During the COVID-19 pandemic, Accenture hired more than 100,000 individuals. This brought its headcount to a whopping 750,000, making the services giant larger than some European cities, and even certain countries.
But that isn’t all; at a recent Workday Elevate event in London, Filip Gilbert, managing director and European HR platform lead for Accenture, shared that half (50,000) of these new employees didn’t meet the traditional academic degree requirements.
Instead, they had the skills that Accenture was looking for – learning agility and digital.
This meant that these new hires are people who are eager to learn and are excited about career development – a crucial element of successful recruitment for Accenture.
But they also have the relevant technical skills that, according to Gilbert, Accenture sees as key to helping create an agile, future ready organization.
Of course, this switch away from qualifications and towards skills at Accenture was not something that happened over night during COVID-19.
Over the past decade, Accenture has been through a HR reset, and has been transitioning into a skills-first organization.
Accenture: How it’s becoming a skills-based organization
The consulting giant has been on a skills journey for the past seven years, according to Gilbert – and it has been doing it in partnership with Workday, and specifically its Skills Cloud product.
“We’re not just a customer of Workday. Accenture has what we call a 360 relationship with Workday; we have co-investment in the product,” explains Gilbert in an exclusive UNLEASH interview.
Not only has Accenture implemented pretty much all of Workday’s HR products, but it also acts as an implementation partner for its clients and “works together with Workday on enhancement of the product”.
He adds: “We have the scale to experiment – we can pilot with say 30,000 employees – that’s bigger than some [whole] organizations”.
For Gilbert, what makes Workday a great partner for Accenture is that it acts as “a single source of truth”.
“It truly drives harmonization and globalization, which is very critical given our scale,” Gilbert tells UNLEASH. “We cannot have a model where every country can do whatever they want. With 750,000 employees, it is lost before you even start.”
This is essential for Accenture’s HR function generally, but it is especially important around skills.
Workday has helped Accenture to create a focused skills taxonomy – this was a real necessity as the consulting giant wants visibility over a whopping 12 million skills.
At this scale, tech and automation is key to personalize skills profiles, and career paths, for all employees.
Rather than exposing workers to all 12 million skills, and asking them to pick and choose those most relevant them. Skills Cloud uses automation to scan each worker’s CV, project work, learning and development record, meetings and conversations, and assigns them skills.
Employees can then validate or disagree with the skills they’ve been assigned.
The skills profile is then used to help Accenture identify the employees with the right skills for particular projects or open roles. Gilbert is very clear that without Skills Cloud, this skills to job matching would be impossible.
Of course, this isn’t a one and done effort; as those workers grow in their careers, change jobs or get promoted, their skills profile also evolves and changes to support them in the next stages of their employment at Accenture.
This focus on skills, above degrees and qualifications, leads Gilbert to ask at the Workday event if job titles will remain important in the future of work?
He shared that job titles don’t say much about skills or capabilities – what does it matter if you have a managing director or a vice-president title, but you don’t have the right up-to-date skills for a particular role or project.
The link between skills, future employability and diversity
Accenture’s focus on skills, and HR in general, centers around employability. The services giant wants to make sure its people are as future-ready as possible – that they can thrive in the future of work, whatever that looks like.
In his interview with UNLEASH, Gilbert shares that employability is in the interest of Accenture as an employer, but also of employees and of broader society.
Accenture’s HR team has a responsibility to ensure its 750,000 people are “happy, that they can develop themselves, and they remain relevant and employable…It’s a big group of people to look after.”
Gilbert adds that “about half of our workforce are in India – there’s whole communities and families that depend on us as an employer. We have a strong responsibility toward those people in those communities to guarantee that employability; it’s a very big mission for Accenture.”
This focus on employability and skills plays into Accenture’s mission to be the world’s most diverse company.
“If you benchmark us, we’re typically at the top of the scale from a diversity perspective,” Gilbert tells UNLEASH.
By 2025, Accenture will have “guaranteed” gender diversity, as well as 30% female managing directors globally.
Accenture is also working on ensuring its benefits are equitable and inclusive – whether that is around shared parental leave, trans-inclusive health care or accommodation support tools for disabled workers.
Gilbert shares that Accenture thinks about diversity with a big D and a small D.
“Big D is ticking the box, but small D is feeling completely at home” – that plays into the inclusion and belonging elements of diversity.
“You need to give people mental wellbeing [support] and a friendly environment to work in”, this is why managers start all development and performance questions by asking employees “how are you doing”, and really digging into their personal challenges (“forget about Accenture, forget about your job, how are you doing as an individual”), according to Gilbert.
This focus on diversity and inclusion feeds back into Accenture’s skills, not degree, focus. It wants employees to be themselves; not try to “behave like everyone else”.
Everyone came into organization through their own path – not only does that help narrow skills gaps, but it brings diversity of thought that builds not just better teams, but a better organization as a whole.
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