We often hear that the future of work is about lifelong learning. If you speak to the executives and employees of technology company Accenture, it is clear that the company swears by it.
A case in point is Namitha Pishe, an employee in the middle of her second stint with the company. She first joined Accenture in 2006 when she worked on Business Process Management (BPM) technologies. Until about 2011, she had to upskill every few years as newer technologies took the market by storm. First, she trained on IBM tools, followed by Oracle's and then Pega, a software for customer engagement and digital process automation.
Next, Pishe tried entrepreneurship. She left Accenture to start a technology company, offering customer relationship management solutions to small and medium businesses. The company ran for over four years but it wasn't going the way she had expected it to. She decided to join Accenture again, which was now working on newer technologies that we all hear about: robotics, artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain, among others. Pishe rejoined the company in 2016, again in the BPM space.
She had to upskill, yet again. "I had to go through classroom training that Accenture conducted. A lot had changed over the past four years when I wasn't around," she says. "I got into a team called the Pega Assets and Innovations. It works on innovations in the BPM space. I currently lead that team," she adds.
Pishe likes two things about Accenture - flexibility, and the culture of innovation. "There was a lot of flexibility since I got to choose the kind of work I wanted to do. I worked on many BPM technologies," she says.
Accenture is also enabling Pishe graduate to the next level. She is attending a 'High Tech Women programme'. The programme is designed to help mid-career women build long-term careers in the technology industry because, for all its progressive culture, a glass ceiling still exists when it comes to senior roles. High performing women from Accenture's Technology Centers in India, therefore, go through 18 months of training and mentorship to become 'Technical Architects', a senior role for those in product development. These are the people who create the blue print of a product. According to the company, since the programme's launch in 2015, more than 1,600 women have enrolled, and more than 650 have been certified as Technical Architects.
"The post-digital world - where organisations are rapidly adopting advanced technologies for business transformation - is creating new demands on people. We believe it is our responsibility to prepare our people for the future, and create a culture of innovation, backed by the right skillsets is key to this effort," says Rekha Menon, Chairman and Senior Managing Director at Accenture in India.
"Our culture of innovation is anchored in three things; inclusion, which allows us to harness the diverse perspectives of all our people; wellness, which allows our people to bring their whole selves to work; and training and development, which equips our people with the technical and non-technical skills needed to drive innovation in a disruptive environment," adds Menon.
The definition of 'inclusion' is quite broad and remains a people practice that sets Accenture apart from many other companies. Globally, the company has about 200,000 women, or 43 per cent of its workforce. In India, the company has more than 150,000 people; a third of which are women. The company states that its commitment to inclusion and diversity starts at the top, with its CEO and board of directors. In 2017, Accenture committed to having a gender balanced workforce by 2025 - as many women as men. It is also committed to helping women grow into leadership positions. The company aims to increase the percentage of women managing directors to 25 per cent by 2020.
Inclusion extends further at Accenture to cover the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community as well.
"We were thrilled when Section 377 was removed. From October 2018, our medical insurance benefits include partners of people who identify themselves as LGBT, as part of the overall medical cover. We also have up to 100 per cent coverage for gender reassignment surgery," says Rohit Thakur, Managing Director and Lead HR, Accenture in India. In September 2018, the Supreme Court of India had decriminalised homosexuality.
'Wellness', for most, implies physical well being. Thakur says that in 2018, Accenture introduced mental health programmes and is now looking to scale that up. The company's medical insurance coverage now includes assistive devices and autism. Employees and their dependents who are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) are covered for treatments such as behaviour management, modification therapy, medication, speech, occupational and physical therapies. Accenture states that it is running "extensive internal campaigns to create an environment where people feel comfortable to have open and honest conversations about mental health". Employees are encouraged to sign up as mental wellness advocates and use professional counselling support. A mental wellness portal provides advice on developing mental resilience. Mid to senior leaders also attended mental wellness workshops and a Supervisor's Guide has been created "to ensure that managers are equipped to address the needs of their teams".