Training Top 100 Hall of Famers to submit an Outstanding Training Initiative that we share with our readers. Here are the details of PwC’s Digital Accelerators program.

PwC: Digital Accelerators

PwC continuously innovates to discover how technology can help solve complex business challenges, build trust, and identify new opportunities—not only for the firm, but for its clients and communities. The firm’s U.S. leaders are committed to providing all of their people with the knowledge, skills, and tools they need to adapt to the digital future, and are working to close the opportunity gap and digital divide by empowering their people to bring their skills, passion, and technical experiences within their communities. The firm is investing heavily in its people, empowering and encouraging them to become “infinite learners,” and investing in technology that allows its people to be more innovative, collaborative, and agile.

PwC provided an opportunity for its people to accelerate their learning and reinvent their roles as Digital Accelerators (DAs). These individuals—roughly 2,000 people across the firm—rapidly deepened their skills in digital specialties, such as data, automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and digital storytelling. They are embedded in PwC teams across the business where they act as catalysts to help disrupt and evolve the firm.

Digital Accelerators are an important element of PwC’s Digital Upskilling initiative. They are linked to PwC’s workforce strategy to digitally upskill its more than 50,000 U.S. professionals and its $3 billion New world. New skills. digital workforce transformation investment globally, which was created to help businesses, governments, local communities, and individuals accelerate their upskilling journeys.

Program Details

The Digital Accelerator program was open to PwC’s U.S. staff across its business segments and functions, including Consulting Solutions, Trust Solutions, and Business Services. Motivated individuals looking for in-depth upskilling opportunities self-nominated for the program. Candidates had to be willing to diverge from the standard growth track in favor of an intensive technology-driven path.

Selection criteria include:

  • Demonstrates curiosity and passion for digital and emerging technologies
  • Actively develops self and others
  • Generates ideas or opportunities to improve the efficiency or value of the firm’s client services and internal teams, using automation, data wrangling/visualization, or AI

As only a certain segment of teams could be taken “offline” for this upskilling, each business segment set target participation numbers. For the inaugural class, approximately 1,100 of 3,500 applicants were selected to participate.

The multi-faceted Digital Accelerator journey began with an innovative, two-and-a-half day “Liftoff” onboarding program, which included daily immersive team challenges created in collaboration with a vendor specialist. The following two weeks were dedicated to learning, as DAs kicked off the data track and embarked on a multi-week team project. Throughout the remaining time in the program (about two years in total), DAs dedicated approximately 10 hours weekly to virtual classroom learning, including the IPA—Intelligent Process Automation—and AI tracks, and continued team project work. Participants then deployed to client and internal projects to use their new skills, while maintaining virtual collaboration with other DAs. Even at the conclusion of the formal two-year program, the DAs, who refer to themselves as “DA for life,” continue to bring their skills to bear as they’re deployed on assignments where their digital proficiency can deliver impact.

Development experiences blended:

  • Individual learning: Podcasts, e-learnings, videos, articles, exercises, quizzes, software tools practice, and subject matter specialist (SMS) feedback
  • Team learning: Both in-person (pre-COVID) and virtual classroom sessions; scrum team meetings (applying Agile methodology); and hands-on project work, including software tools practice and subject matter specialist feedback

Learning path design allowed learners at different skill levels to test out and complete shorter learning journeys, if they were prepared to move at a faster pace. The program also prepared DAs to earn up to 10 digital badges in PwC’s badge program, having a portable record of verified knowledge or skills, shareable within the firm and on social media. Earning a knowledge badge requires approximately 50 hours of learning, plus online assessments; skill badges require 150 to 200 hours of learning, online assessments, practical on-the-job application, and SMS validation.

Digital Accelerators ultimately are embedded in teams across the business segments and firm, as they use their new skills to help create efficiencies through data management and process automation, improve the client experience through data-driven storytelling and visualization, and help drive innovation by identifying new services and incremental features PwC clients and internal teams would find valuable.

Results

Roughly 1,600-plus Digital Accelerators have already created countless efficiencies through data management and process automation, developing 56 percent of the more than 5,500 Digital Lab assets and 69 of the top 100 most downloaded assets.

Digital Upskilling programs continue to help drive engagement and the firm’s digital goals, with Digital Accelerators already playing a significant role in citizen-led innovation:

  • More than 60,000 knowledge or skill badges have been earned to date, with nearly 8,000 separate skills validated. That is approximately one badge per employee vs. approximately three badges per Digital Accelerator.
  • Since November 2018, 5,500-plus automations, data workflows, AI models, and visualizations have been created in Digital Lab, with 3.2-plus million successful runs and downloads. These Digital Lab assets have generated countless automations, helping PwC work smarter.

DAs also are helping to drive outcomes for PwC’s clients, working directly with the engagement teams. Ahead of a firmwide software implementation, three Digital Accelerators created a workflow to validate data for PwC’s 55,000-plus people, each with as many as 20 levels of security access. The workflow saves eight hours every time it runs (200 hours per year), eliminating more than 150 manual steps and helping reduce human error.

Another Digital Accelerator team automated a key planning process, shortening a two- to three-hour procedure to less than five minutes. The process typically is repeated eight to 10 times per project, saving 16 to 30 hours.

Lorri Freifeld is the editor/publisher of Training magazine, owned by Lakewood Media Group. She writes on a number of topics, including talent management, training technology, and leadership development. She spearheads two awards programs: the Training Top 100 and Emerging Training Leaders. A writer/editor for the last 29 years, she has held editing positions at a variety of publications and holds a Master’s degree in journalism from New York University.