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Consultant Bonnie Kwan and President and Managing Director for Accenture in Canada Bill Morris pose for a photo in their office in Mississauga, Ont. (Michelle Siu For The Globe and Mail)
Consultant Bonnie Kwan and President and Managing Director for Accenture in Canada Bill Morris pose for a photo in their office in Mississauga, Ont. (Michelle Siu For The Globe and Mail)

The hunt for talent at an emerging giant Add to ...

It’s been a remarkable year for Accenture Inc., a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing firm with Canadian offices in Alberta, British Columbia, New Brunswick, Ontario and Quebec. After tallying the figures from its last fiscal year, which ended in August, the company reported record-breaking results, with a 15 per cent increase in revenue and new bookings worldwide of $28.8-billion (U.S.).

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For Accenture’s Canadian employees, the year-end numbers are a pleasant reminder that they're working for a winner, and an indicator of the good things yet to come.

“In Canada, we have a strategy that calls for double-digit growth,” says Claudia Thompson, an Ottawa-based managing director at Accenture. The company has approximately 236,000 employees serving clients in more than 120 countries. “To attain [this] we have to really focus on our human capital strategy and build skills and knowledge across the country, because our business is about people.”

With about 4,500 workers in Canada, Accenture is already among the leading employers in the country – and the company intends to expand its work force even more. It hired more than 1,000 new employees last year. Globally, the company expanded its work force by about 70,000 last year, and will likely hire the same number of people this fiscal year.

Because of this rapid growth, Accenture faces that most fundamental of human resource challenges: how to continue attracting and retaining the best and the brightest. The challenge is made more complex by the diverse makeup of the work force and the fact that a good number of its employees frequently work away from their home offices; on any given day, between 30 per cent and 35 per cent of employees are working out of town, while about 15 per cent to 20 per cent are working abroad.

Accenture is more than ready to meet this challenge. About five years ago, it set up human capital and diversity teams across the globe to ensure the engagement and retention of employees – in addition to its already robust human resource strategy, which includes attractive compensation and benefits packages.

Ms. Thompson was appointed to lead the human capital and diversity initiative in Canada – and she and her team have been busy. Over the last five years, they’ve rolled out a number of action plans and programs, including social events to connect employees, leadership development programs and interest groups for women, employees with disabilities, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers.

Michael Denham, a Montreal-based managing director with the company, describes Accenture as a compassionate employer.

“I can think of many cases where an employee’s father has been sick, or someone’s partner has had a complicated pregnancy, and we've let that person take a leave of absence or rearrange their work so they can take care of matters at home,” he says. “I can’t think of a situation where someone has had a personal challenge and we have not stepped in to help.”

Bonnie Kwan, an analyst based in Toronto, says Accenture’s strong commitment to its employees was definitely a big draw for her when she decided to join the company two years ago.

She was also intrigued by the wealth of learning and advancement opportunities at Accenture, which spends millions of dollars a year on employee training. Last fiscal year, the company spent close to $600-million on training worldwide.

Ms. Kwan spent her first week at the company at orientation with other new analysts, followed by two weeks at Accenture’s analyst school in St. Charles, Ill., just outside of Chicago.

“The course is like going back to university – it’s a lot of fun,” she says. “Now I’m looking to go into the core consultants’ school.”

To ensure they are tapping into the full potential of their employees, Accenture follows a rigorous process for developing their workers.

Employees who work at a high level, and those who have leadership potential, are assessed to see if they're in the right role and working with clients and projects that provide enough opportunities for building skills. Accenture then develops action plans for these talented workers to guide their career path within the company.

Accenture also runs a leadership development program for women, which includes pairing senior-level female staff with a mentor for a full year of one-on-one coaching and group meetings, where they can share ideas with other women in the program.

Today, more than 30 per cent of all managers at Accenture in Canada are women.

“At Accenture, whether you're male or female, you have the best opportunities to grow both professionally and personally,” says Bill Morris, president of Accenture in Canada. “There is an incredible range of different roles and jobs, and opportunities to travel and experience different cultures.

“Someone once said, ‘You don’t need to leave Accenture to get a new job,’ and it’s true because you can really grow and explore numerous opportunities in this one huge, global organization.”

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