Digital transformation is not new for professional services giant PwC. It went through a revamp, and rolled out new technologies, in March 2019 – and this meant when the COVID-19 pandemic struck, PwC was ready to move quickly into a “virtual setting” for its 300,000-plus employees worldwide.
“The technologies that helped us three years ago are the same technologies that are helping us now”, Shannon Schuyler, PwC’s US chief purpose and inclusion officer, tells UNLEASH.
While listening had always been important to PwC – it is the foundation of the organization’s commitment to belonging – the COVID-19 pandemic really focused the organization on “meeting the evolving needs of our people…to drive growth”.
And the key to success was “consistent listening”.
Using multiple methods – a global people survey and a team polling tool to name a few – PwC called on employees to “give feedback in real-time”.
Schuyler shares she was surprised that only 3% of PwCers submitted their feedback anonymously – this is proof that employees really buy into PwC’s mantra of trust and transparency; there’s real camaraderie and a view that everyone is working together to make the organization a great place to work.
Trust is the core tenet of PwC’s purpose, according to Schuyler.
“What we’ve learned is if you truly want to build a trust culture, a culture of belonging where people continue to learn and are intellectually curious, you have to know how [your programs] are progressing, be transparent, and share that update,” she adds.
Accountability is also important here – and that’s why leadership buy-in is essential. Schuyler calls out Tim Ryan, US chair and senior partner, in particular, for his amazing support.
Personalizing experiences at PwC
This scaled up listening program was in recognition that “we don’t have all the answers”, and that employee needs are “continually evolving”.
Schuyler continues: “Our tools have helped us to not be stagnant and explore paths that we otherwise may not have.”
According to PwC’s 2022 Purpose and Inclusion Report, its people engagement index (PEI) score from the global people survey found that while the organization is doing a great job around belonging and leadership development, there was more work to be done around flexibility, wellbeing and a personalized employee experience.
In response, PwC renewed its commitment to hybrid and virtual work, announced two-week long shutdowns in the US in July and December, and launched a talent marketplace called My+ in May 2022.
My+ was a “total flip” in terms of how PwC was thinking about career development. Schuyler explains: “We used to control the movement within the organization to fill the seats that were open, and to find the skills that we needed, we would hire somebody.
But now, we’re recognizing we have the right people already at the firm, and are allowing them to customize their own journey.”
My+ provides some structure to this process – for Schuyler, this is very important as PwC brings in 15,000 new people a year – but also empowers employees to see all “the different opportunities available at the firm”, and if any seem interesting, then they can apply.
“As employees go through the marketplace, they can also make decisions on things about wellbeing, such as sabbatical timing, participating in pro bono work, exploring volunteering opportunities.”
The 2022 purpose report found that 5,000 employees had delivered nearly $40 million of pro bono work, offering nearly 210,000 hours of their time to deliver that. Based on feedback that many employees didn’t have time to commit to a full pro bono project, PwC has adjusted to allow for smaller, bite-sized pro bono work that fits into PwCers schedules.
The aim with these community-focused activities is to help employees find “a project that aligns with an employee’s personal purpose”.
To help them figure out their personal purpose, PwC has a platform called My Story, Your Story.
“This is where PwCers get to take a purpose assessment to help them explore what their personal purpose is – that’s the first thing we want our people to know when they join the firm; our people thrive when their daily experience matches what they value outside of work.”
All of this work on technology, purpose and trust at PwC is not just for the sake of the organization itself, according to Schuyler.
The employer also wants to build trust externally for its clients, and for the wider community; “we believe we have a responsibility to elevate the workforce overall”.
This explains why 30% of Schuyler’s time is spent with PwC clients talking through successes, lessons learned and the tech tools.
“We believe that part of our people is helping our clients understand the full set of problems – we continue to share our information and progress, so they can…have an accelerated journey,” she notes.
The future of work at PwC
Reflecting on the last few years, Schuyler shares: “As a company that’s been around for 175 years, I am incredibly proud that we continue to prioritize employee wellbeing, to foster a culture of empathy and understanding.”
The pandemic was “a time that was very difficult for everyone”. “We believe that in good times and bad investing in our people is the way to go”.
This explains why even in the current challenging economic climate, PwC is continuing to prioritize wellbeing, inclusion and diversity.
For instance, the organization will be future-proofing My+ by adding new programs and rolling out new technologies, as well as helping people carve out more time for learning by making sure PwCers see the connection between skills and career paths.
“As we move forward, I think the most important thing is to really understand the agility that we want…our people to have,” notes Schuyler.
“We want them to be prepared for the shifting dynamics”; PwC has a saying – ‘Don’t go it alone’. “When you’re in this changing dynamic, you need to make sure that people feel safe and secure.”
Schuyler adds that “like a lot of companies, we’re looking at how AI fits into this”.
“We want to be able to further customize the experience our people are having, and ensure the systems are more connected and seamless than ever before.”
Of course, this culture and purpose work is never over.
Schuyler concludes: “We can’t talk about this work as a journey, but as true markers of where we want to go – we have to attach metrics, goals and biomarkers to be better equipped [to] see the progress that we’re making.”
Ultimately, this means that employee experience, and the HR function in general, becomes a strategic partner to the business, and central to business success.
Sign up to the UNLEASH Newsletter
Get the Editor’s picks of the week delivered straight to your inbox!