CEO Conversations

What Chief Executives need to get right, right now.

Managing a business means assessing current threats and opportunities as well as working to position your company for future viability. As we emerge from the pandemic and continue to wrestle with the shared impacts, how do you assess what’s fleeting versus what’s an ongoing imperative? Is the whole conversation about “going beyond profit” just a trend?

We turned to one of the world’s most trusted advisors for a bit of perspective. Accenture plays a key role in helping companies big and small, local and global, adapt and optimize. In our conversation with Accenture’s Atlanta office leader and Managing Director, Chloe Barzey, we dug in to understand if this conversation on purpose, values and ESG is here to stay and what tangible actions chief executives need to factor into doing business.

There’s been a lot of discussion about purpose and values. What is Accenture’s purpose and how has this conversation changed over the last year?

“First of all, I love the topic of purpose because it focuses the conversation on why we do what we do versus simply what we do. Our purpose inspires me daily.

“Accenture’s purpose is “to deliver on the promise of technology and human ingenuity.” It guides our strategy, our priorities, and the opportunities we create for our more than 500,000 people around the world. Everyday Accenture reflects the human ingenuity of our talented people. We utilize our commitment to using technology to deliver value to all our stakeholders. Our purpose and our brand are grounded in our enduring formula for market leadership, embracing change, continuously transforming our business, and helping other businesses create value.

“The conversation around purpose and values has accelerated due to the pandemic, social awareness and an increased focus on sustainability. These issues have been catapulted to the forefront more than ever before, and we are not going back. This isn’t a trend.  It’s a new reality.

Once you’ve been exposed to the issues, it’s hard to go back and act like you haven’t seen or experienced them in new ways. Customers, employees, all stakeholders are demanding that companies do more as a result.

“If we, as companies and industry leaders, are not living our purpose, living our values, then it impacts engagement of employees, customers and external investors.”

What are the main priorities that chief executives need to get right?

“I believe in an evolution in priorities that focuses on people first. This includes leading with empathy and working towards an inclusive culture, as well as focusing on digital fluency and investing in innovation.

“Chief executives need to embrace the shift: this new reality of stakeholders looking to their companies to do more and care more.

“The increased focus on ESG as a means for companies to talk about what’s important and show their positive impact brings the conversation into the boardroom and drives the need to demonstrate positive impact for employees, shareholders, and the communities they serve.

“This is a big change from a primary focus on shareholders in the past. Today, the reality is that those leading companies need to demonstrate tangible value and tangible impact in their communities. For all of us, it must be more than just an announcement or public statement of support. Some companies are farther along on this journey than others.

“For me, I hope this is not just a moment, but momentum. I have already seen more tangible impact, excitement, and change recently than I have in my lifetime. There’s a new realization that we are all connected. No one is truly safe unless we are all safe. It’s an opportunity for us to step back, commit to leveraging the best of what we’ve learned, and come out of this experience differently. More than ever, I believe we can make this community, this world, a better place for our children and our children’s children. I’m excited about the opportunity to leverage technology innovation and inclusion to make a bigger difference and have a bigger impact.

“In the past we left this work to the not-for-profits. Now, business leaders are seeing the important role we can play. Business leaders are bringing other business leaders to the conversation. Together, we will realize the impact we can have as a collective force.”

It is empowering as a leader to know that doing well in business means I am charged with doing well for our people and communities. We don’t just focus on driving business value; we also focus on shared values. This is a shift I’m really excited about.

You spoke about companies demonstrating tangible impact. Could you share examples?

“Employee volunteerism will continue to be one way to demonstrate impact. Employees are looking to do meaningful things. Volunteerism and skills-based volunteerism are great ways for employees to be part of demonstrating purpose. And of course, communities’ needs are huge, so charitable giving continues to be important.

“I think it’s important for companies to really focus on how they uniquely deliver tangible impact. An example of our company’s focus here includes no longer requiring a four-year degree to work at Accenture. Instead, Accenture is leading an apprenticeship program where we recruit people from technical colleges or community partners that have earned technical certifications and have a willingness to learn. This has been a game-changer. Working with partners like Tech Bridge and Atlanta Technical College, we are finding when we focus on the skills employees bring versus the degrees, we can welcome an entirely new group of talented people to Accenture.

“Through our apprenticeship program and our investments in bringing technology to people in the Atlanta community who would not normally have access, Accenture brings about tangible, impactful change. We’re not talking about just changing the trajectory of one person’s life, we’re talking about making generational impact.”

What role do individual leaders play to inspire change or model purpose?

“I’m the Managing Director of the Atlanta office which covers Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee.  We’re focused on bringing innovation to our clients inclusive of a great workplace and great work experience for our more than 3,000 people. Each day I’m accountable for their engagement and well-being. 

“At Accenture, we are constantly making connections, working with our clients, community partners, governments and academics. I see my role as an Accenture leader as finding ways that we can collaborate across groups, to bring real improvements and change to our local communities.

“I came into this role in February 2020, with this vision of getting people engaged and connected to make a positive impact for our clients, our people and the community. One practical way to make this happen is to help foster meaningful connections. I have found the best way to inspire people is to take the time to listen to them, to understand their goals and dream big about what can be accomplished collectively. Once we have a shared vision the path to get there becomes easier.

“To model this, I’m committed to collaborating with other leaders from diverse backgrounds within and outside of Accenture to talk about challenges and implement solutions focused on positive change.

People have felt so disconnected. Some have felt left out of the conversation. It takes intentionality and leadership to bring people together, to practice community and tell real stories about what failure looks like, and how to succeed.

“My new series on LinkedIn “Connecting Change” is an extension of that goal. A virtual platform for what I love to do in the real world, which is sparking dialogue and bringing people together to make Atlanta a better place.

“In my role I can make a difference by connecting people to each other and to community and facilitate them doing well by doing good. Our Atlanta strategy is we dare to dream; we collaborate to innovate; we unite for impact. We are mobilized around this commitment and we are daring to lead the change we want to see.

“I’m part of a great line of leadership at Accenture who are leading from the front. We’re not only saying we’re going to do something, but we’re also doing it.  We’re making our actions visible to the external community and we’re measuring our progress and making that progress visible. It’s a bold move and one of the reasons I love being at Accenture.”

Chloe Barzey
Managing Director, Accenture
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