Our recently unveiled branding at Accenture is underpinned by a renewed purpose: “Deliver on the promise of technology and human ingenuity.” Human ingenuity—creativity, inventiveness and limitless imagination—is the magic that people bring to an organization. It is the “secret sauce” that can differentiate a business and help it to grow amid change.

We are finding that human ingenuity is more important than ever as companies of every size in every industry and region are struggling to navigate uncharted and bumpy territory. People bring the bright ideas, the unprecedented solutions and bold voices to lead the way. But are businesses allowing them to?

Let’s talk about what leaders could be doing now to unlock the human potential side of the business during this unique time in our world.

Listen to what workers need

Workers may not always ask for what they need, so leaders must be vigilant in listening for and anticipating needs. These are challenging times for people. Overnight, the world was turned on its head. Full-time workers became part-time caregivers, schoolteachers and psychologists on top of their job duties. Workers are adapting in real-time while their needs may fluctuate week to week. To enable people to thrive and unleash their human ingenuity at work, they need to feel supported on their journey.

Organizations that are leaders in listening to what workers need take advantage of technology to anticipate, predict and respond to their people’s needs. People welcome the idea as they know they will reap the rewards. Our research found that 92% of workers are open to the collection of data on them and their work in exchange for an improvement in their productivity, well-being and other benefits.

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Leaders can no longer underinvest in the most critical enabler of business performance—workers. People help drive the profits, and now they need to be the top priority.

 

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Put people first

Over the past several decades, the notions of “customer is king (or queen)” or “customer comes first” guided the decisions leaders made about the business. If you go even further back in time, shareholders were once the only stakeholder that mattered. These days are over. Leaders can no longer underinvest in the most critical enabler of business performance—workers. People help drive the profits, and now they need to be the top priority.

During the pandemic, people were thrust into remote, hybrid or in-person work structures and they had to quickly adapt, despite fears about physical safety or challenges with managing the balance of new work/home dynamics. Those working on the front lines were applauded and recognized for their service. Some of the healthcare workers and retail staff who faced great risks were given bonuses for their efforts or discounts at stores. But those perks have been pulled away in some cases. In upcoming research we will unpack the impact of frontline worker experiences on well-being and their expectations around employer responsibility for leaving them better off not just financially, but emotionally as well.

As the next wave of the virus hits, we are seeing companies handle the situation very differently. On one hand, some retail behemoths have no plans for hazard pay (even as they see record-breaking sales). Others are directing profits to shareholders rather than the workers enabling those profits.

On the other hand, we see leaders who are creating initiatives to safeguard the physical and psychological well-being of their workers. They are also creating experiences grounded in care for people and concern for their communities while accelerating the performance of the business. It doesn’t have to be just one or the other.

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Make decisions for the greater good

Companies have been pushed out of their comfort zones, too, and are facing decisions about the workforce that were unexpected. For instance, 87 firms in the S&P 500 announced staff reductions from March through June, with 65 of those furloughing thousands of workers. Although these decisions are understandable given the circumstances, they create even more uncertainty among employees. Our research found that 62% of workers are concerned about their job security—and they are reassessing their priorities. When workers walk out the door, along with them goes their human ingenuity – a business’s innovation engine.

Leaders can build trust and ultimately garner greater loyalty from workers when they are transparent about why they are making even the toughest of decisions. Communicate reasons why and even collaborate with workers on decisions so that they feel invested in the outcomes. Our upcoming research explores how to use the net better off framework to dial up well-being and positively influence worker trust. 

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Leaders who care come out ahead

Most leaders want to do good for their people and leave them, what we call, “net better off.” Prior to the crisis we found that only 35% of C-suite CXOs felt responsible for leaving their people better off, and in a mere six months, this has jumped to 50%—but it should be every HR leader’s mission to turn this 50% into 100%. Leaders see how their efforts pay off among the workforce, and some are seeing the benefits to the bottom line.

Companies that leave their people better off can see revenue growth of 5% or even greater during stable economic times. These are some of the very actionable “sweet spot” practices that we identified in our research that have a direct benefit on the workforce:

  • Organizations that listen to what their people need from the front lines and empower them with data, have workers who effectively adapt to change (97%).
  • Among businesses that champion workforce well-being and equality have workers (94%) who put significantly more effort into their work.
  • Companies that use technology to enable flexible work arrangements and more creative work have a workforce that is 98% more likely to feel fulfilled in their work.

Actions to consider today

  • Fix pay inequities
  • Funnel a percentage of profits to hazard pay
  • Create flexible work policies
  • Design hybrid work engagements
  • Reward human ingenuity at its best

Just as workers are adapting to this new era, so must businesses. Leaders who invest in their people—supporting their needs as humans, providing flexible work structures and making decisions with workers in mind—are the ones who are unlocking human ingenuity. People will feel empowered to collaborate, contribute and offer ideas that will ultimately leave the business and its workforce net better off.

See more on Workforce

Barbara Spitzer

Managing Director, Talent & Organization/ Human Potential, People Experiences Lead

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