PwC turns traditional approach to learning 'on its head'

'It's important to create an environment that allows Generation Z and Millennials to create skills for life'

PwC turns traditional approach to learning 'on its head'

The search to attract the brightest Generation Z and Millennials is as competitive as ever amongst the big companies Australia-wide with comprehensive graduate programs offering them mentors and movement between offices and divisions.

But equally challenging for these big-named signature companies is how to fully engage with these two restless generations and make learning practical and relevant for them to boost their overall personal and professional development, while not making it company specific.

“We wanted to turn traditional offsite approaches and learning events on its head,” Lawrence Goldstone, Lead Partner, Future of Work, PwC, said. “The fact more than 35 world-class speakers were curated giving 3,000 employees the choice to self-select their own learning journey on an array of global and personal topics, coupled with live entertainment, made it a ‘money can’t buy event’.

“It’s important to create an environment that allows Generation Z and Millennials to create skills for life, as well as a sense of belonging and inclusivity. At the same companies need to invest in talent with an eye not only on their immediate work, but their future and of course their personal development as human beings.”

A new environment

With this in mind PwC created a unique event called ‘The Outside’ inviting 3,000 of the companies’ senior associates and managers, predominately aged between 25 and 25 years old, to a four-day retreat in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales to engage, immerse and evolve themselves in a curated learning environment.

The four-day event ran over five weeks in May.

“The event architecture was designed to balance curated and co-created content, as well as global and local expertise, anchored across four themes,” Goldstone added. “The journey gives participants a shared experience to forge deeper human connections, foster an inclusive community and build a strong collaborative network.”

The aim of the four-day event, in which over the course of one month, five groups of approximately 600 people were invited to participate in an array of activities broken into four pillars: self, country, community and future, was for participants to make positive change at work, at home and in their community.

“Focussing on self is all about exploring who are as humans and first understanding our biases and limitations as a person in order to transform ourselves into new ways of thinking and utilise our instinctive skills to achieve higher performance,” Goldstone said.

“With country, it is about listening, understanding and embracing our heritage by having First Nations cultural experiences and learnings passed onto us by activities and speakers over the full four days. Community embraces the community we are in right now and our daily work environment and exploring existing ideas in new contexts through the perspectives of those closes to us, our peers. Finally, we look at the future, in terms of everything in the world that we encompass, especially technology, and how that will define us.”

The four-day program

The program started at 6am with an array of physical activities from trail walking to yoga to kung fu, before all participants, after breakfast, were required to head to the main stage where a live band was playing, after which talks, events and participation in immersive experiences and content continued through to late in the evening.

‘The Outside’ commenced on Sunday evenings starting with Our Country - a Welcome to Wonnarua Country smoking ceremony and dance experience, connecting with heritage and country and learning from 60,000 years of culture. Inspirational First Nations achievers such as Stan Grant led Carla McGrath provided inspirational talks across the duration of the event.

Mondays included a peek into self and how to harness instinctive skills to drive higher performance from both body and mind. Through immersive experiences with psychologists, performance trainers, artists and Indigenous elders, participants will experience topics likely not experienced before such as biohacking, cold water therapy, healing power of elders, technology for wellbeing, psychological flexibility, mindfulness, and nutrition.

Tuesday was focused on looking into the future and helping participants define the pathways for their future and see what tomorrow could really look like. Exploring what it will take to create a more ambitious and innovative Australia, with topics around future thinking, medicine, energy, technology as well as future focused skills around resilience, creativity, and presence.

The final day on Wednesday was about community and utilising the collective wisdom of more than 700 people at each event, gaining from the diverse perspectives of those around them. It is a day where attendees were active participants, doing the speaking and setting the agenda, rather than presenters and curated content. It was the opportunity for participants to grow with their peers, as they were all challenged to share who they are and learn from each other – be it a skill/masterclass, personal story, or hosting a discussion. More than 45 themes and presenters emerged.

“The basis of the event was to invest in and reward and recognise our people for their hard work,” Goldstone said. “We wanted to celebrate them and recognise their value. By organising a shared experience we provided our people with visibility, exposure and a genuine opportunity for a connection to leadership, which leads into a pathway to career growth via best in class personal development.

“Ultimately, the outcome is also to inspire, create curiosity and build new relationships.’’

PwC intend to make this an annual event going forward.

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