One on One with Accenture's Stephen Rohleder

Stephen RohlederAccenture has appointed Stephen Rohleder to lead its North America business, the firm’s largest market. A 33-year veteran of the firm, Rohleder served as Accenture’s COO from 2004-2009 and most recently was group CEO of the company’s Health & Public Service operating group. Rohleder says in his new role, growth is the first order of business, and he plans on leveraging the firm’s talent acquisition strategy to help pave the way (the already-huge firm plans on hiring more than 5,000 people this year alone).
Consulting sat down with Rohleder to talk growth opportunities, talent strategy and how the firm plans on grooming the next generation of consultants.

Consulting: What has been keeping you busiest so far in your new role as North America group chief and what’s been keeping you awake nights?

Rohleder: With more than 30 years at Accenture, I feel as though this place is a second home. That’s why I am proud to be leading our North America business. It’s an exciting time for our industry and for our company. During my first few months in the new job, I spent a good part of the time meeting with our clients and our people, connecting one-on-one with members of our North America Leadership Team and reviewing our business operations. We are doing amazing, innovative work for our clients in North America—and every decision we make will focus on serving our clients, taking care of our people and building a stronger business for the future.

Consulting: What are some of your priorities going to be in the first 6 to 12 months? Beyond that?

Rohleder: My primary focus will be on continued growth. The U.S. is Accenture’s largest market, and so we are focused on helping our clients seize opportunities with creativity and innovation. One of the things that makes us unique is that we provide deep industry expertise and focus on developing client solutions that encompass everything from strategy to design to execution. Our talent strategy is key to our success. In the U.S., we will hire more than 5,000 people this year—highly motivated and talented individuals with well-developed skills. So to attract, develop and keep the best people, it’s critical that we offer unbeatable career opportunities. Our people typically have the ability to communicate with others at all levels and a passion for working on teams. They can create real value, are good business operators, have good management skills and have the potential to become leaders.

Consulting: What are some of the biggest North America growth opportunities you see for Accenture? How do you plan on capitalizing on them?

Rohleder: In North America—and the U.S. in particular—conditions are favorable for driving growth and gaining market share, and we are investing aggressively to continue capturing those opportunities. Some of our investments are in priority industries, such as banking and mortgage processing specifically, as well as insurance, health care and life sciences. We’ve made acquisitions in the U.S. in each of those sectors over the past few years to help drive our growth. We are also investing globally in our technology capabilities, especially in digital—and North America is a natural focus. In areas like social media, mobility, analytics, digital marketing and the cloud, both the creators of the technology and many of the early adopters are here. So we have focused a lot of our digital investment in North America—again including a number of recent acquisitions. We have clearly benefited from our investments, which contributed to our high single-digit revenue growth in the U.S. in the latest quarter.

Consulting: What are some of the biggest pain points facing clients these days?

Rohleder: Our clients operate in an increasingly complex and fast-paced marketplace. Change is a constant—and our job is to help clients to navigate it successfully. I find change to be exciting… change represents opportunity, so organizations can get where they need to be. For example, digital technologies are fundamentally changing the way organizations operate—from how they interact—from how they interact with their customers, citizens or patients to how they grow their business and expand their footprint with smarter versions of products and services. We created Accenture Digital to integrate and further expand our extensive capabilities to help clients unleash the power of digital technologies to transform their businesses.

Consulting: What are some creative ways organizations will need to secure the necessary talent in the future as the supply dries up? Will there be enough talent coming in behind the retiring Boomers to fill the void?

Rohleder: There are a number of ways to secure the necessary talent, such as collecting comprehensive analytics on the supply and demand of talent (including an inventory of open positions) and giving job seekers real-time access to that insight. Another is for organizations to ensure that they have a diverse workforce across all operations. For decades, businesses could take talent for granted, and the US economy produced sustained growth in our standard of living, allowing each generation to be better off than the one before. But, according to recent Accenture research, talent will be a scarce resource in the future. I recently spoke at the National Governors Association meeting about this topic and focused on how strategies that worked in the past will not work in the future.

Our analysis shows that by 2030, our standard of living will revert to the level it was in 2000. In other words, the standard of living for the next generation could decline to what it was for the last generation. And, unfortunately, we’re headed that way because of trends we’re seeing in three areas: population, participation and productivity. But, working with governments and public service agencies, we have the opportunity to better match the skills and competencies of the 21st century workforce with the increasingly complex and specialized needs of today’s workplace.