Analyzing the Impact of Technology in the Workplace: Q&A with Jill Goldstein of Accenture


The most competitive marketplace today is not technology, but talent. For HR practitioners, the challenge of attracting and maintaining the right talent is especially acute. In this highly informative HR Talk Interview, Jill Goldstein, Global Practice Lead of Talent and HR Operations at Accenture, explains why reskilling and upgrading are two essentials in the future of talent development.

With over six years of experience leading HR and learning business process services across the globe at Accenture, Jill’s mission is to innovate and develop talent with the help of automation and AI. In this candid conversation with HR Technologist, she talks about the impact of technology in the workplace and how training is more relevant than ever, along with discussing pertinent best practices.

She also answers questions on:

How HR teams can address challenges in the talent management ecosystem.
Will AI and automation be a boon or bane for employees?
Which upskilling initiatives are worth investing in for the right talent?

Key takeaways from this interview on the impact of technology in the workplace:

Find out which L&D practices have had the maximum impact on business goals
Learn what Accenture’s current HR Tech stack looks like
Trends to follow in the talent management space for 2020

Here’s what Jill shares on the future of L&D and how technology in the workplace impacts talent management:

Jill, to set the context, tell us about your career trajectory so far and about your current role in Accenture.

My name is Jill Goldstein and I lead global Talent and HR Business Process Services (BPS) for Accenture Operations.

I started my career as an accountant before quickly moving into HR, tackling the more ‘financially-oriented’ areas like compensation, benefits and payroll. Steadily broadening my experience as a HR practitioner, I eventually stepped up to lead HR for a large, multinational corporation and then joined Accenture in 2006.

Since taking on my current leadership role, in 2011, I’ve been responsible for developing and guiding the enhancement of Accenture’s talent, HR and learning business process services and delivery across the globe. I work with our clients across industries and geographies to advance their HR Operations; in many cases, leveraging Accenture’s BPS capabilities.

In addition to Accenture, I’ve worked in corporate HR and finance roles at Sara Lee, Verizon, Ford and Spherion.

I was educated at Indiana University, Bloomington, and earned an MBA from Loyola University in Chicago.

What’s your perspective on the key concerns of HR leaders in the talent management space? How are they addressing these challenges?

HR Leaders are focused on delivering talent with the skills, capabilities, and experiences required to drive their business’ strategy. Reskilling the workforce to leverage new technologies and overcome marketplace conditions, as well as attracting top talent in increasingly competitive industries are just two examples.

Several of these challenges are detailed in a report by Accenture Operations. For example, the top challenges named by the HR leaders we surveyed are increasing profitability (cited by 59%), keeping up with competitors (49%), and identifying/generating new business (49%). HR leaders looking to improve their strategic relevance are taking a new leadership stance.

Addressing many HR issues should happen on a case by case basis, of course, but we see five focus areas:

Own your role as a business executive, not just an HR executive. HR has the inside scoop into business performance and should leverage it strategically.
Blaze the customer-centric trail. As HR executives, we understand people, so it’s essential to advise our employees on blind spots.
Break things down into agile silos. Having HR experts understand all areas of business will help increase efficiency and expertise.
Advocate for reskilling and constantly work ahead of emerging technologies, while also maintaining your talent pool.
Use technology to your advantage. Data and metrics can help argue for your people and new initiatives across the business.

Learn More: 4 Ways Analytics can Improve Workforce Planning in 2019

Organizations are rapidly moving towards AI, machine learning and automation. What does it mean for the workforce? How can they adapt to these changes?

Consider, for example, how the role of the traditional bank branch teller has changed. When ATMs arrived on the scene, most thought bank branches and the need for tellers would disappear. Instead, the opposite happened. Today, there are more branches and bank tellers than there were 20 years ago. But rather than being a local, transaction-oriented service role, the teller has evolved into more of a universal bank advisor, redirecting time to handling more complex service needs and selling products and services with the help of technology. Armed with data and analytics, they are now the difference of a customer walking in and out of a branch or a customer having their needs met with a new product or service from the bank. This requires a different type of knowledge, skill, and ability to do it well.

The important point is that automation substitutes for tasks, not jobs. Organizations have two essential types of tasks: Transactional tasks and those requiring judgment and thought. Workers will see different types of automation to complement both types of work, whether that’s robotic process automation (RPA) to take some of the transactional, cut-and-dry activities or a combination of analytics and AI to support judgment and decision-making. This is where organizations need those creative, innovative thinkers who understand how to work with and apply advanced technologies to solve business problems, an evolution like the banking example mentioned previously.

With increased emphasis on innovation in the workplace, there’s constant pressure on talent to perform. Which upskilling initiatives should HR leaders invest in to help people excel?

The business world continues to change very quickly, particularly in terms of workforces, technology, customer expectations, and competition. Organizations need people who are curious, have interests and skills beyond their main area of expertise and can easily adapt and find ways to capitalize on changes for their organization.

Innovation takes different forms within and across a workplace based on an organization’s priorities and the targeted pace of change. Leading organizations must take a multi-faceted approach to secure and keep talent to keep pace with the dynamic nature of ‘needs’ and the changing talent available inside and outside of the workplace.

Organizations often find they don’t have enough creative and innovative talent on staff, so in addition to retraining employees, they’ll also have to acquire this talent from the outside, which many organizations aren’t currently equipped to do. In fact, our survey found more than half of executives believe HR talent acquisition and development is not keeping pace with the needs of the business.

What’s the answer? One route is to “borrow” the required talent from ecosystem partners who already have those skills as well as other important capabilities that an organization can use to augment its own staff. For many organizations, this is an attractive alternative to “buying” talent. But for those that do want to hire their own, the challenge becomes two-fold: 1) how to attract and hire for innovation and creativity, and 2) how to unleash the creative potential of that talent to the benefit of the enterprise. While traditional approaches to recruiting, deploying, developing, and motivating people are still relevant to traditional skills, they aren’t always compatible with the new breed of talent companies need for intelligent operations to take root.

In other words, as they seek new innovative talent, organizations should embrace total workforce management: acknowledging that workforces need to comprise a blend of many different types of workers from many different sources for organizations to achieve their business goals.

“In general, this blend must strike the right balance between agile and employed talent. While the agile workforce may provide critical skills that are in high demand, and that may be difficult to recruit and hire talent in the agile workforce are less likely to be fully invested in the organization and have the same level of commitment to it as full-time employees. As a critical part of the organization and its culture, full-time employees are better positioned to be custodians of the organization’s tribal knowledge and represent the organization’s brand in the marketplace. Importantly, this blend will necessarily be different from organization to organization, and possibly even from the workforce to the workforce. For instance, it may be more critical for core, strategic functions to be mostly or fully staffed with full-time employees, while less-core functions could benefit from a higher proportion of agile workforce talent.”


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