Skip to Main Content

On Nov. 16, Julie Sweet, Chair and CEO of Accenture, talked with Margaret M. Mueller, President and CEO of the Executives’ Club of Chicago.

Sweet discussed the challenges of managing a global professional services company and how success requires focusing on the personal and professional growth of every employee. Sweet said mentorship and apprenticeship programs are crucial to helping companies identify and nurture exceptional talent from diverse backgrounds.

Sweet and Mueller underscored the importance of efforts such as the Chicago Apprentice Network, which includes 73 companies and more than 1,200 apprentices. To kick off the conversation, Sweet was introduced by Accenture employee Del Walker, a graduate of Accenture’s apprenticeship program.

“I hope everyone watching will be asking themselves, ‘How can I find Dels, and how can I invest and expand apprenticeship programs. …We are really devoted to finding the very best talent every place that we can.”

-Julie Sweet, Chair and CEO, Accenture

Sweet said Accenture needs to recruit aggressively to reach its overall diversity goals. The firm’s workforce was 36% female in 2015. It is 46% female today, and Sweet expects to reach 50-50 in 2025.

“We said we need to double down on diversity because we would not become innovation-led and move from a culture of fast following unless we were more diverse, broadly speaking. And so it became … a business strategy.”

-Julie Sweet, Chair and CEO, Accenture

Sweet, a law school graduate, grew up in Tustin, California. Her father worked in an auto body shop and her mother graduated from college as an adult. This meant Sweet had a limited perspective on careers. A professor offered to help navigate the transition to law school.

“I remember (the professor) asking me: ‘Julie, have you ever met a lawyer?’ Because he knew my background. My answer was ‘No.’ So he arranged for me to meet with a lawyer. …It does underscore the importance that we can all play in helping people who don’t have the access.”

-Julie Sweet, Chair and CEO, Accenture

Accenture has 624,000 employees, having hired 54,000 people last quarter entirely virtually. To grow rapidly and meet client needs, Sweet said Accenture needs a strong leadership culture.

“We have eight leadership essentials. …My favorite one is ‘lead with excellence, confidence and humility.’ The reason that’s important is people who have humility are learners. They know what they know, and don’t know. They’re constantly learning. Leaders with humility build teams. They don’t think they do it themselves. And they naturally collaborate.”

-Julie Sweet, Chair and CEO, Accenture

Accenture transformed its hiring practices during the pandemic to reflect the reality of remote work and a society that integrates both the physical and digital worlds. She used the term ‘phy-gital’ (a portmanteau of physical and digital) to emphasize the need to adapt. Accenture delivers a welcome box of company swag to new recruits so they can redecorate their home offices and create a physical connection to Accenture.

“This is one example of what I think needs to be a shift in thinking from spaces and places and different channels and technology to connections. When you think about the trend in retail and consumer goods, we are also seeing leading companies shift from a thinking of ‘omni-channel’ — I need to do my digital channel, I need to do my physical channel — to ‘omni-connection’. Because post-pandemic, what we’re seeing is people are continuing to buy digital even as they return to stores.”

-Julie Sweet, Chair and CEO, Accenture

Accenture is also moving into a new Chicago office. Sweet told Mueller it’s important to give employees valid reasons to spend time in the office. Otherwise why not let everyone work remotely full time?

“We need to ‘earn their commute.’ That’s the phrase. When we are designing that new office space we’re thinking about ‘What are the experiences our people need to have so they feel like it was valuable to go into the office?’ …Most of the time when people are coming into the office it will be around connections. It will be around innovation. And it’ll be about learning, mentorship.”

-Julie Sweet, Chair and CEO, Accenture

Ready for more?

Recordings of select events are now available to view on demand.

Watch Past Events

See What Else Is Happening

Browse All Our Upcoming Events And Keep Learning, Growing, And Connecting