Between game rooms, treadmill desks and state-of-the-art gyms, it can sometimes feel like companies have entered a benefits arms race, each employer up-leveling their perks in order to stay competitive with the rest. But remember: when it comes to benefits, it’s more about substance than flash. In fact, Glassdoor found that career opportunities were the second-highest driver of employee retention.
Many companies implement professional development programs to help their employees grow their careers, but consulting firm PwC has gone one step further by creating an entire app devoted to continuing education: the Digital Fitness Assessment. With it, employees are able to assess their competence in topics like artificial intelligence, data and analytics, automation and more, as well as engage with relevant learning assets — articles, video content, podcasts and online courses — for areas they need to develop further. And if you don’t continue to engage with learning assets like these, your Digital Fitness score will deteriorate after time, reflecting the need for current, lifelong learning.
After launching it last fall, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, says PwC Chief People Officer Mike Fenlon.
“The candidates we speak to are keenly interested — we find that they’re looking for a very progressive, tech-enabled path to learning,” he says.
Read on to learn more about PwC’s groundbreaking new tool and what you can do to keep your employees engaged and ahead of the curve.
Glassdoor: What was the inspiration behind the Digital Fitness app?
Mike Fenlon: It's a response to the needs our clients have, as well as the needs we have within our own firm. Across the board, digital is transforming our economy — you need to provide services, experiences and products that are relevant in that digital economy. Those are market forces and I think most organizations are scrambling in a world where the pace of technological advances is an ever-receding horizon, and you can't hire your way out of that. It's not simply a matter of talent acquisition — there's also an imperative to upscale and really invest in helping our people secure their futures.
[Related: Talent Analytics 101 — How to Interpret Your Data in 2018]
Glassdoor: What sort of feedback have you gotten on it already?
Mike Fenlon: We launched this internally last fall and the feedback's been amazing. We wanted to create a tool that’s a curriculum for learning and developing your digital IQ, but also personalize the journey, because all of us come at this from different places with different interests. The feedback we've received from our people is that it immediately takes what can be an overwhelming agenda and gives it some structure. It personalizes it, and meets you where you're at.
The other thing I wanted to emphasize here was our approach. When we talk about digital fitness, it's not simply a matter of knowledge and skills. Yes, you need to understand the Internet of Things, blockchain, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, coding, design thinking, etc. But digital fitness is also a mindset —it's about understanding that this is a commitment to lifelong, collaborative and current learning. It's about a mindset of curiosity, experimentation and building your confidence. It's about cultivating a diverse network of relationships, and really engaging others who have different backgrounds, expertise and perspectives. The app actually gives you feedback on all of those dimensions.
Glassdoor: What do you think is the one skill employees should hone in order to prepare for the future of work?
Mike Fenlon: There might have been a period of time when you could ride one skill, but we are in such a fast-paced, changing world that it’s an extraordinarily risky bet. We’re in a hybrid economy in the sense that we all need to be data literate, no matter if you’re in finance, marketing, HR or product development.
Glassdoor: How does the Digital Fitness app help PwC employees level up and unlock career opportunities?
Mike Fenlon: When you look at workforces across the country, there's a lot of anxiety — “Am I going to be automated out of a career?” At PwC, we tell our people we're not going to leave anyone behind. So, yes, technology will continue to transform our business, but you have a role to play. You have to “opt in,” as our senior partner Ryan says, irrespective of your level and your role. There's no one that's going to force me to start my own learning journey — PwC is providing the curriculum, tools, learning assets and courses, but I have to take responsibility for that. It doesn't mean I suddenly have to become an engineer, but I need to build my fluency and my digital IQ to continue to be relevant.
Glassdoor: Is this something that you've been highlighting to candidates who are considering PwC?
Mike Fenlon: Our philosophy has been to overinvest in development, if there is such a thing. It's a fundamental commitment to continuous learning and creating a lot of opportunities to opt in and to pursue those developmental paths. The candidates we speak to are keenly interested — we find that they’re looking for a very progressive, tech-enabled path to learning. Our people tell us they don't want to be stuck in that ancient model of lecture and note-taking and PowerPoint presentations — it's also learning by doing, and learning on the job. So, maybe I'm going to do a course and spend several days learning automation and robotic process automation tools, but then I'm also going to apply them in serving my clients.
Glassdoor: How do you think the educational landscape will continue to evolve within the workplace?
Mike Fenlon: Overtime, what we'll see in education is almost a blockchain of verified skills. As we acquire skills and as we gain credentials, they'll have a market value both inside of a firm and externally. We see a world where there's going to be greater specificity on capabilities and skill sets, and I think that's going to be a really important part of how people enhance their learning and their careers in the future, and also how employers connect with candidates.
[Related: Technology Will Change the Way You Do Your Job — This is a Good Thing]
Glassdoor: For many employers, professional development and learning programs fall in the "nice-to-have" rather than the "must-have" category. What would you say to companies who are on the fence about investing in professional development?
Mike Fenlon: This is about securing your future as a business and investing in your people so they can secure their own futures. There's a clear return for individuals, but also for organizations. We've found that in our CEO survey, CEOs are telling us they can't find qualified talent — that this lack of skills is a real obstacle to innovation and delivering against their strategy, and that they can't hire their way out of that. Investing in your workforce is not only an enablement to delivering on your business strategy — it's also key to attracting talent as well. Candidates are looking for employers that are going to invest in their development.