'People First' Businesses Will Win; The Rest Don't Matter

by Sohini Bagchi    Apr 28, 2016


Speedy technology advancement is dramatically disrupting the workforce. In such a scenario, companies that equip employees, partners and consumers with new skills can fully capitalize on innovations. This is according to tech major Accenture that has published a report earlier this year, stating that ‘people-first’ approach will win in today’s digital economy. In an exclusive interaction with CXOtoday, Mohan Sekhar, Senior Managing Director – Delivery Centers for Technology in India, Accenture, explains the trends in the people-first economy and focuses on changes that will impact digital enterprises in the coming years.

The Accenture report states that an increased number of executives are investing in artificial intelligence and machine learning. How is this changing the nature of jobs in the market?

Technology is fast changing the core characteristics of the labour market. Pioneering companies are using intelligent automation to drive a new and much more productive relationship between people and machines. The potential of intelligent automation for example rests in its ability to apply scale, speed and the ability to cut through complexity to fundamentally change traditional business operations and complement human skills and decision-making. The Accenture Technology Vision 2016 suggests that people will be empowered to do things differently, and do different things through technologies such as automation.

Do you see a huge demands-supply gap in the talent market, especially when it comes to the digital domain?

In a pervasive digital age, businesses will have to harness and integrate at scale various elements such as new products, services, business models, ecosystems and people. It’s becoming obvious that people who are one-dimensional will find it challenging to survive in the future; talent which is multi-skilled around technology, digital, industry, and creative design will be premium. Companies are giving more emphasis to multi-skilled people and those workforces characterized by agility, collaboration, skill sharing, continuous learning and innovation.

What are companies doing something to address these challenges?

I can speak for what we are doing at Accenture. We place great emphasis on continuous training for our people. We invest heavily – $841 million globally in FY15 to be precise – to develop our people at all levels. A key aspect of this is providing the right content – we have over 800 learning boards and over 50,000 courses featuring world-class technology and industry-specific content. There is also a strong focus on specially designed courses around new IT areas like cloud, digital, agile, security, DevOps, design thinking and automation. It’s important that we create easy access for our people to this rich content – more than half of this is enabled through digital learning so that our people can consume content easily across devices, anytime and anywhere.

What are some of the key trends shaping people-first approach in a company?

Technology innovations are dramatically disrupting the workforce – bringing amazing new opportunities to enable people (workers, customers and business partners) – with capabilities they’ve never had before. While that is exciting, the future of technology can be overwhelming for businesses who often experience a “digital culture shock” at the prospect of keeping up with the competition. To remain competitive, enterprises will need to take a more balanced approach that puts people front and center. By enabling employees through the development of new skills and the creation of an agile working environment, companies can take advantage of emerging technologies to continuously create fresh ideas, develop cutting-edge products and services, and disrupt the status quo.

What kind of leadership capability will be required by digital leaders? How can leaders instil these capabilities in their successors?

Future leaders will have to embrace disruption and agility as part of their corporate DNA, inspiring people with a vision for how technology enables processes to be done differently and better so that the business can follow a completely new direction. They will need to develop and institutionalize intelligent digital processes to differentiate their organisation in the industry, and create better revenue opportunity, enhanced customer and employee engagement. Also critical is their ability to be at the forefront of reshaping their (and others’) industry’s boundaries, playing a lead role in the formation and coordination of existing and future ecosystems.

How can CEOs win the respect of the people they lead?

CEOs and all leaders need to have a sound perspective of the disruption in the marketplace, need to understand how it can affect their clients’ business, and as a result have a strategy to respond and deliver to client needs. Leaders who invest in technology, people and processes and adapt to the “new normal” of technology disruption will make their organisations future-proof and resilient. Importantly, to be successful, leaders will need to harness technologies to equip their people to turn into a more intelligent workforce.