Professional services and accounting powerhouse PwC is looking to power up its U.S. workforce of over 65,000 employees with basic to advanced knowledge of ChatGPT technology over the next three years, and it’s putting big bucks behind that effort.
PwC recently announced that it’s making a $1 billion investment to super-size and scale its AI capabilities. Part of that initiative is upskilling its entire U.S. workforce on generative AI, of which ChatGPT is just one form, beginning this summer. It’s a mammoth training effort led by both PwC’s Chief People Officer Yolanda Seals-Coffield, who calls it a “fundamental” need for all employees, and also the company’s vice chair and chief products and technology officer Joe Atkinson.
The investment also includes a partnership with Microsoft to create scalable offerings using both OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Microsoft’s Azure OpenAI Service to help PwC’s clients leverage generative AI technology.
Many PwC employees should be aware of AI, ChatGPT and more, executive says
PwC plans to assess which is the most relevant generative AI information to provide to employees, based on their responsibilities and job description. The company also plans to deliver the materials and information through live training sessions, gamification and other means.
For non-technical workers, such as administrative staff who do not work with customers, the level of upskilling will be different from those who work with customers or those who work in IT, for example.
“There’ll be a lot of people who I just need to get to a level of awareness about what is AI, what’s the difference between AI and generative AI, and why does it matter,” says Joe Atkinson, vice chair and chief products and technology officer for PwC.
The goal of the training is to help these employees understand and appreciate the generative AI applications that are helpful and those that are not as effective, Atkinson says.
Managing potential minefields of generative AI upskilling
One particular area of importance in upskilling PwC employees will be showing them how to use generative AI responsibly and transparently so everyone is aware of exactly what is being done, Atkinson says. ChatGPT, for example, has been cited as a potential tool for plagiarism, as well as one that could perpetuate bias in content.
That is a problem that PwC and other employers are looking to avoid. One way to minimize generative AI chatbot snafus is to understand how important it is to ask the right questions—or prompts—when working with the technology, explains Atkinson, noting this will be covered in PwC’s AI upskilling.
“It’s very important to make sure you’re crafting prompts in a way that actually gets you the output and outcome from generative AI that you’re looking for,” he says.
For example, a clerical employee may want to ask questions of ChatGPT to help them craft the initial first draft of a memo or letter.
“The training will help them understand how to interact with the chatbot to get the best first draft and recognize AI’s strength is in the crafting of words and not always in the crafting of the facts,” Atkinson says. “That understanding is really important for somebody who is just experimenting with the early stages of how they can apply AI to their jobs.”
How generative AI upskilling can benefit the employee experience
Upskilling employees can enhance employee engagement for your workforce. PwC’s ChatGPT and generative AI training is expected to be no different in this intention, based on other technical training the accounting giant has offered its employees in the past.
“Often those people without the technical grounding are the most enthusiastic to learn about technology because for them the gap feels the biggest,” Atkinson says. “Their enthusiasm actually helps engage the people who are more deeply technical.”
PwC’s workforce in the U.S. underwent digital upskilling and skills future-proofing several years ago in order to prepare employees for emerging technologies and tools they would need to do their jobs then and in the future—wherever they would eventually be, says Yolanda Seals-Coffield, chief people officer at PwC, in an interview with HRE.
This summer’s effort with generative AI has the same goal.
“We fundamentally believe that all of our people need a foundational and fundamental understanding of generative AI, regardless of their role,” Seals-Coffield says. “If we all think about how we continue to grow as learners, this thing called life and this thing called work will clearly have generative AI be a part of that.”