A headshot of Accenture’s Silvia Hernandez standing in an office corridor.
Silvia Hernandez. Image: Accenture

Worker wellbeing could be the new ‘competitive differentiator’ for companies

22 Nov 2022

Accenture’s Silvia Hernandez discusses why companies need to think in a human-centric way, and not just about rules and regulations.

“Given the compounding health, economic and geopolitical crises that we are experiencing, leaders are getting a masterclass in what it means to remain viable against very difficult odds —and to do so in a responsible way that protects and supports one of our most important stakeholders: our people.”

That’s what Accenture’s global automotive lead for talent and organisation, Silvia Hernandez, told SiliconRepublic.com when asked about the things leaders need to consider when future-proofing their workforces.

Hernandez is responsible for evolving Accenture’s future of work thought leadership research and bringing insights to C-suite leaders around the world. So, she knows a lot about the future of work and how talent slots into that.

‘We sometimes focus too much on where we work, but we should be focusing on creating better outcomes from our work’

She only began her current role at the professional services firm earlier this year, but she has seen a lot of changes take place over the past number of years – not least the mass shift to flexible working.

Interestingly, Hernandez believes that employers may be struggling to implement the flexible working practices their staff want as they are focusing too much on the regulatory side of things.

“I think that sometimes it feels as if organisations are working really hard to put a regulatory frame around flexibility – which is counterintuitive in my view. We sometimes focus too much on where we work, but we should be focusing on creating better outcomes from our work.”

Hernandez thinks that people, on the whole, have undergone a total transformation in terms of what they want and expect from their working lives. In order to future-proof workforces across the board, she recommends that leaders take into account three things.

The first thing being “the extreme tightening of the labour market, affecting multiple industries and countries”. According to Hernandez, this change is amplified by a material shift in the expectations of those that are coming into the market.

The second thing to be considered is the ongoing focus on employee wellbeing and mental health. “I would argue that the way in which organisations approach wellbeing becomes a competitive differentiator,” warned Hernandez.

As well as the changes in expectations among people entering the workforce and the increased awareness around employee wellbeing, the third factor to consider is tech.

In a hybrid world, this is crucial to enabling “frictionless digital experiences for customers and employees”. Hernandez also said thinking about how tech is used in the workplace is crucial for skills development.

Luckily, considerations around tech’s use in the evolving workplace don’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as ensuring employees who work remotely don’t feel burned out by the ‘always-on’ culture of communicating with colleagues primarily through tech.

“Leaders need to lead by example when it comes to this always-on culture,” said Hernandez. “One example is including a line at the end of emails that removes pressure on the recipient to respond instantly: ‘I am sending you this email at a time that works for me, please respond only at a time that suits you.’”

The core thing to remember for companies navigating the future of work is that “we need to become ‘human-centric’ organisations”.

In light of this, Hernandez said companies should rethink how they access and nuture talent. She said it is important not to just consume talent, as that won’t wash with today’s workers who expect more from their employers.

Hernandez recommended that companies reconfigure their recruitment processes and start identifying additional sources of talent beyond traditional pools. She said that is also important that employers put individuals in control of their learning and let them take ownership of their professional and personal development.

Overall, employers need to rewrite their company narratives based on the fundamentals of what matters most to their people and what makes sense for their business. As Hernandez pointed out, “investors care about this information because human capital is key for companies today”.

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Blathnaid O’Dea
By Blathnaid O’Dea

Blathnaid O’Dea worked as a Careers reporter until 2024, coming from a background in the Humanities. She likes people, pranking, pictures of puffins – and apparently alliteration.

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