Accenture’s REAL Core Values
ContentsPart 1: Critique
Looking at Accenture’s value document, you can wonder if they expect anyone to actually believe them.
It is normal for companies to define corporate values supposed to guide decision making. These values are often very noble.
This article will analyze and critique the stated values of Accenture.
Accenture claims to value:
- best people,
- client value creation,
- one global network,
- respect for the individual, and
Accenture’s claim: "Fulfilling our obligation of building a better, stronger and more durable company for future generations, protecting the Accenture brand, meeting our commitments to stakeholders, acting with an owner mentality, developing our people and helping improve communities and the global environment."
The first part is quite true; it’s all about growing and earning more money for Accenture. By stakeholders they only mean owners, which include all Managing Directors (SE:s) or Partners.
"Developing our people" is an exaggeration, to say the least. No one in high-up in Accenture cares for the development of the employees. They don’t even care about the skills that people have (roles are assigned randomly) – what is important is "delivering" meaning doing as much work as possible. It’s all about quantity at Accenture, not quality.
Success is measured in billable hours and sales, and that is what gets the SE:s promoted in Accenture. The Managing Directors don’t care about communities or the global environment at all, except for selling sustainability projects.
2. Best People
Accenture’s claim: "Attracting, developing and retaining the best talent for our business, challenging our people, demonstrating a "can-do" attitude and fostering a collaborative and mutually supportive environment."
When you have reached over 280.000 employees and your yearly employee turn-over is sky-high (+20%) you cannot really claim to only be recruiting the best.
Considering the Managing Directors’ arrogance and their wish to be the best, "Best" might be a value in the sense of self-image. But more interesting is to look at the cultural values.
As mentioned above, Accenture is all about quantity, not quality. "Work hard, not smart." Consider this: working long hours mean higher bills to the clients.
Data processing and secretarial work (i.e. Project Management Office or PMO in Accenture terms) is not really challenging. But these are the kind of tasks that take many (billable) hours to complete.
– Mark Foster, Group CEO of Management Consulting (2009-2011)
Their point about a "can-do" attitude might be true. Let me explain what it would mean to you as a new employee. You cannot say NO to a project. Your skills and career focus matter little when a Managing Director wants to put you in a boring project in an area where you have neither interest nor experience. If a Managing Director tells you to search for bugs in software code alone in a closet at a client location for six months, then you do it.
Accenture is not collaborative and supportive, it is all about elbows. Only a few people at each career level get promoted each year. Accenture uses relative grades in their employee evaluations, called "banding" (or “laddering”), meaning someone in every project has to get a bad grade. The longer people have been in the organization, the more they learn that they need to push their colleagues down. That way they appear to be better than you for the relative grading.
Accenture officially has an "Up or out"-policy (Sources: Accenture, Wikipedia, and Wetfeet.com).
There is little interest in developing the people within Accenture. True, there are many online courses, but you might as well read a Wikipedia Article, and no one has time to take them because of the constant pressure.
Accenture boosts with giving every employee a "Career Counselor". This is just a fancy word for boss.
In short, when it comes to: attracting, developing, retaining, challenging, and collaboration, Accenture does not value Best People. It doesn’t even value people.
3. Client Value Creation
Accenture’s claim: "Enabling clients to become high-performance businesses and creating long-term relationships by being responsive and relevant and by consistently delivering value."
They are more interested in billing than delivering value. At Accenture’s management consulting part there is a constant discussion whether content (advice and information delivered to the client) is more important than form (how well the Power Point presentation looked).
Based on own observations, the guys that had worked at Accenture for a long time would spend their whole day making the Power Point slides beautiful. When the advice that the newer people had elaborated didn’t fit in the slide, the "experienced" Accenture people cut half of the recommendations out. Not summarizing, just deleting the second half.
Sadly a large part of the paid client time goes to preparing Power Point Presentations.
I have also seen Accenture consultants work on a proposal for Client X, while in the office of Client Y who pays for their time.
4. One Global Network
Accenture’s claim: "Leveraging the power of global insight, relationships, collaboration and learning to deliver exceptional service to clients wherever they do business."
Now that is a lot of buzz words. But let’s look at the leveraging they claim to do (leverage = reusing what is valuable).
There is not much of collaboration and learning, as you can imagine form the two first points describing an environment of competition for promotions, where people are not valued, and where no one cares for developing them.
The SE:s do use cross-selling — "leveraging relationships" — so that one is true.
Regarding insights, as previously mentioned at Accenture it is more about nice graphics in Power Point than insights and recommendations. Those Power Points slides, stored in the Knowledge Exchange (Accenture’s messy intranet) are re-used again and again, with some search and replace on the client names and numbers.
SE:s pressure the consultants to re-use the slides, which does not foster gaining insights or learning, it is just copy & paste.
Reusing client contacts and Power Points: Yes, Accenture does this.
Encouraging insights, collaboration, and learning: No, Accenture does not do this.
What Accenture says is that they leverage insights, not encourage them. So to be fair: for the few projects where there were some insights produced, I guess I agree that those insights are reused over and over.
5. Respect for the Individual
Accenture’s claim: "Valuing diversity and unique contributions, fostering a trusting, open and inclusive environment and treating each person in a manner that reflects Accenture’s values."
This one could not be more misleading.
In Accenture there’s absolutely no respect at all for individuals.
Except if they are higher up in the hierarchy, then you have to kiss their a**. Employees are abused so much within Accenture, you wouldn’t believe it. People burn-out (or bore-out), get Repetitive Stress Injuries (RSI), back problems, and depressions because they are pushed too hard by superiors.
"Respect" in the Core Values document must be there just to keep the senior people from totally abusing their subordinates. To keep things a little bit under control. Well, it hasn’t had much effect.
If you want to read more about this, check out: Fear & Loathing in Limbo Land – My Experience at Accenture.
Accenture’s claim: "Being ethically unyielding and honest and inspiring trust by saying what we mean, matching our behaviors to our words and taking responsibility for our actions."
Overcharging (billing clients for more hours than were worked) is extremely common in Accenture.
Lies are common, for example "after this project you will get an interesting project".
Employees who have contracts specifying overtime pay are pressured to not write those hours in their time reports (to save some on the project budget) while clients are still being charged for those hours. I’ve seen managers keep two different time reports: one with all worked hours for the client and the official Artes one (Artes is Accenture’s time reporting software) where the consultants and analysts are told to not report their over-time.
Managers within Accenture are evaluated mainly on billable hours and profit margins in their projects and are under so much pressure they sacrifice anything they think they can get away with.
Using double time reports lets them pay little overtime while charging clients all worked hours (and maybe some extra hours on top of that).
Accenture’s Managing Directors often order the lower ranks to bill clients for time that was in fact spent on training.
Conclusions about the Stated Values
In conclusion, only Stewardship and One global Network are partly true:
- Stewardship in the sense that SE:s really want to grow Accenture and that is what generates the negative pressure in the firm.
- One Global Network in the sense that they have over 280.000 employees and lots of previous Power Point slides on the Intranet, both of which they want to use to the max.
- Integrity is more cosmetics than anything else. Overcharging and manipulation is hardly honest.
- Client Value Creation is untrue, as billable hours is what matters.
- Respect for the individual is untrue. Infact, the culture within Accenture is more about the total opposite – disrespect.
- Best people is also far from the truth — you will not get developed nor challenged within Accenture.