Culture and skills: some learnings from PwC’s journey

The last twelve months were really challenging. Organisations and people had to transform their ways of working almost overnight, adapting to a more digital and, often, more challenging world with new rules. Faced with this imperative to change, many organisations had to find answers to a series of crucial questions: How and where do we want to work? How do we want to collaborate? And especially, how can we develop the right culture to adapt to this continuous change and develop the necessary skills for a new world of work that has already started? 

We recently sat together with the Nomad Foundation and over 40 organisations over breakfast to explore these questions and discuss some of the initiatives that PwC Switzerland has introduced to progressively change our culture and support our own transformation.

When Covid hit us, we at PwC Switzerland were in the fortunate position of already having started (in 2018) a global initiative designed to upskill our people and ways of working. In other words, when we were forced to make the drastic move to remote working, we were already in the process of transforming. Some of the policies that we already had in place, such as annual working time, gave us a lot more flexibility to very quickly adapt to the new realities, protect our people’s jobs and at the same time continue to support our clients. As part of this global initiative, we created a whole ecosystem of upskilling initiatives, which we shared with participants at the Nomad Foundation Breakfast:

Digital Ninja: our digital trainers for partners programme
  • Learning new ways of working: The Digital Ninja Programme is a reverse mentoring programme in which our Digital Ninjas, often young recruits, help our leaders to develop more digital ways of working.
  • Becoming role models: Our Ninjas not only mentor their partner to help them find and use the right tools. They also help leaders develop the right role model attitude to inspire others to do the same and see the potential of digital in their day-to-day job.
  • Increasing productivity: In particular, the digital mentoring programme has made it possible to considerably reduce, sometimes by hundreds of hours per year, the average time spent on certain tasks that have been automated or simply made easier using digital tools.
Digital Lab: scaling up big ideas
  • Encouraging innovation: The Digital Lab is our home-made online technology-sharing community where our people can find, build and share digital assets.
  • Scaling up: These digital assets are developed by our staff and shared throughout our global firm to be used by teams and deployed at scale to help eliminate hours linked to manual or transactional processes. One digital asset developed for a client in Canada can be used by another colleague from Switzerland to solve a similar client problem, but faster. Big ideas, but also small simplification tips, travel fast!
  • Digital Culture: Each year, national and international competitions are organised internally to reward and recognise the most innovative ideas and those which have had a significant impact on our colleagues around the world. Some ideas are even shared with our clients as new service offerings!
Future Council: another perspective to shape our future  
  • Giving a voice to the next generation: The Future Council is an advisory board of 15 millennials who meet regularly with our CEO and HR director to discuss strategic topics and help our leadership shape the future of the firm.
  • Challenging the status-quo: The council helps leaders to challenge the status quo and helps them develop initiatives that have an impact on our culture and ways of working, such as our digital transformation agenda. The council is also involved in topics that are important to our core values, like providing input for our diversity & inclusion strategy.
  • Generational equality: With initiatives such as the Future Council, PwC aims to create a more inclusive and positive working environment and employee experience. This programme also contributes, through concrete actions, to generating measurable impact and lasting change in our firm’s culture.

During the session we also asked participants to share some of the experiences they’ve had recently and what they have learned in the process. The main insights they shared related to the following questions:

What is missing today in terms of accelerating digital transformation in companies?
  • A big vision and sense of urgency. Leaders and executives don’t feel the pressure to change immediately. They may have a vision of what the future should look like, but their priorities are still very much driven by immediate pressing matters, notably around navigating the impact of Covid. 
  • Lack of necessary skills. Conducting a digital transformation is a long and complex journey with many obstacles and change resistance to overcome. Organisations don’t always have the right set of skills to successfully manage these projects from start to finish. 
  • Training and upskilling tools are far too complicated and not user friendly enough to make them attractive to the workforce. Changing is hard, and making it as simple as possible is key to driving adoption. 
What is slowing down cultural change in organisations?
  • Communicate. Communicate. Communicate. Often projects are far too complicated for employees to really understand. A lot of projects focus on WHAT needs changing and HOW to change, but very often lack a clear explanation of WHY change is required. 
  • Leaders failing to be role models. Humans are naturally built to see change as a risk or a threat. To convince employees to embark on the digital transformation journey, it’s crucial for leaders to walk the talk and demonstrate the right behaviours to inspire others to do the same. 
  • Planning for the change. Change doesn’t happen overnight, and a proper change management plan is crucial to any successful digital transformation initiative. 
  • Engaging employees in change. This gives employees the opportunity to become part of the change and help shape their own future. Turning those affected by the change into participants is a key to success. 


  • Digital transformation is an emerging topic for organisations and leaders, even if their attention for the moment is focused on managing immediate priorities.
  • To fully seize the opportunities provided by digital transformation, it’s crucial to work not only on the digital transformation agenda, but also on changing the culture and developing the skills that employees will need to use the new digital tools.  

Visit Nomads Foundation – Hub Futur des Jobs (French only) to learn more about this topic.

Contact us for further information and updates on upskilling


Leveraging the power of mentoring @ PwC Switzerland

In a short documentary series digitalswitzerland visited companies who are willing to share their strategies, successes and challenges with lifelong learning. In the third of four episodes digitalswitzerland visited PwC Switzerland.
We shared how we train and maintain lifelong upskilling, both from our experiences and the experiences of each other, as part of the PwC culture.

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Contact us

Jose Marques

Jose Marques

Director People and Organisation and Leader New world. New skills., PwC Switzerland

Tel: +41 58 792 96 34

Kevin Boti

Kevin Boti

Manager, People & Organisation, PwC Switzerland