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Why upskilling needs to be a part of your ESG strategy

19 July, 2021

Emma Suchland

UK Private Business Leader & Tax Partner, Manchester, PwC United Kingdom

+44 (0)7702 842499

Email

I recently hosted a Q&A with our client Manchester Airport Group about how they’re making their workforce fit for the future. After we spoke about their ongoing transformation and the rapid way they had embraced technology throughout the pandemic, we came to discuss the one thing that underpinned all of this - bringing employees on the journey by upskilling them.

But this wasn’t only for obvious business reasons - like driving transformation and digital change - PwC’s Talent Trends 2020 found organisations with the most advanced upskilling programmes saw three times the improvement in innovation. For Manchester Airport Group and many other private businesses, this conversation is about the longer lasting vision for the people you employ and the communities you operate within.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, scrutiny on companies to operate in a responsible way and a focus on ESG principles has been heightened. As our Joint Global Leader of People and Organisation Peter Brown put it in his recent blog, ‘ESG gets to the heart of why you are in business, who you are as a company, what your impact on the world is, how you align your business model with the needs of society, what you report, and how you engage your people and with your stakeholders more generally.’

With an organisation’s employees making up an important part of the ‘S’ in ESG, a focus in this area provides an opportunity for businesses to leave a lasting, positive legacy. 

So how does upskilling play into this?

The growing digital divide between those with access to technology and relevant training and those without it, has been much talked about in recent years. Our research shows 46% of people with postgraduate degrees say their employer gives them opportunities to improve their digital skills, but just 28% of people with school-leaver qualifications say the same. If businesses don’t make an effort to address this, upskilling will increase social inequality when it has the potential to do the opposite. 

Investing in upskilling is the solution that serves organisations, employees and their communities. If businesses focus on protecting people, not jobs, they’ll find the result is a skilled, motivated and loyal workforce, ready to take on the challenges of a digital future. 

We know from our CEO Survey and our Hopes and Fears survey that people are really worried about job security, with a third of workers anxious about the future of their job due to automation. But we also know that 77% are ready to learn new skills or completely retrain in response to new technologies in the workplace and 80% are confident they can adapt to new technologies entering their workplace. 

Of course, digital skills are not the whole picture. Distinctly human skills like creativity, agility and communication are vital in a workforce that’s ready to respond to change - especially as we face a future of working in a blended way, with employees needing to be able to collaborate just as effectively virtually as they do in the office or workplace. The future needs leaders who can steer the course through uncertainty and employees who can work together effectively to problem solve - skills that not only benefit an organisation but also the local communities employees live and work within.  

Many private businesses are already on the path of transformation, future proofing their business and upskilling employees. Being able to define how your upskilling journey benefits not only your organisation but your employees and communities as well should be a part of this. Private business has a key role to play in a genuine and inclusive conversation about the future of work - what does your contribution look like? 

 

Emma Suchland

UK Private Business Leader & Tax Partner, Manchester, PwC United Kingdom

+44 (0)7702 842499

Email

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