“People and their management are the keys to everything that happens in a company,” says María José Sobrinos Iglesias, HR director of Accenture for Spain, Portugal, and Israel. Putting people at the center has marked María José’s 20+ years career and continues to be her goal and that of the organization that sees her grow day by day. Technology, growth, and emotional intelligence are topics we address in this interview with Rocking Talent.
You have been at Accenture for more than 20 years. What strikes you today when you look back and realize how far you have come? Are there specific moments within the organization that has marked you? Which?
I came out of college and went straight here; it’s like I’ve been in a lot of companies. Today, in Spain, we are more than 14 thousand professionals with very different profiles, more than 200 different professional degrees, and training. The evolution has been tremendous. I have been here for more than 20 years; I saw the birth of outsourcing, of digital, among other areas.
All the management of the pandemic has marked me.
”I tell my team that there is no time when they have made me feel more proud than during the pandemic because from overnight, we were the ones who helped all the professionals in this change. And in addition, we were close emotionally through different initiatives. We went above and beyond to help our clients in those times. It was very gratifying professionally because great things could be done for so many people.
We were never so far and so close at the same time”.
Would you tell the readers of Rocking Talent how are Accenture’s culture and leadership? What is your north?
It has been changing, of course, but we have a culture deeply rooted in values focused on behavior in terms of people, integrity, and the legacy we leave for future generations.
We are more than 600 thousand people globally, innovating, inspiring, knowing how to collaborate, and operating the business. Everyone feels heard and knows that they can give their best. Those are the engines that keep us going everywhere we are.
And finally, not only what we do but how we do it. We have a deeply rooted code of ethics in the company that is a fundamental aspect in all areas.
Purpose: Fulfilling the promise of technology and human ingenuity
“There is an incontestable truth about Accenture professionals worldwide: we take everything we do and how it impacts our clients and society very seriously. It is our mission.”
Julie Sweet, Chair & CEO
Accenture in figures:
624,000 employees worldwide
6,000 clients in more than 120 countries
8,200 patents and patent applications worldwide
200 cities with local offices
50 countries where Accenture provides services
HR has gone from being a supplier to sitting on the board because they have realized the strategic value it brings to the business. What characteristics do you think to mark this new era of HR?
I have never felt like a provider. But it is also true that we are a company in which talent is fundamental. Our product is a group of people with different abilities, so our projects have a special value.
But you’re right, the HR function has been on the rise, and companies have realized that talent is what makes the difference.
The digital transformation has showcased professionals with very different abilities. The other day, I was talking to a client who told us that he was hiring profiles similar to Accenture’s precisely because they have transformed, which makes all companies concerned about the HR function. It is true that COVID-19 changed our paradigm, the way we work, and the need to access talent that we could not before.
And a no less important issue is that of connection: the emotional bond has become increasingly essential; flexibility, conciliation, and continuous learning have gained more relevance than in the past.
As HR became strategic, it also began to use technology to its advantage. So what role do Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning play and represent in talent management?
When I think of HR, we have to be relevant to the business, recognize the value of each of the capabilities that are needed, and manage people in a segmented and personalized way. Therefore, the intensive use of data is a necessity, and learning how to use all the possible data that we can have from our professionals can really facilitate other things. For example, we use it to discover hidden talents, reskilling, training, etc.
The truth is that these elements and intelligence allow HR professionals not to dedicate themselves to administrative tasks but rather to really have a very different profile from the one we’ve had before.
Based on your experience and reading about the current world of work, what skills are a must-have in professionals?
For an HR person, I would say 3 critical things: 1) they have to be able to maintain and encourage the company’s culture to be part of the DNA of all its professionals, bearing in mind that distance can make ties difficult, and even more so now with the turnover we see in all companies; 2) With the collaborator’s experience, it is super important that ultimately employees fall in love with the learning plan, with a project, with a future, and that experience must be unique and valid for them. You must work in a group and individually; and, finally, 3) business strategy: being at the side of the business and having the ability to paint a talent strategy that contributes.
In any profession, I would say that you must have an emotional connection and technological capacity, not saying that everyone must be an expert, but rather a knowledge of how to apply it. We have strategic capabilities such as technology, digital, industry, business, among others, that have to be added to the profile of a leader along with emotional intelligence, creativity, the ability to inspire, have strategic thinking, and communication.
What advice would you give to those young professionals and older people who have lost their jobs on the world stage in the last year and a half but who are still actively searching?
I think you have to be relevant and train constantly. Training is essential both for those just starting out and those who already have a certain “maturity.” Being curious is essential. Now more than ever, it is essential to offer capabilities from wherever you are; the geographical limits are minimized.
My advice is to find something you are really good at and be really relevant there. That’s when companies can never say no.
Last but not least, it is said that the work of the future is the present of education; how do you think universities should take this commitment?
I believe that it is not just something of universities. I believe that all of us, including companies, are responsible for this. We have to make it more and more practical. I think that there should be more agreements between the academic and business worlds to reduce the gap between professionals and what is required of the work of the future.
Maria José Sobrinos Iglesias | HR Director for Spain, Portugal and Israel
Must-have for HR professionals:
3) Business strategy