KPMG’s Martin Anderson on Preparing the Workforce for a New Reality

Originally published at Martin Anderson is KPMG U.K.’s Director of Learning Services. KPMG ranked No. 16 on The Fair360, formerly DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list in 2021.


With World Literacy Day taking place this week, it is disheartening to see reports that suggest an overall decline in the number of adult learners and those committed to lifelong learning. In the U.K., a leading research institute recorded 3.8 million fewer adults taking part in learning since the start of the decade. The fall follows a significant decline in investment over the last decade with government spending on adult education said to have fallen by 47%. Reports have also found U.K. employer investment in training to be low compared to other advanced economies, which has a profound impact globally, not just in the U.K.

With literacy widely accepted as the main contributing factor to raise productivity, it is difficult to ignore how much these skills are intrinsically linked with economic growth, improvement, and innovation. By navigating this vast sea of change brought about by the swift pace of technological advancement in the last few years, it is expected that one of the biggest challenges to buoyancy will be acquiring the future-proof skill of learning to learn. This is important not just for KPMG, but for clients and society at large. However, this begs an important question; how to successfully achieve this and continue to do so in an ever-changing society?

The pre-pandemic landscape had many scholars providing dissenting commentary on the disparity between the capability of the current yet archaic education system and the purpose for which it was intended. One, in particular, the late Sir Ken Robinson challenged the current education system’s ability to equip people with the skills to meaningfully contribute to society. Scholars note this will have a devastating knock-on effect for business, especially in this ever-advancing new digitalized era.

The pandemic has had a huge impact on education with the less fortunate and ill-prepared among us highlighted as prime candidates for being left behind. Global business echoed this sentiment during the extended lockdown with parallels often drawn between the standard of education achieved and the quality of the workforce. How skilled people are affects the overall capability of the workforce. This in turn can have a knock-on effect with respected reports suggesting low standards of education can adversely impact the quality of life.

With Environmental Social & Governance (ESG) firmly positioned on the global agenda, businesses have a strategic and operational imperative to implement continued opportunities for their workforce, and to equip them with the skills to do their job and ultimately help their workforce positively contribute to society.

I firmly believe that now more than ever society should become resilient in how it offers people the ability to upskill in these uncertain times and intravenously continue the learning process, ideally through learning delivered without interrupting the flow of their work with real-time learning interventions. The outcomes will likely be equally positive and inevitable. This approach can champion improved productivity whilst reinforcing a sense of well-being and satisfaction ultimately helping to support both talent retention and attraction.

As part of a commitment to lifelong learning, KPMG firms launched a digital platform and portfolio of services: KPMG Learning Services (KLS). The platform builds on an ongoing pledge to help unlock a prosperous and inclusive future for client organizations across the globe and supports Microsoft’s vision to create a connected “system of learning’. The offering provides a powerful mechanism that enables the skills and talent of the workforce to be unlocked through development and training. KLS helps clients respond to rapid technological disruption as they contest the new reality of hybrid working. By focusing on enabling productivity improvement and integrating learning into the everyday flow of work, KLS can accelerate the upskilling process, and allow organizations to offer relevant resources and training precisely when it is needed.

“The gardener does not make a plant grow the job of the gardener is to create optimal conditions.”

– Sir Ken Robinson

This adage coined by the late Sir Ken Robinson underpins the KLS approach and requires a shift in mindset for organizations to adopt. KLS aims to create an environment conducive to steady growth delivered within the flow of the individual’s work. The unprecedented pace of advancement of the last few years has shown that the workforce will likely need the capacity to continually reinvent themselves over the decades as the world and workplaces change. It is expected that people will, in short, require the capacity to learn throughout their lives to help ensure buoyancy across this vast sea of change.