Written by
Changeboard Team

Published
24 Feb 2015

Developing your workforce of tomorrow exclusive roundtable with Accenture, SABIC and Imperial Tobac

24 Feb 2015 • by Changeboard Team

Susanne Bjerre Mortensen, HR lead ME, Accenture

Accenture’s most important asset is its people, so attracting and recruiting top talent is key to our success. We offer recruits the opportunity to work with highly motivated people who have ‘can do’ attitudes and are committed to achieving outstanding results.

They can collaborate with, learn from and be coached by the very best – supportive, approachable leaders and colleagues with great expertise across all areas of our business. Our team culture offers a diverse network of skilled, respected colleagues and leaders who are committed to helping people – and ultimately our clients – succeed. 

We also offer a variety of opportunities to tailor a career, develop specialised expertise and grow professionally, including coaching, training and on-the-job experiences. We recognise that people have different priorities in their lives at different times – so we adopt a flexible approach which encourages them to strike the right balance between work and personal life.

We have a structured performance management process with set objectives and continuous feedback. During the feedback sessions individual expectations are explained along with any development needs. Every year we evaluate and calibrate employee contributions to foster an environment where we can identify top talent and development needs.

Developing future capability

We are introducing internships in some of the GCC countries and at universities outside this region where we know local talent undertake their master’s degrees. We also participate in career fairs held at tier 1 schools in the GCC and visit universities for seminars and presentations on Accenture. 

Perhaps most importantly, we make extensive efforts to attract young talent through social media. For example, we use LinkedIn and Facebook to develop relationships with people looking for careers – and those who have not yet thought about Accenture as a potential employer. These dialogues allow us to get to know potential recruits over time. 

There needs to be a strong partnership between university outputs and industry needs to help develop the next generation of employees who have the skills and aptitude to succeed in the workplace. 

We focus on reskilling – deeper skilling, new skilling – with our people, and continue this throughout their careers. In some countries, we are working with several leading companies as well as governments to help close the skills gap. Additionally, through our global corporate citizenship focus Skills to Succeed, we have committed to equipping 700,000 people around the world by 2015 with the skills to get a job or build a business. And our people are very involved with more than 200 active initiatives around the world.

Addressing development needs

We like to say that we hire the best people and help them become even better. We believe that specialised skills and development opportunities are vital to short- and long-term growth, and we offer industry-leading training and development. Last year, we invested more than US$870 million in training and professional development, providing approximately 80 hours to each employee. Everyone who works with us has a dedicated career counsellor, as well as access to our mentoring programmes and employee resource groups that focus on the special interests of each individual. Our employees are part of a variety of projects that require them to use their ingenuity, intelligence and ability to solve problems. As a truly international business, we are able to tap into an extensive network of talent and experience. This means our employees are continually exposed to bright minds and world-class thinking.

Clarity, variety and performance management

We have found that employees like clarity in their career paths. Our retention rates are healthy and I believe this is because employees feel they are developing. We have a long history of developing and training employees up to and at a high level. It takes talent to keep talent.

Our performance management process and the yearly rating and comparative process can help us identify top talent that is ready for a fast-paced career trajectory, or the technology expert that needs further specialisation to be best in class within his or her field. 

We offer our employees a steady stream of diverse and meaningful career opportunities – including in different industries, geographies and parts of our business – throughout their careers with Accenture. 

It is one of the many ways we let our employees know that they don’t have to leave us to get a new job.

Andy Irons, HR business partner, SABIC

Recruiting top talent is a collective responsibility. Our approach combines using employees’ external networks, specialist recruitment agencies, LinkedIn and other social media sites, as well as in-house recruitment and talent acquisition services.

Perhaps most important is the culture we nurture through the CEO and his senior leadership team. SABIC has a very strong MEA brand that is rapidly developing in other regions.

In the past three years, our brand has expanded around the globe, especially in Asia and the Americas – this has significantly contributed to our ability to attract top talent.

Several years ago a comprehensive end-to-end talent management process was introduced that ensured a consistent approach throughout our global operations. 

With 40,000 employees worldwide, this was a significant undertaking and the process has improved year on year. 

It is now well embedded, widely accepted and effectively managed. As with all processes, there is still room for improvement and this was highlighted through our recent employee survey. In keeping with our philosophy of continuous improvement, we read, categorised and discussed every comment made on talent management. Where appropriate, ideas and suggestions were built into planned improvements for next year’s cycle. Generic and bespoke TM programmes are refined to meet employee and business development needs. Programmes are spilt into executive, leadership and generic skills and knowledge-based development events. Executive programmes include a CEO-led challenge and advanced executive development programmes in partnership with institutions such as the London Business School, Wharton, Harvard, Tuck, Stanford and CCL. We recently launched a SABIC Executive MBA with Thunderbird School of Management and we have a Learning and Development Academy including events and activities for employees.

We consider top talent for long and short-term international assignments to broaden their experiences and understanding of business culture in other regions.

Structured career development

For career development, the start point is ensuring business and personal development needs are matched. We have introduced a competency- based technical career ladder that our scientists use to gain recognition and advancement based on their technical achievements, without juggling managerial responsibilities for higher rewards.

To encourage innovation, we have a patent reward policy. This directs daily activity into areas that matter and which are intellectually stimulating for employees. We have also expanded career development initiatives into a partnership approach with our employees to help drive their own career growth at SABIC.

For our newly appointed executives we have a best in class executive integration coaching programme that helps them transition into new roles and mitigates the risk of early misconceptions about role and expectations. 

Although the concept of mentoring is fairly new, this type of programme is likely to cascade through the organisation. A number of our executive vice-presidents are already acting as mentors to high performers within their respective areas. Most of our executives take every opportunity to engage with junior employees as an important reward and recognition activity.

Succession planning

Succession planning is based on the current and historical outcomes of the annual talent review process. 

We safeguard the process to ensure succession planning isn’t compartmentalised or restricted within corporate functions and strategic business units. We also undertake a cross-functional and global approach to allow for greater freedom of movement and talent sharing throughout our business lines.

The process demands that well thought out business decisions are made concerning employees’ readiness to progress either vertically or laterally within set time frames. We prefer to recruit internally through our talent pipeline but if the business requires unavailable skill sets, knowledge or experience our external talent acquisition team can bring in new blood to the business.

We are always seeking to improve the way we manage, develop and engage our workforce, since it is through them that the business bottom line improves.

Sherif Elogeiry, head of HR, Imperial Tobacco ME


Are you blocking your leadership pipeline?

In a recent survey conducted by the California Job Journal, 73% of HR executives said poor leadership was the top cause of low employee morale. And, as Forbes magazine reported, 80% of 19,700 exit interviews revealed poor management or a ‘dysfunctional company culture’ as the reasons for resignation.

Moving up the hierarchy of the organisation, or ‘career growth’, is a critical process that must be managed carefully. Most employees think of the next step and what status or benefits it might bring them without considering the commitment and responsibility required from their side.

Wrong moves within your organisation’s talent pipeline can block lower levels from progressing. Before promoting someone, HR needs to ask: ‘Has this person received the right training before getting the new job? Does he or she have the necessary management and coaching skills to lead a team with the new move? Do they understand that now
they will start delegating tasks?’

Many people are promoted or change job before altering their mindset and understanding of what is expected of them. Several years ago, popular HR leaders Ram Charan, Stephen Drotter and James Noel designed the ‘Six Leadership Passages’ to explain the approach of building up the talent pipeline within the organisation. They concluded
that for any employee to move through leadership levels, three factors must be considered: 

  • Skills: Before you start managing others, you must have the right coaching and people management skills.
  • Values: Delegating is difficult. You need to understand that what moved you to the higher level is not what will move you further up in the hierarchy.
  • Time application: You will move from dedicating 100% of your time to yourself, to planning a different time allocation that takes your team’s requirements into consideration.

Perhaps not ideally, some companies practice approaches such as the ‘leadership pipeline’ framework to ensure that the transition is managed properly. But in today’s business with everything moving so fast and changes taking place on a daily basis, it becomes important to have a good level of confidence in the profile of leaders in the organisation.

When people are promoted earlier than they should be, without acquiring the right skills and guidance from management and HR on how to manage the transition, the pipeline gets clogged. As an organisation, you might start to lose people who get blocked from moving up because they are being managed by someone who no longer moves within the pipeline.

Susanne Bjerre Mortensen

Susanne MoretensonHR lead – Middle East, Accenture

Susanne has more than 10 years’ experience in a broad spectrum of HR roles within Accenture and other IT companies.

Andy Irons

Andy IronsHR business partner, SABIC

Andy has 26 years’ international experience of HR management and training and development, operating at a strategic level.

Sherif Elogeiry

Sherif Elgoeiryhead of HR, Imperial Tobacco – Middle East

Sherif has worked across MEA for companies like Schlumberger, Agthia Group and Nakheel. In his current role he looks after 15 countries.