The Human Resources industry is shifting amid rapid change, which is inevitable in the unsteady world known as VUCA (Volatility; Uncertainty; Complexity; Ambiguity). In the transition into the digital world, ‘chaos’ describes precisely the current situation as well as the future workplace. We are doing business in the world where disruptive innovations can change the whole course of an industry and our talent pool is getting replaced by machines and robots. So, how can business leaders and organisations prepare the workforce for those challenges while keeping their people engaged?
The Jobstore team speaks to Sherriza Nor Rashidi, PwC Malaysia’s Employer Branding & Talent Acquisition Lead, to unveil the formulas of PwC’s effective people development initiatives to stay relevant in the VUCA world.
Q: Can you share with us more about your role at PwC Malaysia?
My role as Employer Branding and Talent Acquisition Lead involves managing PwC’s sourcing strategy, enhancing our brand presence to recruit top talent for PwC Malaysia and Vietnam. I also implement talent attraction initiatives through active collaboration with local and private learning institutions, and professional bodies.
Prior to this, I was the HR ‘business partner’ (PwC also refers to this role as ‘Client Relationship Manager’) for the Assurance Line of Service. This role required me to work closely with the Assurance Partners and Leaders to spearhead and implement people initiatives. It entailed bringing various people engagement initiatives to life in order to retain talents and most importantly, to make PwC a great place to work.
Together with my team, we deliver our vision to be Malaysia’s leading developer of diverse talent in line with PwC’s global vision.
Q: What are the training and development initiatives that cultivate a growth mindset at PwC Malaysia?
At PwC, we foster a ‘learning-by-doing’ environment that is supported by real-time development, team learning, as well as a face-to-face and technology-enabled curriculum. The training and development programmes aim to equip our workforce with the necessary skillset and mindset for the future of work.
We refer to this as the ‘PwC Professional’ which is a framework that comprises and revolves around five attributes: whole leadership, global acumen, business acumen, relationships and technical capabilities.
As PwC Malaysia is a professional services firm, upon the commencement of every employee, the core training focuses on building technical capabilities and it will be conducted in the classroom setting via e-learning and peer groups. To ensure the practical learning experience, we also integrate the ‘softer’ elements like interacting with clients, working in teams, and managing stakeholders into these programmes.
At each point of our people’s career advancement, there will be a programme called ‘Career Milestones’, design to prepare them for a smooth transition into their new roles. For example, all new managers are required to go through a 6-month blended learning programme, followed by a 3-day residential programme, peer group learning, and a selection of elective programmes based on their development needs.
Also, once an employee reaches the Assistant Managerial level, there is an increasing focus on developing their capabilities beyond technical skills, in which a greater emphasis will be placed on developing each individual’s competencies following our core attributes.
Q: Is training & development alone sufficient to nurture a growth mindset and how is its impact measured?
We understand that having an infrastructure based on training and development alone is not enough. Ultimately, the training needs to be related to what happens on-the-job, the conversations with career coaches, and our performance management cycle.
We’ve designed an employee experience called ‘My Growth Journey’. To cultivate a learning culture at PwC, ‘My Growth Journey’ is built around the concept of ‘real-time development’. This means, in order to encourage our people to enhance their skills, their team members need to give them consistent feedback. We believe feedback given in real-time improves performance.
To facilitate this, we’ve created a culture of feedback, which our team refers to as ‘Take 5’. While it does not literally mean taking five minutes, the idea is to give real-time feedback as part of our culture. Employees are encouraged to take approximately five minutes before and after a meeting, a discussion, a presentation, or even in a casual environment like a walk to the lift, to ask and give real-time feedback or to provide guidance rather than simply ‘telling’.
In the previous year alone, our Global People Survey measured the ‘effectiveness of feedback for immediate improvement for performance’ and revealed that it has risen 6% firmwide. All employees in the firm also have a designated career coach who guides them through their career paths while providing a different perspective on challenges they might be facing.
We’ve introduced the ‘growth conversations’ concept, taking place three times a year that focuses on development around the PwC Professional attributes. Last year, we’ve seen an improvement where 5% of our people agree that they have had a ‘meaningful conversation about their development in the last six months’.
In terms of classroom training, we track our course ratings which consistently remain at 4 out of 5 and PwC Malaysia’s course ratings are higher than the firm’s global average.
Besides real-time development, growth conversations, and training programmes, we also use a tool called the ‘PwC Professional Snapshot’ to capture the immediate results based on various projects our people are handling. It shows our people’s progression over the course of their daily work. From there, we are able to determine appropriate actions; for example, one of the development initiatives could be putting an individual on stretched assignments or attending trainings.
This year, we’ve embarked on a journey to radically change how trainings are run. Understanding that our team members prefer to learn at their own pace, we’ve invested in digital learning which enables them to customise the course modules to their developmental needs via a flexible schedule out of classroom walls.
Q: What do you think are the major challenges in employee engagement and retention for big corporations?
People leave their jobs for various reasons, as we know it. Talents of tomorrow do not see career as a step-up progression; rather, as a platform. Loyalty isn’t given anymore, it needs to be actively cultivated by giving employees the right experience. To face the challenges of employee engagement and retention, HR practitioners continue to work with the Line Managers on talent management matters—from onboarding to retirement.
For big corporations, these are the key challenges:-
- Misalignment of Personal Aspirations and The Organisation’s Purpose: Employees want a greater sense of purpose at work. When their sense of purpose is compromised, this causes misalignment.Purpose needs to be explained and communicated clearly. It can be as simple as to ‘Why’, ‘What’ and ‘How’ that outlines about the rationale behind the purpose, the intended implementation plan and the desired outcome. We know that one-time communication is not enough – most big corporations I know set strategic objectives and KPIs around this, for example.We also know that putting up posters on the wall isn’t enough to communicate the organisation’s purpose. Leaders need to inspire others by reminding them of the corporation’s purpose and give them the due recognition when it is delivered. It is imperative that the learning culture reflects the mutual values to ensure alignment with the individual’s purpose, hence increase employee loyalty.Which is why at PwC, in line with our purpose – ‘Build trust in society, solve important problems’, we’ve cultivated the interest among our employees and ensure alignment by having a conversation around building trust and simultaneously suggesting measures within our Firm to the society. This is also executed through our external engagement with students, our clients and our community. Our second ‘The Building Trust Awards’ and for students, ‘The Building Trust Challenge’ is a testament of our effort in heightening the awareness about this (to our employees, clients and our community) and how it is aligned with our purpose.
- Ignoring ‘Employee Well-being’: In an environment where the employees are of multi-generational and diverse background, being inclusive requires big corporations to invest a lot of time studying the demographics of their workforce and introduce benefits to cater to their different needs. Employee well-being is increasingly becoming big corporation’s people agenda. Millennials want flexible work arrangements so that they can pursue their passions beyond the office cubicle; new parents value flexible work arrangements to attend to their children’s needs and so on.From our internal ‘Global PwC Survey’ on Values, ‘Care’ came up as one of the most favourable responses from our employees who participated in it. Bringing ‘Care’ to life to us means focusing on employee well-being through Mind [Psychological], body [Physical] and heart [Personal] such as Employee assistance programme (mind), Fitness (body) and Community services (heart). Employee well-being is our top People priority and by elevating well-being, we believe it will shape our employees’ experience and allow them to live well while doing the best that they can, at work.
The future of work starts today. In facing the challenges, strategic people agenda within big corporations include fostering the right experience by ensuring there is an alignment with the corporation’s’ purpose and the employee well-being are taken care off. With this comes a better sense of belonging and employee engagement.
Q: Is there any advice that you want to share with fellow HR practitioners?
The world as we know it is changing, contributed by the mega trends such as technological breakthroughs, rapid urbanisation and shift in global economic power. HR practitioners must be able to adapt, learn, relearn, and unlearn how things are done. Taking Carol Dweck’s research on ‘Growth Mindset’, if we embrace challenges and see them as opportunities for continuous learning, we will be able to change our worldview as well as influence changes so that organisations can be ‘fit for the future’.
HR practitioners can achieve this by following the principles below:
- The performance management framework needs to be revised to drive positive behaviours and instil the right culture.
- Improve talent strategies to attract, retain talents, and create the right experience from the point of hiring to retirement.
- Embrace digitalisation, take the lead to develop a digital culture and implement an infrastructure that can automate simple administrative processes, and enable data mining to provide insights that are beneficial to the business.
Understand Business, Think Business
In a disruptive world, HR practitioners need to help shape businesses. To do so, HR practitioners must have good business acumen. Understanding business enables HR to provide better insights to internal clients, helping them to make the right decisions to drive growth. This also means HR practitioners must be able to appreciate the linkage between the company’s strategy, its financial statements, and how these impact the organisation’s performance.
HR practitioners must be able to demonstrate the ability to use data to help the management make informed decisions about talent matters and derive business plans around talent needs.
Managing people is also about managing numbers and crunching numbers that will give leading indicators to help influence strategic workforce planning, cost-benefit analysis on remuneration matters, and giving insights that help with decision making, whether the business can grow organically or not.
The three factors above are inter-linked and together they help to accelerate most Human Resources teams to be better business partners to line managers; instead of being the organisation’s policy police. By practising these three behaviours diligently, we can be seen as business partners who can shape businesses that will thrive in the VUCA world.