Keeping pace with exponential technological change

Feb 19, 2020

BY CHRISTINA REIP

The world is changing faster than ever. New technologies and services are popping up constantly and it can feel overwhelming trying to keep employees up to speed on everything. What skills should a company prioritise? What platforms should it adopt? What are an organisation’s moral responsibilities to educate employees, or to keep them employable and employed at all? Virtually all organisations and business functions – including finance and accounting – are asking the same questions.

Continuous adaptation

There is no way to know what the future will bring, but change is a given. Building a workforce that is inclined to adapt and develop new areas of expertise – not just once, but continuously – is critical. Rather than teach employees a specific technological skill, empower them to learn and adapt, to seek out opportunities to learn the things that are most relevant and interesting to them.

Why develop a culture of learning?

  • People want to learn. The PwC Upskilling Hopes and Fears Survey, which published in 2019, found that 77% of adults would learn new skills or completely retrain to improve their future employability. Employers can embrace this self-motivation and encourage their people to learn. Furthermore, with the rise of mass audience training through platforms like Coursera, Master Class and EdX, it is clear that people want to learn and will seek out opportunities to do so.
  • Learning can be an antidote to stress. Though one potential argument against upskilling/reskilling employees could be the burden of the additional work involved in – or stress caused by – learning new things, Harvard Business Review published research results that suggest the opposite: that learning can relieve stress.
  • It’s corporate social responsibility. The Chief Operating Officer at EdX suggests that companies have a moral obligation to educate and reskill employees. Whether or not one agrees on the extent to which a private institution is responsible for such efforts, the benefits of ensuring sustainability and continuity of an organisation’s workforce – such as the reduced cost of hiring or loss of knowledge – are significant.

How to build a culture of learning

Though a great deal of learning can be pursued by employees individually, wide-scale change requires intentional and strategic organisational support. From programmes on specific technologies to the provision of funding and leave to take classes, companies must create the infrastructure necessary to enable the culture. Though some of these channels may require significant investment, many solutions can be relatively low-cost or even free (such as sharing curated lists of books to read or podcasts to listen to).

Harnessing curiosity

According to the 2019 PwC Global Annual CEO Survey, leaders believe that their people can reinvent themselves if given a chance. Harnessing that curiosity can enable companies to keep up with or stay ahead of the competition, and even establish the technology curve of the future.

Christina Reip is a Senior Manager at PwC Consulting.