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Being All Inclusive

Accenture India's focus on making lives better for employees is reaping dividends

At a time when inclusion is the byword for success, companies are going all out to ensure that no employee is left out or even feels left out in any way. That's what is being practised actively at global technology company Accenture. Over the past few years, the technology major has gone all out to ensure that inclusion is the norm. This includes people with disabilities (PwD) and those who have declared themselves to be LGBTQI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual, queer and intersex).

Robert George, a Technical Architect Manager with Accenture's Advanced Technology Centre in Bengaluru, has benefited from the inclusionary policies. George met with a motorcycle accident in Puducherry in 2000, which resulted in a spinal cord injury that left him paralysed below the neck. After a three-and-a-half-year rehabilitation process, George did a computer course and got certified. He started working in 2004, and joined Accenture in 2010 as a senior programming team lead. "My career is deeply rooted in programming. When I had my accident, I had to choose a profession that allowed me to sit and work. I thought IT would be the best choice," says George. Being physically challenged has not affected his work. "I have travelled to different countries from Accenture on work. The only thing that the company looks at is the person's knowledge," he adds. That's because policies ensure that requirements of people with special needs are addressed. The idea is to ensure that people do not feel different from anyone else.

In this post-digital age, where companies are adopting advanced technologies for business transformation, Accenture, which has over 200,000 employees in India, has been investing in four things - creating a culture of innovation, learning and equality, and focusing on well-being of employees.

Working Towards Equality

Accenture's commitment to being a gender neutral company started nearly three years ago with their CEO. Says Lakshmi C., Managing Director and Lead-Human Resources, Accenture in India: "We are working towards a gender balanced workforce by 2025. We are proud to state that we are well on our way to achieving that in India." As part of the equality plan, the company is among the first organisations to offer medical insurance to partners of employees who declare themselves be LGBTQI. Under the PwD programme, it has taken a wide definition of what is a disability and covers over 60 types of disabilities.

Accenture also has a 10-month leadership programme for people with disabilities. "They are not really doing back-end work. They are front-ending in client-facing roles," says Lakshmi. George points out that he was provided with a skip-level mentor for a year which accelerated his growth in the company.

The other big driver in Accenture has been innovation. "Innovation has been a big differentiator for us to develop talent. Internally we have been conducting technology innovation contests. This year we gathered over 50,000 ideas. A number of them are being developed into prototypes," says Lakshmi. The company also has a contest for students. It had 14,000 students from 50 business schools participate in a contest to solve some critical business problems.

Being in the technology space where change is the norm, it is important for employees to keep upskilling. "Our virtual lessons are available on phones, laptops, tablets... where we provide a rich connected learning experience," says Lakshmi. Over the last couple of years over 85 per cent of Accenture employees have successfully upskilled themselves. Quite like in innovation, the learning process for Accenture employees starts even before they join the organisation. In its Code Before you Board programme, students from campuses can access quite a lot of the fundamental training programme even before they join.

Besides an employees professional well being, the company also takes care of their mental well-being. As Lakshmi points out, "Before the programme really evolved, we started with focusing on things like my team, my career, my workplace, my technology. Last year, we upped it to look at passion, which is about people showcasing their talent." The other big discovery is the sense of volunteering that millennials have. "We are focusing on new habits. We created a third party app to build those habits. It nudges people to, say, drink water, take a break, walk around the office," says Lakshmi.

Mental health is increasingly becoming an important topic across India. Last year, Accenture introduced an AI-based mental health coach. It is private, it chats with the employee and guides them to a counselor in case they need one. "We were very skeptical when we launched it about whether people would adopt it. Our pilots have gone very well and we are looking at how we can launch it across all 200,000 people," says Lakshmi.

Each of the four areas that Accenture is focusing on has helped it retain its place among the top list.