TAFEP Hero 2023 Oct
Case study: Why PwC was ready when the COVID-19 crisis hit

Case study: Why PwC was ready when the COVID-19 crisis hit


"The introduction of WeFlex policy enabled us to pivot literally overnight to having over 22,000 people working seamlessly and remotely during the crisis," says Ewan Clarkson, Chief People Officer, PwC Mainland China and Hong Kong.

Carpe diem, we’ve been taught since childhood. PwC is doing exactly that, by seizing this critical moment in time to accelerate the adoption of new ways of working and living as an opportunity to drive a better experience for its people.

Leading the change is the launch of ‘Reimagine Life at PwC’, where the goal is to deliver greater career and personal development opportunities for employees, while ensuring the right skills, capabilities and tools are in place to help clients to solve their most important issues.

Ewan Clarkson, Chief People Officer, PwC Mainland China and Hong Kong, explains: “Our people strategy revolves around three key elements, including workforce, wellness, and workplace, contributing to the overall experience for our people. To align our people capabilities with business strategy, we’re making significant investment into upskilling at all levels to build an agile and resilient workforce that is market-centric and fit for the future.”

For Clarkson, productivity is achieved through creating meaning, "it is the people experience that matters," he says. "We are having an increasingly diverse workforce of talents with different needs and expectations. The ultimate goal of our people strategy is about creating that positive experience across the end-to-end journey for our people from all stages of life.

In line with this priority, the company has made significant progress towards empowering the growth, development, and life of its people. Last year saw the introduction of PwC badges as a key milestone in reimagining learning recognition.

“PwC badges are visible, shareable and portable electronic records of new knowledge and skills gained at PwC. They reflect our people’s ability to contribute and create value in specific skill-related areas, and recognise the progress of their personal development,” Clarkson shares.

A six-week gamified campaign called ‘DigiTrek’ was also launched, featuring the 22 hottest digital topics in today’s market, enabling employees to earn the digital acumen knowledge badge. Badges are earned through the firm. As of today, more than 3,000 PwC digital acumen badges have been granted across the workforce.

ALSO READ: Case Study: How Sino Group is bringing clarity and certainty to a post-pandemic future

With wellness another top priority for the firm, in April, PwC launched its very own Wellness Reimagined app, a seamless one-stop shop for wellness services and products.

Employees can now make appointments and purchase PwC-curated wellness services at their own choice with flexi-life benefits. This includes one-to-one complimentary sessions with certified wellness professionals, a shop for wellness products with corporate discounts, and more. The team even went the extra mile to take care of staff’s loved ones by extending the wellness coverage’s plans and benefits for family and friends.

Flexibility is not a new mantra at PwC. In fact, it launched ‘everyday flexibility’ some years ago (called WeFlex) allowing people the ability to choose where, when and how they work.

“We built upon these strong foundations by enabling greater mobility and transparency within and across our different service lines and locations through the launch of an agility ecosystem,” Clarkson explains.

This led to a streamlined application process, refreshed mobility policy and increased transparency of available roles, which empowered people to shape their career development according to interests and a desire to grow their skills.

PwC’s ‘reimagine life’ approach spills over into the physical workplace as well. Over recent months, the team has been redesigning and reconfiguring the workspace in each major market across Mainland China and Hong Kong by embracing the concept of activity-based working – where its people work in designated areas that cater to the requirements of their task.

“We want to be more deliberate and intentional about the role of the office, so as to ensure that the workspace is digital, yet human-centric, and serve as a hub for us to be collaborative, productive and creative,” Clarkson says.

The pandemic has accelerated the digitalisation on developing tomorrow’s workforce, requiring companies to equip the workforce with digital skills for jobs affected by technology. PwC were fortunate to have been on this path already.

"Our strategic investments set out two years ago have been focusing on the opportunities created by the mega-trends shaping China’s future: digital transformation, climate change & sustainability, and China’s dual circulation economy, which include heightened trends contributing to an accelerated need for transformation given the pandemic," says Clarkson. This foresight extended to their people strategy too.

"The introduction of WeFlex policy enabled us to pivot literally overnight to having over 22,000 people working seamlessly and remotely during the crisis, leveraging the principles of trust, connectivity, and ensuring quality delivery to clients," says Clarkson.

ALSO READ: Case study: How Cushman & Wakefield is preparing for a talent war in the post-pandemic future

The past 18 months have been a real test for any HR organisation around the world. The pandemic has provided an unprecedented opportunity for the function to step up, lean in and support the business and its people when it needed us most. Both individuals and teams have been put to the test in terms of their agility and leadership.

"To keep pace with a fast-evolving environment that has redefined roles and ways of working,  it’s been important to ensure our HR professionals are equipped provided with the right skills and experiences to be successful and resilient for the next crisis," says Clarkson.

This means upskilling HR professionals on subjects such as human-centred design thinking, digital upskilling, consulting, and influencing. So they too have the resilience and agility needed to succeed and thrive with these new market demands.

A return to ‘business as usual’ remains a distant and uncertain prospect, and we continue to see shifts in the working norms and preferences of the workforce. For organisations, the COVID pandemic has been the ultimate test of agility, resilience, and leadership. The onset of the crisis as challenged our long-held assumptions of the role of the office, people experience, and brought about drastic changes – both personally and professionally.

"It is crucial for organisations to build a workforce of the future who have the ability to thrive during volatility and have a clear sense of purpose that guides the business strategy and people behaviours when faced with volatility," says Clarkson.

What’s evident is that as we move into a post-pandemic world, PwC is well set to continue to build a workforce that is fit for the future by delivering greater agility and flexibility for its people to thrive personally and professionally in today’s dynamic and digital world.

ALSO READ: How the investment talent landscape will look like post-pandemic

Photo / Provided (PwC: Ewan Clarkson, Chief People Officer, PwC Mainland China and Hong Kong)

Read more case studies in the Q2 edition of the e-mag! You can also look forward to a range of enriching interviews with leaders across APAC - from DBS Bank, Cushman * Wakefield, Sino Group, and more.

Follow us on Telegram and on Instagram @humanresourcesonline for all the latest HR and manpower news from around the region!   

Follow us on Telegram and on Instagram @humanresourcesonline for all the latest HR and manpower news from around the region!

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