Reimbursement for setting up home-office, internet and electricity was common during the early days of the pandemic. Accenture India went a step further by providing office chairs at minimal cost and financial support, even accommodation, to a large number of employees asked to vacate their paying-guest accommodation. "When the lockdown came into force, I moved from my paying guest accommodation in Bangalore to my hometown. My team gave me prompt access to a system, an internet connection and collaboration tools. This was my first remote working experience. I received training to improve my WFH experience and manage hiccups," says J.M. Hamsashree, Procurement Operations Advisory Analyst, Accenture Operations.
The Covid-10 turbulence caught everybody off-guard. Some of the biggest organisations found it tough to shift to remote working. Accenture was an exception. It equipped all its people -- over 2,00,000, across eight states and 43 offices - with work from home (WFH) infrastructure and collaboration tools almost immediately. "At Accenture, wellbeing, health and safety of our people have been our topmost priority. With that as our north star, we supported our people by leveraging our strengths - our digital capabilities, learning environment and deep-rooted understanding of and commitment to equality," says Lakshmi C. Managing Director and Lead - Human Resources, Accenture in India.
Caring for 'Our People'
Accenture used technology to guide and keep its people informed and connected. "We expanded the use of our AI-enabled chatbot for wellbeing, provided access to experts, and held virtual meditation and other resilience sessions. We also introduced free medical tele-consultation, not only for our people but also their families," says Lakshmi. Dedicated teams stayed in touch with people, helped them when they or their dependents were tested positive, and provided support, including securing beds in hospitals.
A Helping Hand
Aware that the least represented members of various communities are the hardest hit in any crisis, Accenture deepened its commitment to equality. "We launched two programmes to grow women into leadership roles in technology," says Lakshmi.
Accenture also came up with solutions to help parents working from home. For instance, the 'Virtual Summer Camp' provided parents resources to keep children engaged through virtual hobby lessons, do-it-yourself tutorials, treasure hunts and puzzles. It also curated a new activity every day. "They had something new to experience every day, and this kept them happier at a time that has been difficult for all of us. Seeing my kids happy and engaged helped me focus on my work," says Bulbul Virli, Manager, Corporate Functions, Accenture India.
The company also launched a 'Virtual Village' to support parents who had to double up as tutors and online learning facilitators. The platform matched children of employees who needed help with learning with children who could coach them.
For LGBTQ+ people, Accenture announced new leave policies, breaking gender stereotypes to focus on care-giving. Even parental leaves (maternal, paternal, adoption and surrogacy leave) have moved away from gender binary stereotypes and focus on the caregiver. "We have ensured that our people with disabilities are effectively enabled to work from home with right technology and tools," says Lakshmi.
"The flexible work culture has helped me balance motherhood with professional commitments. During the pandemic, as we navigated WFH, the company did regular connects to check if I was comfortable," says Sridevi Thota, Application Development Team Lead, Advanced Technology Centers in India, Accenture. Sridevi has been visually impaired since birth due to a retinal detachment and was equipped with the required accommodation tools when she joined Accenture in 2014.
Investing in Our People'
When job insecurity was giving jitters to employees across industries during the pandemic, Accenture continued to invest in employee learning and providing them opportunities. It introduced programmes leveraging technology to make learning 100 per cent digital, hyper-personalised and immersive. An innovative example of this is the organisation-wide learning initiative, Technology Quotient, launched last year. "Today, every company is a digital company. Our Technology Quotient initiative is for all our people, across roles and skill levels, including those who are not in core technology roles, to make sure that every person in Accenture becomes conversant with concept, business value and applications of new technologies like Cloud, AI, DevOps, Agile, Blockchain," says Lakshmi.
Accenture even gave meaningful pay raise and bonuses and promoted a significant number of people. The company continued to hire for in-demand skills and honoured all offers, including to the thousands of students it hires from engineering and business schools. For those starting careers with Accenture, the company adopted virtual onboarding and integration processes using virtual/augmented reality for offering an interactive experience. "I joined Accenture recently. The warm welcome, even though we are working virtually, made me feel like I belong here, from Day 1," says Rohit Bamb, Strategy Analyst, Accenture in India.
This is what connect with the employees is all about.