Success from Female Leadership: Making a Meaningful Difference
Iliana Oris Valiente, Managing Director for Accenture, Canadian Innovation Hub
Our interview with Iliana focuses on the success of female leadership seen during Covid-19, the approach taken to ensure clients and teams are supported, and her main takeaways.
Iliana works with fortune 500 clients across many industries helping them shape their innovation agenda through her role at Accenture
Iliana is also strongly connected and involved across the business, tech, and non-profit communities. She is a contributor to the Don Tapscott led Blockchain Research Institute, is an Associate at the Creative Destruction Lab incubator at the University of Toronto where she provides mentorship time to start-ups, and sits on the Emerging Leaders Advisory Council for CPA Ontario.
What is your definition of success?
My role is to make sure our clients are getting the support they need to push their thinking.
We try to make a meaningful difference in their innovation agenda – something that is different and new, provides value to the business or society.
Impact within our organization
Changing the way that we, as a firm, operate to make sure that we are always staying on top of the latest and greatest advancements, whether in technology or in the way we work.
I spend a lot of time mentoring start-ups and other organizations both in my day job and as an individual, ultimately making sure we are sharing that innovation methodology and mindset across Canada.
What changed with COVID-19?
Our priority was to make sure our Accenture team members were safe. Within a week, we had nearly all our people working at home. Working remotely is in our DNA – we are one of the world’s biggest users of Microsoft Teams so mobilizing was quick.
At the time, our first goal was to adjust to the reality of working from home. A great quote we have lived by has been: “You’re not just working from home, you’re at home, during a pandemic, trying to work.”
For a lot of our team members – there are many other priorities at home, therefore the typical work week that was expected pre-Covid had to be adjusted.
People and Culture
People are the core of our business. When the pandemic first hit and we were seeing a shift in the type of work we were doing, what kept me assured was the knowledge that we have a team of very capable, talented, creative people.
While the technology piece was arguably the easiest transition to manage, the more complex piece to working from home was maintaining our culture and managing the shift away from human interaction.
We have been very creative when it comes to team socials and small things that we do to keep employee moral high and remind our teams that we care about them as people first and foremost. For example – we have a standing “lunch in the kitchen” meeting at 12:30 each day – it’s entirely optional and tries to replicate us sitting at a lunch table – the bonus is that we can show off our cooking skills too!
When a crisis hits, you need talented, creative, out-of-the-box thinkers. If you don’t take care of your number one assets, your people, everything else becomes a moot point.
We assisted many clients with the transition to working from home by focussing on tech tools and enablement, while putting an emphasis on making sure that their employees and customers were going to be safe and healthy throughout the process.
Shift to digital/online tools and Processes
For the first few weeks, the focus internally and for many clients was pivoting to virtual tools. Fortunately, Accenture already has a virtual infrastructure set up which made it a lot easier to transition to a work from home environment and ramp up on virtual collaboration tools to continue to assist clients.
There is a lot of magic that comes from the experience of being in person. Accenture understands this and has invested in “Phygital” (physical and digital) experiences by embracing technologies which are aimed at replicating a physical environment, as well as using creative approaches such as sending care packages tailored to participants.
The acceleration of innovation has been astounding.
What we are seeing is that our clients are not just looking at reopening their businesses, they are looking at this as an opportunity to reinvent. Businesses want to come back stronger with a more flexible workplace arrangement and more elastic supply chains that can ramp up and down depending on the current business climate. And, many wish they had invested in their journey to cloud and modernization efforts sooner.
This really speaks to the need to stay innovative – modernization investments will future proof your business and ensure we are much better prepared for other black swan events.
Long Live the Start-up
Accenture’s Ventures Team has noticed that this crisis has led to organizations being far more open to working with start-ups.
Start-ups can provide ready-made solutions/products that businesses can plug in and run rather than spend the time to build it themselves.
- First things first – make sure your people are doing ok.
- Look at your clients and partners – try to put yourself in their shoes, be empathetic and try to understand what new challenges they are dealing with. This way you can continue to provide value for your stakeholders
If you are unsure what to do right now, don’t guess! Go talk to your partners and stakeholders and then design based on human needs.