22 July

If you're relying on what you know today, you're already irrelevant, says Accenture CHRO

It’s no secret that the tech sector is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world. Staying relevant and, indeed, staying ahead of the curve, can be a challenge.

Part of the challenge facing any tech sector company is finding and developing the talent that will help you grow a successful business. An even bigger challenge is retaining them.

Though, according to Accenture’s chief leadership and human resources officer, Ellyn Shook, retention doesn’t have to be the be-all and end-all of recruitment.

“Our role is to lead the digital disruption on behalf of our clients and, to do that, we need the best and brightest minds to solve their biggest business challenges. Having access to the liquid workforce is really essential to that,” says Shook.

That’s not to say that Accenture doesn’t want to keep those best and brightest. Programmes and systems that make it easier for employees to see an entire career path with the professional services company are instrumental in this regard.

“While we’re seeing people want more rotation more frequently, if we’re able to offer that within Accenture, they’re quite excited about being able to do that.”

Beyond that, it can be as simple as making sure your people feel comfortable within your organisation.

As Shook says, “The most important thing is that our people feel that they can come to work, be themselves, and use their voice to ask for what it is they need to be successful, both professionally and personally.”

All this is well and good if you have the talent pool to draw from in the first place. Tech is notoriously heavy on jobs and light on candidates to fill them. That’s something the tech sector itself has to try harder to overcome, says Shook, citing the importance of supporting youth programmes in growing the talent pool.

“What organisations like Girls Who Code – and Stemettes, here – do is really broaden the field for people who are going to be entering [tech-related] college majors and, eventually, becoming employees of tech firms.”

But growing the talent pool is more than just finding people to fill seats in front of computers. Finding the right people is the real trick. Build a diverse team, and you’ve hit the jackpot.

“Diversity makes Accenture smarter and more innovative,” says Shook, “and when you look at the velocity of change now, it’s faster than ever before, and so innovation is critical. And you can’t be innovative if everyone is coming from the same context and the same way of thinking.

“Our CEO, Pierre [Nanterme], likes to say, ‘If you’re relying on what you know today, you’re already irrelevant’. Ensuring that you have the full diversity really ensures that you’re going to get the innovation to be relevant in the future.”

But how easy is all of this, really? For people who are trying to break into the sector, but don’t necessarily fit the stereotype, it can be daunting. Shook offers some simple tips candidates can employ to make themselves stand out for all the right reasons.

“I honestly believe there’s no substitution for hard work,” says Shook. “But you also have to be relevant and be confident. And if you’re not confident, go find yourself a mentor who can help you, because I think mentors can really help open a lot of doors for you.”

But this should all be simple. You want a diverse team, you hire a diverse team, and companies shouldn’t need to be convinced.

So how are some getting it so wrong? And what do they need to be doing to get it right?

“You really need to be willing to disrupt yourself,” says Shook. “You really need to look at yourself hard in the mirror and say, ‘The things that we are doing simply aren’t working, so how do we access new talent pools,’ or, ‘How do we make our company more friendly to people who are different than us.’”

It’s just that simple.


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