Jill Smart – Chief Human Resources Officer, Accenture

Chief Human Resources Officer, Accenture

By Muriel Vega

As the chief human resources officer, Jill Smart leads a global team of more than 4,000 Human Resources professionals. “My responsibility extends through the entire employee life cycle – including recruiting, capability development, talent management and compensation,” she says about her senior management position in Accenture‘s Executive Leadership Team.

But Smart is also a cancer survivor. In 2005, after an inaccurate diagnosis of vitamin deficiency, doctors diagnosed her with leukemia. She continued working through the illness and chemotherapy with the help of supportive co-workers and her family, her husband and two kids. She tried not to let the illness disrupt her work and life. Now in remission, Smart has reduced junk food in favor of running and fruits and vegetables.

Here, she talks to PINK about her success secret, how she motivates each team member differently – and how she balanced cancer with a big corporate job.

PINK: Where are the jobs in today’s economy?
Technology is a key driver of jobs today and we are looking for people with good skills in Oracle, SAP, Java and Smartgrid.  We base our recruitment on client demand and are looking to hire 50,000 people globally by the end of our fiscal year, in August 2010.  Accenture, like many other top employers, looks at a candidate’s grades, work experience, examples of working in teams and collaborating as well as demonstrating leadership.

PINK: How are you going to hire 50,000 by the end of the current fiscal year?
We are actively recruiting and using our employee and alumni network as well as social media to hire many of the people we need to meet client demand.  Employee referrals are our best source of people.  We are very active in social media and expect to find approximately 40 percent of these new joiners through social media sites like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter.

PINK: How do you keep communication open with employees around the world?
We use technology in most everything we do.  I can as easily communicate with my colleagues around the world as I do with those around the country.  I personally use lots of channels to communicate.  For instance, I may do ‘town hall’ calls with various teams or attend a team’s call to share an update on a certain area or take questions from employees.

In addition, we have more than 50 Telepresence sites we use with colleagues and clients. It’s a very realistic videoconferencing system.  From its implementation through the end of our FY09, Telepresence has helped us avoid approximately 6000 metric tons of carbon dioxide.  We also implemented an Office Communicator system with instant messaging and desktop sharing capabilities.

As I travel I make time to meet with colleagues, participate in meetings. The combination of communication methods is key to being useful and successful.

PINK: What’s your success secret?
Hard work, being willing to take on assignments that were not in my plan, asking for help and feedback and having mentors who looked out for me.  And, of course, a super support system.

PINK: What would you say to another woman going through cancer and balancing the disease with work?
Learn all you can about your disease, treatments, side effects, prognosis, etc.  Take control of the disease and your treatment.  No one will look out for you better than you.  When I retire, I would like to help others feel better; cancer patients or maybe elderly women.

PINK: What is the best business advice you’ve received?
Ask for help, early and often…I have translated this to “you don’t get what you don’t ask for.”

PINK: Describe your leadership style. How do you connect with your employees?
I strive to be frank and honest. When there’s a problem in my area, I own up to it. When there is nervousness regarding a change initiative, I speak candidly about what it means to our people. And when I field questions, no topic is off limits. I’ll tell you outright if I don’t know the answer, or can’t share it for some reason. But one pet peeve I do have is whiners.

PINK: What are your best balance tips?
Outsource all you can at home and at work, especially those activities that provide no value to you or your family (i.e. vacuuming, shoveling and cutting the lawn).

PINK: What do you do to relax?
Exercise, and spending time with my kids. We have a small place on a lake and it totally changes me… sitting with a campfire behind me and the lake in front of me.  One personal goal I have is to learn to relax better and more often.

PINK: As a longtime recreational runner, why is important for women to find the time to exercise?
Exercise gives you energy and it eliminates jet lag. It gives me time to be alone and think and keeps me healthy. But, most importantly, allows me to eat pizza whenever I want.

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