PwC launches Back to Business return to work scheme

05 November 2015

PwC has launched ‘Back to Business’, a programme to support ex-professional services personnel return to the workplace. The programme takes 12 weeks and places participants in the thick of it, to quickly reorient them with working life. The Back to Business programme is part of PwC’s wider diversity strategy.

There are many reasons to exit from professional life for a period of time: from illness to needing to care for a loved one, from family commitments to seeing the world. Doing so is, in many ways, not difficult. Re-entering professional life after an extended break is, on the other hand, often met with considerable glass barriers. Consulting firms have in recent times sought to create channels for ex-professional service professions, especially women that exit to raise their children, to return to work, including A.T. Kearney’s Encore programme.

PwC is the latest professional services firm to offer a programme aimed at helping people back to work. The programme, called ‘Back to Business’, takes 12 weeks and is inspired to help women back to the workplace, although the programme is open to all. “Many women who have had time out of the workplace to raise a family may feel that they are being overlooked by recruiters due to the gap in their CV,” explains Gaenor Bagley, Head of People at PwC. “Our programme is designed to address people’s experience gap and provide another route to get talented people back into the workplace.”

PwC launches Back to Business return to work scheme

Back to Business
Back to Business makes the often difficult re-orientation to work easier, with an initial week-long induction that provides key training and support. Participants will be assigned a dedicated manager with whom clear objectives can be set, to be achieved over the 12 weeks. The programme is practical and hands-on, throwing the participants into the deep end, providing an opportunity to work directly with clients on the basis of their interests and skills and historic expertise. Back to Business will provide participants with a range of open career paths at PwC, with the view of returning participants to a permanent role within the firm.

The programme will initially be offered within the firm’s Deals practice, thus seeking returning professionals within the fields of business recovery, corporate finance, forensic and transaction services to a wide range of clients from SMEs to multinationals. Among others, conditions for taking part in the programme including more than two years of professional experience and business acumen.

Diversity on the work floor

The programme is part of PwC’s wider commitment to support diversity within all levels of the firm’s practice. According to Brian Lochead, People Leader for PwC’s Deals practice, returning professions will provide the firm with an additional pipeline to develop future executives. “We value difference and want to break down the pre-conceptions that it can be harder for women to progress in a deals environment. Even though the programme has been designed with women in mind, the programme is open to anyone who has been out of the workplace for more than two years and we want to hear from a wide range of people.” To further its diversity and equality drive, the firm is also planning to set clear gender and diversity targets, with public reporting about the gender pay gap, as well as creating a shared parental leave scheme for employees. 

Diversity recognitions
PwC’s efforts to boost diversity have not gone unnoticed. Recently, the firm’s Dennis Nally was named a diversity champion for the UN’s Heforshe initiative, while the firm itself is on the Times Top 50 employers list for women.



Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

17 April 2019

Soft skills matter in the workplace just as much as technical expertise, writes Samantha Caine, Managing Director of Business Linked Teams.

For too long technical expertise has been seen as the marker of a strong candidate for development into a sales or leadership position. Sales and leadership candidates are tasked with demonstrating a diverse and wide-ranging set of technical skills, yet their aptitude in these technical skills or ‘hard skills’ cannot signify great leadership potential. This is why a healthy balance of soft skills and technical ability is required. 

So what exactly is the difference between technical skills and soft skills? In engineering, it’s crucial to demonstrate knowledge of physics as well as a strong grasp on mathematical equations. Yet, in any industry, it’s important for leaders to be able to interact with other people effectively with soft skills like communication, empathy and adaptability. 

Business Linked Team’s 2018 study into internal leadership development revealed that 69% of large organisations are prioritising the identification and development of future leaders from within the workforce. As more and more organisations begin to invest in sales or leadership development within their existing workforces, more focus needs to be placed on ensuring the right soft skills are in place. 

With those soft skills in place throughout the workforce, the business will benefit from a wider pool of potential leaders developing under their noses, and it should be the same where sales candidates are concerned. 

It’s not just about easier access to ideal candidates for these positions without the rigmarole of recruiting from outside of the organisation. The leadership development study also found that 89% of HR decision makers say succession planning has become a top priority. Those currently serving in leadership positions can’t lead forever and the same goes for those generating sales for the business.

Why leaders must balance technical expertise with soft skills

From people leaving for new opportunities or retirement, to people simply stepping aside to focus on other areas of the business, successful leaders and salespeople require experienced and capable successors that will be ready and able to confidently step into their shoes and pick up the mantle without the business experiencing any lapse in performance.

Soft skills make stronger candidates

When it comes to the soft skills required, a strong leader must be able to manage through clear communication and effective time management, coaching and goal setting. They must be able to demonstrate empathy and empower their teams to be successful, productive and fully engaged. And beyond simply giving direction, they must also be able to take direction from those above them and cascade the business strategy down through their teams. 

A strong sales candidate must possess the ability to communicate value to the customer, negotiate well and protect margin or the ability to increase the scope of a particular sales opportunity. 

With the relevant soft skills in place, the business will benefit from increased productivity, greater agility against changing market conditions and greater transparency. In turn, this will provide visibility on issues and inefficiencies while removing opportunity for miscommunication. All of this can transform the culture of a department, improving employee satisfaction and reducing staff turnover. 

Ultimately, developing leadership or sales candidates will require the business to strike the right balance between technical skills and soft skills, and this requires an effective and sustained learning journey.

A balanced learning journey

Facilitating and supporting the development of leadership and sales is best achieved by establishing training groups. By cultivating training groups, businesses are creating talent pools that will inspire and support each other on the learning journey. However, personal goals and learning objectives must be defined for each individual based on their own existing skillsets and the skills that each individual needs to develop. 

With the emergence of e-learning, businesses recognise the value of online-based learning activities, yet many make the mistake of opting for one-size-fits-all solutions which are solely focused on self-study. A development solution will only deliver true return on investment if it combines e-learning activities with group learning activities that provide opportunity for shared experiences and support.

A blended learning solution that combines self-study and face-to-face group learning activities will aid strong development of the talent pool through shared experiences. Through these shared experiences, those undergoing the training will organically develop a support network that supports the development of the group as much as it supports the development of each individual. 

The blended learning approach is supported by one of the seven principles of human learning that socially supported interactions aid the individual development of expertise, metacognitive skills, and formation of the learner’s sense of self. The strongest opportunities for development can be unlocked by blending workshops with online activities such as virtual sessions, peer coaching, self-study, online games and business simulations. But it’s crucial to provide a blend of one-to-one and group sessions too.

Beyond delivering a better learning outcome for the employee, the blended learning approach allows organisations to adapt their training quickly and easily to shifting business demands in an ever-changing landscape.