Accenture’s people are its largest and most important investment, and the organisation’s ambition is to be the best place for the world’s most highly specialised talent. To ensure high performance, innovation and productivity, Accenture needs an engaged workforce that reflects the ethnic diversity of its clients and their communities. Although historically Accenture’s overall Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) representation has significantly exceeded that quoted in the 2011 census and outperforms the market, granular HR data analysis directed the focus specifically towards black retention and progression.
To address this specific BAME talent issue, the UK Accelerate programme was developed by global and local Inclusion & Diversity (I&D) teams and Accenture’s African Caribbean Network (AACN). Accelerate is a sustainable programme of development, self-reflection, reverse mentoring, sponsorship and relationship-building to support black employees’ progression at all levels across the organisation.
The programme is supported by Accenture’s Ethnicity Diversity Framework, which includes senior leadership accountability, middle management empowerment and Accenture’s Voice on Ethnicity, that oversees retention, recruitment, development and progression. These pillars are underpinned by robust policies and processes, HR data analytics, employee networks and strong programme management.
Candidates for the programme were invited to participate by Accenture’s global I&D lead and UK CEO. HR Leads, Career Counsellors, AACN Leadership and alumni encouraged engagement to ensure candidates and line managers prioritised attendance.
Accelerate comprises two initial classroom-based courses:
- Exploring Authentic African Caribbean Leadership (EAACL) – a two-day leadership initiative where black managers and senior managers, senior leaders and role models (including the UK CEO) explore key skills needed for career progression and create leadership development plans
- Future Leaders – the same opportunity extended to junior black employees with a focus on exploring their personal/digital brand and building effective relationships with a mentor, coach and sponsor to set them up for success
Both courses explore the influence of race on employees’ careers and discuss bias experienced and demonstrated by the participants. The classroom training is also supplemented with informal events to facilitate difficult conversations, discuss barriers and build strong relationships to support advocacy.
There is also core HR and business support. I&D Executive sponsors, Business and HR Leads run the 3R programme, reviewing BAME employees to ensure they have the right role, sponsor and account to be promoted, and also review succession planning and promotion lists for gender and BAME balance. Managers involved in promotion decisions receive unconscious bias training and there is HR representation in BAME promotion and remuneration decisions. The Mainstream and Female Leadership Development Programme nominee lists are also reviewed for BAME balance.
Since the launch of the programme, Accenture now has 50 senior leaders actively driving the BAME strategy, and 75 executives and 100 non-executives have been directly trained, coached and sponsored by the organisation’s most senior BAME and non-BAME leaders. BAME leaders have also been celebrated in the Financial Times Upstanding Role Models and Empower Ethnicity Role Models lists for their work in this space. The AACN now has 350 members and has a good working relationship with global and local leaders and I&D teams.
Accelerate received a feedback score of 4.8/5 and positive written feedback from participants, whilst the senior manager promotion rate of EAACL participants was more than double that of non-participants. The black employee attrition gap has improved from negative to positive and the recruitment rate has doubled in three years. Additionally, alumni profile has been raised through facilitation on future courses, internal and external profile and winning internal awards for their contribution to the programme.
The Accelerate programme will be followed up via a 12-month plan of monthly virtual or face-to-face sessions with leaders for UK black employees and quarterly themes aligned with the organisation’s performance management cycle, supporting advocacy and promotion preparation. The process will be repeated annually, using alumni feedback to drive improvements. The global and local I&D teams will also continue to work with the AACN, Accelerate alumni and stakeholders, and are currently developing a best practice toolkit incorporating the 12-month plan and the UK African-Caribbean Strategy. This will support black recruitment, retention and particularly progression within each business area.