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- Companies are increasingly looking to upskill their workforce instead of trying to find outside tech talent in a highly competitive labor market. And professional-services firms are no different.
- The industry behemoths Deloitte, KPMG, and PricewaterhouseCoopers are collectively spending billions of dollars to train their employees on the hottest tech, including cloud computing, automation, and artificial intelligence.
- Some of the companies are even hoping to commercialize the educational pathways and begin selling the offerings to clients that are also trying to navigate a shortage in tech workers.
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Companies are increasingly looking to reskill their workforce to overcome a shortage in the talent needed to support the adoption of artificial intelligence and other digital upgrades. And top professional-services firms are no different.
Like Amazon, Microsoft, and others, the industry behemoths KPMG, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Deloitte are collectively investing billions of dollars to train employees to use the advanced tech in their everyday jobs. While the programs have internal benefits like reinforcing a cultural commitment to innovation, some of the firms are ultimately hoping to begin selling their approach to external customers.
“We are definitely betting our business on ability to differentiate our workforce more quickly than our competitors,” Deloitte’s Myke Miller, the dean of the training program Deloitte Cloud Institute, told Business Insider. “We’re in the process of packaging this up so that we can actually enable our clients to take the same type of approach.”
We spoke with executives from each of the firms to find out how the three industry leaders were tackling the upskilling challenge and how their approaches might serve as templates for other firms considering similar investments.
Cloud Computing: PricewaterhouseCoopers
With a focus on data, artificial intelligence, and automation, PricewaterhouseCoopers launched in 2018 what it is calling AI Labs, a program that runs alongside the firm’s $3 billion plan to train its workers on the hottest tech.
The curriculum educates employees on topics like primary and secondary uses of data, basic process automation tools, and different ways to visualize information — along with how AI can be layered over all those tasks, like a platform that analyzes text to determine sentiment.
The goal is to empower employees “to really use technology fundamentally throughout everything they do, whether they’re a tax accountant, an insurance, adviser, or a management consultant,” the emerging-technology lead Scott Likens told Business Insider. “We’ve democratized the use of some of these very complex tools. So we’ll have different levels of users, but everyone in the firm has access.”
To expose employees to the technology even more, the firm is also training on topics like diversity and inclusion through virtual reality. Workers can place themselves in simulated situations to explore more sensitive or uncomfortable role-playing scenarios, like having to fire someone.
The goal is to have the employees then tout the tech to their clients and, eventually, commercialize the offerings. “Everyone’s using similar or the same open-source algorithm,” Likens said. “So the algorithm is not the magic. It’s the training, creating a way for us to train and create an active learning pipeline.”
Cloud Computing: Deloitte
At the Deloitte Cloud Institute, employees can enroll in one of five upskilling pathways that each come with their own curriculum: developer, strategist, engineer, architect, and AI engineer.
The onus to create an umbrella organization to oversee this training came as a result of workers independently taking steps to educate themselves on cloud-based technology. “We wanted to harness the enthusiasm people have for their own career path and really make it more effective,” Miller said.
The company worked with universities to develop the curriculum for each pathway, though Miller declined to say which institutions. The goal is to train employees on real-life client problems to ensure the education is easily transferable to their regular jobs.
And Deloitte is already seeing results. When employees went through similar certification courses on their own, only about half completed them on the first attempt, according to Miller. That number rose to 90% when people enrolled in the programs via the Cloud Institute.
About 1,000 employees have already graduated from the institute, Miller said, and Deloitte hopes to have at least 4,000 workers undergo training by the end of 2020. People must be nominated to begin the program, but Deloitte is also beginning to offer standalone courses outside the formal curriculum.
Courses include fundamentals like what a firewall is as well as the ways different cloud platforms handle network segmentation. Layered on that are more sector-specific courses, like one for those working within the power and utility industry on how to bring meter data into the cloud.
Cloud Computing: KPMG
The audit, tax, and advisory services firm is close to launching a new $450 million training facility in Orlando, Florida.
Part educational institute, part cultural hub, the center is meant to offer courses on advanced tech in a setting that promotes closer interaction among employees. The facility is expected to have a housing center that can accommodate 800 people, with numerous breakout classrooms and a larger conference arena — along with a cafeteria that offers free food from one of eight kitchens, each specializing in a different cuisine.
The idea is to conduct the training that KPMG does in hotels around the country in one location that can also reinforce the key values of the firm. And it won’t just be for employees. The center will also be open to clients looking to upskill their own workers.
“We don’t have factories and huge, physical assets; what we have is our extraordinary people,” CFO David Turner told Business Insider. “Investing in our people and making sure they have future-ready skills to drive innovation for our firm and clients, and aligned with our rich culture and heritage, is at the forefront of our mind.”