Pictured: Julie Sweet, CEO of Accenture, North America, and fashion designer Rebecca Minkoff at Accenture's 2017 International Women's Day event
When Kim Cleaves – who leads Talent Acquisition at Accenture – speaks to potential hires, she often thinks about why she’s been with the company for nearly 30 years.
Her fierce loyalty to Accenture was solidified when she working as the director of recruiting in the company’s New York office and was pregnant with triplets. When her doctor told her she’d have to remain on bedrest for the majority of the pregnancy, she wasn’t quite sure of what to do. She loved her job but didn’t want to risk being more active than her doctor was suggesting.
But when she told her managers she wanted to work remotely as much as possible, “the outpour of support was absolutely amazing,” Kim recalls. “They said, ‘we’ll keep you in this role as long as you want to do it. The loyalty that support instilled in me was second to none,” she explained during a recent webinar hosted by Fairygodboss.
When her three boys were born, Kim quite literally had her hands full, but she says that throughout her tenure at Accenture, she’s always been able to be a hands-on mother without sacrificing her career. In fact, while she was working part-time after returning from maternity leave, she was promoted twice.
“People say women can’t have it all, but I feel like I’ve absolutely had it all,” says Kim, who shares her experience as a working mother with prospective candidates. Here are 10 things Accenture is doing to help her build her case:
1. Lead with diversity.
“Every recruiter is a diversity recruiter” at Accenture, Kim explains. “We’ve always had diversity as a priority at Accenture, and now we lead with it.”
The company is aggressively focused on bringing in women, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities and military veterans, and they set targets to keep themselves on track. They currently have a target to have their workforce in the U.S. be 40% female by 2020. “Right now we’re at 36%,” Kim says. So while she and her colleagues have their work cut out for them, they’re certainly up for the challenge.
2. Emphasize a “truly human experience.”
Kim noted that Accenture’s Chief Leadership and Human Resources Officer Ellyn Shook has driven home the point that employees should be able to bring their whole selves to work. “When our people are operating from a position of strength, they will perform better.” That’s why Accenture focuses on performance achievement rather than ratings. The company encourages employees to have meaningful conversations with their supervisors so that team members get to know what people are like not only professionally, but also personally.
“We’re all about creating trust and building relationships,” Kim says. “Especially with women - they want to talk and understand our culture; they want to meet people.”
3. Establish a presence where women are.
Kim says that Accenture’s HR team is very deliberate in their efforts to recruit women. They strategically seek partnerships with great organizations like the Anita Borg Institute and Girls Who Code, and they’re focused on recruiting at women’s colleges like Mount Holyoke.
4. Make it real.
Accenture likes to highlight women’s experiences so that potential hires can see and relate to something concrete. “We are very focused on showcasing the experiences of our women. We want people who are looking for career opportunities with us to see the journey our women have been on and what they’ve accomplished personally and professionally,” Kim says. “We market our opportunities through the lens of what women are looking for.”
5. Facilitate open dialogue and making sure women are present in the recruiting process.
Accenture recognizes that oftentimes women want to have a lot of conversations with different people -- so they enable and embrace openness. In addition to making sure there’s a least one female interviewer for every candidate, the company facilitates casual “coffee chats” to help develop relationships with people who are not even necessarily candidates. “That’s often where we see relationships start to develop,” Kim explains.
6. Schedule programs and events for women.
Kim says one tangible thing recruiters can do is create and develop events or programs designed to engage women. She spoke specifically about Accenture’s Women’s Career Consortium, which the company hosts in an effort to engage women who are just coming out of college. “The first day of the program has nothing to do with Accenture, but is just to show the power of learning and networking,” Kim explains. “The second day was a round of interviews. These women bond and create an internal network.”
At the recent Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, Accenture showed up in a big, bold way. “What I think works, is making people feel special. We invited people to personalized events, interviewed over 100 women and hired the majority of them,” Kim says. “You need to focus on where’s the best ROI - where are you really going to make a huge impact?”
7. Offer competitive benefits.
Accenture is leading the way in offering competitive benefits. They’ve recently doubled their maternity leave policy, improved their paternity leave, doubled the hours of backup childcare they offer, and doubled their elder care benefits. And they’re not just doing it blindly -- company leaders are listening to employees’ wants and needs and adapting their policies in response.
8. Encourage flexibility.
The consulting industry often requires a lot of travel -- but at Accenture, women are encouraged to work locally when they return from maternity leave. Kim says this policy has been received with rave reviews.
For women who do want to continue traveling during this period, Accenture has a program for shipping breastmilk to help minimize any logistical nightmares.
Accenture also offers part-time work, compressed workweeks and telecommuting options -- and Kim says people aren’t afraid to talk about or take advantage of these opportunities.
9. Measure success in 3 ways.
At Accenture, HR leaders don’t measure success by merely looking at recruiting metrics. Rather, they focus on retention, promotion and recruiting all at once. “I could exceed every recruiting target out there, but if we’re losing women or we’re not promoting them, we’re not going to change what the employee base looks like,” Kim says.
10. Embrace Transparency.
Commitment to visibility is key. Accenture was the first large professional services company to publish its diversity statistics. Kim says that pushing this information externally helps keep them driven and on track. “Unless we’re going to be transparent about it, we really can’t improve it. We’re reporting out on it so we need to be accountable,” she says.
“It’s really all about personal interactions,” she adds. “That’s front and center for us. At the end of the day, it is really about building that personal relationship that will get someone to want to join or not.”
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