This year we’ve focussed on our people’s wellbeing and growth
Ian Elliott
Chief People Officer
UK Annual Report 2022

This year we’ve focussed on our people’s wellbeing and growth

Ian Elliott Chief People Officer
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Putting our people first

Our people are front and centre of who we are and what we do. We want to hire, nurture and develop the best, most diverse teams to help our clients solve their most important problems and deliver sustained outcomes. So, our focus this year has been on enhancing the Deal we offer our people - how they are empowered and valued, how they grow, and the opportunities they have to make a difference. We also take seriously our responsibility as a large employer to create fairer access to opportunities across the UK. Last year we made an unprecedented level of investment in our people, and this year we’ve gone further still. This included a £120m investment in pay, at year end, our biggest in 10 years, based on the rising cost of living, a competitive recruitment market, and our people’s feedback about how they wanted to be recognised for their contribution to our strong performance. This was in addition to a targeted mid-year reward round. But our Deal extends beyond just financial reward. From expanding wellbeing support to enhancing flexibility, and offering a wide range of upskilling opportunities - we’ve continued to take a people-led approach, throughout ongoing change and disruption. Of course, there are always new ways of making our firm an even better place to work. But we’re proud of our progress so far. Even amid continued uncertainty, a hot jobs market, and shifting work-life expectations, our people engagement score hit a record high of 80% in May.

Building the conditions
for our people to thrive

As Covid restrictions eased, bringing our teams together again was a real highlight. We saw a huge appetite to collaborate, learn, and socialise in person, and, as our people returned to our offices and client sites, we gave everyone a one-off bonus of £1,000 to support the transition. Half-priced food and drinks in our catered buildings have also been well received.

We have a multigenerational workforce, made up of people from diverse backgrounds, working together - in person and virtually - navigating and championing hybrid working. So continuing to evolve the conditions for everyone to thrive at our firm is crucial.

Our vision to be the best hybrid workplace is about much more than providing state-of the art, destination offices and cutting edge technology.

It’s about ensuring a sense of belonging for all - an area that improved in our most recent staff survey, but with much more still to do as we keep focused on our inclusion action plan, informed by our diversity data and insights.

Pay gap data (median) (Excluding Partners, at 5 April 2022)
Down from 6% at 5 April 2021
Down from -2.9% at 5 April 2021
Socio-economic background
Up from 10.9% at 5 April 2021
Up from 16.4% at 5 April 2021
Sexual orientation
Our diversity data plays an important part in helping to build an even more diverse and inclusive culture within our firm.

Trust and two-way

Our new ways of working are also underpinned by building trust and two-way flexibility, designed to help our people get the most out of their working day.

Our summer working hours policy - now in its second year - gives our people the option of condensing their working week into 4.5 days, taking Friday afternoons off to make the most of the summer. More of our people can also now enjoy the chance to work remotely from overseas for up to three weeks a year, with the firm taking care of some of the costs and complex processes associated with visa requirements. And we’ve introduced a new, flexible approach to bank holidays, to allow our multifaith, diverse workforce to observe or celebrate the days that are of most personal significance to them.

Our new destination office in Belfast

In 2021, we opened our flagship office in Belfast at a time when the future of the office was anything but certain. From day one, the narrative changed.

Imagine a room with an infinity ceiling, where hard-working teams can meditate together. A collaboration data lab designed to find dynamic solutions to our clients’ challenges alongside our new advanced research centre. And a range of spaces and tech to help us build the best hybrid workplace and culture, with room for our community partners too, all within a sustainable building.

This is the reality in our newest office, Merchant Square. And the golden thread running through it all is collaboration, both in its planning and in the way its spaces are used.

“It’s like they threw away the corporate office rule book. It’s the next frontier in office space.”

The guiding principle throughout the design was to deliver a building where ‘people want to be, not have to be’. It was developed by our Change & Engagement team, made up of a core group of around 30 people, from Senior Associate to Partner, and led by Kieragh Nelson, who is now a Partner in Operate. Every aspect of the building - from the style of meeting rooms, the interior design elements, and the iconic wellbeing space to the way we use the 9th floor garden terrace - has been designed to bring this principle to life.

It’s a home for our 3,400 people to: work comfortably together in a tech-enabled space, find focus zones to concentrate on individual work or spend time together in an exercise class. It’s also a space for our clients and community partners to connect with our teams and access innovative technology.

Merchant Square was designed to be a place where we could bring people together creatively - not just our own team but also our clients and community partners.

Shared ambition

Opening this impressive building in the heart of Belfast was a welcome sign of confidence that’s helping to rebuild the city. Before our doors had even opened, leases on the empty units around us were signed in anticipation of people returning to the city centre. Since then, this destination workplace has inspired organisations in the region and beyond, and we’re pleased to have hosted some major external events to celebrate the successes of the region, its talent and showcase its future potential. We’re creating hundreds of additional jobs by basing our national Advanced Research and Engineering Centre here, a reflection of the success of Northern Ireland’s growing tech sector. The largest Frontier collaboration data lab outside London is also here, and brings our global strategy - The New Equation - to life through a collaborative tech-led and human-powered space. Taking up half a floor, the lab is designed to help us bring information to life in an engaging way so that we can co-create responses to our clients' issues and opportunities.

Growing in harmony

Our new Deal embeds our approach to hybrid working, with our people spending part of their week co-located at our offices or client sites, and some time working remotely. It’s meant that to date we’ve been able to hire 400 new people through intelligent use of the working spaces. Wellbeing and connection are also central. Onsite yoga classes and replacing banks of lockers with communal spaces are just a couple of examples of this. As the office was being designed, our people told us it was important to them that our space would also be a home for our community partners. As a result, we’ve ensured Merchant Square is accessible to organisations and charities such as Dementia NI and Hummingbird NI, which now regularly bring their teams and service users to our 9th floor. The investment in our restaurant space has even enabled us to work with our catering partner Baxter Storey to create an apprenticeship scheme in association with our suicide prevention programme ‘Into Tomorrow’.

Working sustainably

Merchant Square was the first office in Northern Ireland to be awarded BREEAM Excellent status for Refurbishment, and sustainability was designed in from the start. The construction used much of the foundations and structure of the original buildings, thereby reducing the amount of embodied carbon within the construction phase. Materials from the old building were reused within the build or elsewhere, while 97% of all furniture, fixtures and fittings from the old office, Waterfront Plaza, was donated to 55 charities, social enterprise, community groups and schools.

The building has been designed to operate solely from electricity negating any need to use fossil fuels for heating. Merchant Square runs from 100% renewable electricity, and uses about half as much energy per square metre than the previous office in Belfast.

The result

Just one year after the office opened, the region was rewarded with the highest scores in the most recent internal survey when it came to people engagement. The work that’s gone into creating Merchant Square and then making it work has helped our team feel more connected to the firm, to our Purpose and to each other.

Supporting our people through unsettling times

This year hasn’t always been easy, with a series of simultaneous external events impacting our people as they have wider society. So we’ve focused on supporting them, taking action and speaking out on important issues that affect our people, firm, clients and communities. We’ve also invested in and expanded our wellbeing offering, providing specific support for our people in many of these areas. For example, as we began to learn to live with Covid, we provided guidance via livestreams and podcasts on adapting to this change. We ran listening sessions for anyone who felt impacted by the war in Ukraine, as we have done for other conflicts and world events, and continued to signpost support for those affected by racism. We launched a new financial wellbeing platform and, this spring, a new app providing non-clinical support. This is available to all of our people and their partners, and is focused on specific health areas, including the menopause, fertility, pregnancy and early parenthood. In addition to this, we enhanced the private medical cover we provide for those experiencing symptoms related to the menopause, and introduced new leave policies for people undergoing fertility treatment and those affected by miscarriage or baby loss.

Developing and recruiting for today and tomorrow

This year, we promoted 4,198 of our people - including record promotions in January, outside the usual promotion cycle. As the skills our people need to support our clients continue to shift, the learning we offer continues to reflect that. We’ve delivered a range of resources and programmes designed to support our people in being the inclusive, quality-driven, and knowledgeable leaders our clients expect.

We’ve embraced the opportunity to reinstate our in-person flagship leadership programmes, attended by 1,910 of our people in the last financial year, with more to follow in the months ahead. This includes ‘Altitude’ for our senior associates, and ‘Stratosphere’ for senior managers. These have been refreshed to focus on the key skills our people need to lead in the current environment and enhanced by using technological advancements.

We’ve also invested in ESG upskilling, from new online training available to all, to targeted programmes such as our Climate in Action course to give those with foundational knowledge further skills to engage with and support clients to respond to the sustainability challenges they face. Our Digital Accelerators programme continues to go from strength to strength, giving our people the latest digital tools and skills to help solve complex business challenges.

And, as we continue with our commitment to promoting greater racial equality through our targeted action plan, everyone has had the opportunity to register for our race awareness training ‘Open Mind - In My Shoes’. Some of the sessions have used virtual reality; all have been immersive and included a facilitated session, giving our people the chance to reflect on what they’ve learnt, observed and felt during the training - a great example of our human-led, tech-powered approach in action. Those who don’t have lived experience of racism can never fully understand the impact it has on those who do. But, developed in collaboration with an ethnically diverse staff panel, ‘Open Mind - In My Shoes’ aims to help build even greater awareness and empathy among all of our people, recognising our collective responsibility to advance racial equality within our firm and wider society.

Our innovative new ways of appealing to potential candidates, including creative campus campaigns, helped attract a record number of over 300,000 applications to our firm in the last financial year. We brought 5,856 new joiners into our business across the UK, with 1,418 of those joining through our graduate, school and college leaver routes. We also welcomed around 900 people on paid internships and placements, with 50 people joining our ESG internship programme, working on client projects related to societal and environmental issues.

We’ve kept focused on recruiting people from a wider range of backgrounds, with diversity of talent, diversity of thought and diversity of experience. We know this benefits our firm, but it also allows us to better serve our clients and wider society. Our Staff Diversity Council, established in 2020, continues to help shape our inclusion strategy, we have run a Black Talent in Business programme, and have partnered with 10,000 Black Interns and the Black Young Professionals (BYP) Network to attract the next generation of Black leaders to PwC.

We continue to expand our hiring beyond Russell Group universities and currently recruit from over 100 institutions. In the spring, as part of our commitment to nurturing tech talent for the future, we expanded our Tech Degree Apprenticeship programme, working with Ada, the National College for Digital Skills in Manchester. This was the first time we have partnered with a further education college, rather than a university, and is one of many ways we’re broadening entry routes into the firm for students who choose not to follow the traditional university pathway. Our very first Tech Degree Apprenticeship graduates completed their four-year course this year, with 103 being offered permanent graduate roles with the firm.

Through our existing partnership with Queen Mary University of London, a top university for social mobility, we introduced a new Data Analyst Degree Apprenticeship - recruiting our first intake to join in September 2022.

Bridging the gap between education and the world of work is central to our purpose as a progressive employer. We welcomed the first intake on our New World New Skills Work Experience programme and ring-fenced it for Year 12 (or equivalent) students from lower socio-economic backgrounds. Some 195 students were paid for the week they spent working with us and were also gifted a personal laptop to support their future studies. All of the students offered places on the programme met our social mobility criteria, 46% had received free school meals and 77% came from an ethnic minority background.

We also welcomed over 3,000 secondary school aged students on our in-person New World New Skills Schools Series programme, demystifying the world of work by helping them to imagine themselves at a firm like PwC. For the first time, students as young as 11 were invited into our offices across the UK and benefited from skills sessions covering employability skills, wellbeing and financial skills. In addition, as part of One Firm One Day, the firm's annual UK wide volunteering and fundraising day, we ran 141 skills sessions for school students supporting 40 schools and reaching over 3,000 students.

A community of solvers at the ready - whatever the future may hold

There is no doubt there will be challenges and further disruption in the year ahead, but we’re ready for whatever the future may hold. As a large firm, employing a community of thousands of talented, innovative and creative solvers, we’re excited by what we can achieve together for our people, for our firm, and for our clients.

Average hours training per employee by workday grade
50.5 Average
Average hours training per employee by gender
Average training and development expenditure per full time employee (total cost of training provided to employees divided by the number of employees)
Training provided is defined as training completions recorded on the firm’s formal learning management system.
This information does not take into account the time spent on Professional Qualifications by any member of the firm.

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