Accent HR - Tailoring HR practices to your cultural context and ambitions.
Can you share about yourself and your team who is the pillar of your company?
I have gained extensive cultural and technical HR insights from working across Europe and APAC for over 15 years. As a globally experienced HR Director and AHRI Fellow, I have often dealt with the full range of HR challenges: poorly performing teams, conflict between staff, frustrated managers, big ambitious transformation initiatives that fall short of the expected result, and so much more. My observation from this experience is that a large proportion of people, process, system and performance related issues in the workplace come from cultural misunderstandings. This is the problem that I specialize in resolving with Accent HR.
The team that I work with all have a few traits in common: they are curious, they are adaptable and they are great listeners. I carefully select teams to work with, not based on their aura in the market, their seniority level or their presentation. I focus on who they are as a person, what drives them and what that tells me about the skills they have developed (in or outside of work). It has been a joy to work alongside them and grow with them.
Being an innovative leader in the industry, how did you face your initial struggles to achieve this position in business?
Every business and their founder have to face initial struggles. I had two main challenges to face when I started.
The first challenge was articulating in business terms, what I knew in my experience to be true: cultural nuances impact the way you work, design a process, resolve a problem, design new tech etc. It meant that I was getting a lot of blank looks when explaining what I do.
Second, I was going to conferences and networking events which were not the most effective way of getting leads for Accent HR.
Everything got a lot easier once I addressed these 2 issues. The fundamental idea and service Accent HR is offering hasn’t changed, I simply learnt to pitch it better and to the right people.
In your experience, what are the mistakes made by budding entrepreneurs, and how should they overcome them? What are the benchmark rules they should follow to be successful in their careers as business leader?
Before business opportunities come flowing through the gates, it is hard to remain true to what you want to do. Budding entrepreneurs are talented people and many companies want to benefit from those skills in a way that suits them. If that’s what you want too then great, go for it. But if you are choosing that out of fear of failure in your own enterprise I would say persevere. A good idea is worth exploring to its fullest, especially if it’s really innovative.
Having said that good ideas need to come with sustainable business models and that’s where listening to the market is crucial. Real effort needs to be put into seeking feedback on how the idea is executed. This means that you have to be prepared to constantly tweak and improve. Learning how to do that is a key component of whether a business will thrive or fail. Continuous improvement and quality are essential.
AI is an emerging technology; how do you see it, and how is it going to help your industry?
I see AI as an amazing opportunity to get more technically efficient and avoid human errors. For example, I can easily imagine me using it to create content, videos, training modules in a way that can easily be tweaked and adapted to fit our purposes.
Having said that I am nervous about our biases being amplified by AI. Imagine a single mom from an underrepresented ethnicity in your country applying for a job.
How likely are they to get the job now? How likely are they to get the job in a future where decisions are automated through AI?
Unless carefully designed, AI solutions will automatically screen her out because she doesn’t ‘look’ like past successful applicants. This already happens when humans do the selection, the scary part is the scale that AI will give this tendency that we have to hire people who look, live and are educated like us. Equally AI will be (and already is) playing a role in how different communities are perceived in the way questions about them are answered. For example, how a particular historical figure is described will typically differ depending on which community you ask. Having a variety of perspectives is worth preserving and AI has a role to play in reflecting this richness of cultural perception and knowledge. The current tendency is to answer with very simple statements which inevitably reflect the overrepresented groups in that country.
This is why professionals who are working on AI solutions have a duty to educate themselves on cultural differences, DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) and proactively seek input from people who can advise on how to make their AI less biased. I believe that there is a huge opportunity to be innovative in how AI learns from and reflects the wealth of histories, perspectives and experiences of people globally.
What are the industries that your company currently caters to, and what are the future pipeline industries you’re focusing on for your company’s growth?
AccentHR is industry agnostic. We don’t target or prefer any industry. We can help you if you meet one or all of the below:
- you have employees with culturally diverse backgrounds and you want to get better at benefiting from their experiences.
- you want to improve the cultural diversity you have
- you want to take into account different cultural perspectives in your products, services or sales approach
- you want to grow in a particular market which is culturally unfamiliar
This will continue to be the focus for Accent HR going forward.
What was the turning point that made you realize your leadership qualities, and how did you find that this industry would be your expertise?
I have always been fascinated by other cultures. I was born and raised in a mono-cultural family but they instilled in me curiosity particularly in how other people see the world. I remember at 20 saying that I wanted to work cross-cultures and I was adamant that I was not going to work in France, where I’m from. I was very fortunate to have supportive friends and family who enabled me to explore life in different countries. I also came across amazing and experienced managers who knew exactly how to push me and teach me skills that still serve me now. Gradually I learnt by experience how cultural differences can sink a project/ organization or can give it a competitive advantage.
I developed my leadership skills by holding senior HR positions in global organizations. This also made the challenge of managing cross-cultures very real and equally exciting. Since good leaders behave differently across cultures, I learnt to adapt and adopt different styles depending on who I was speaking to and where I was. It became second nature. I would say that’s my super power.
During the COVID years, like many others, I reassessed where I was in my life and I realized that I was at a point where I had enough experience and confidence to open my company and most importantly to focus on my passion for cross-cultural challenges in organizations. And this is how Accent HR was born.
How does your company analyze and advise your clients in growing their businesses?
It has been proven over and over that diversity brings more innovation, more profit, more growth. This is only true if team members are equipped with skills to effectively work across cultures. This is exactly what Accent HR does.
Accent HR uses data insights to ensure that all processes, policies and systems are optimized for cultural diversity. Accent HR also develops the longer term capability of managers and leadership teams to effectively work cross- cultures whether domestically or internationally.
Accent HR also supports organizations growing through M&A. 30% of deals fail to meet the financial targets and 67% take longer to realize the synergies planned, due to cultural differences (Mercer report, The Culture risk in M&A). This why Accent HR develops cultural understanding and adaptation in organizations going through M&A.
Accent HR supports the growth of companies by ensuring that cultural diversity is the strength of the organization rather than the obstacle. Cultural diversity can be domestic or global, in both instances your organization needs to learn to leverage it.
“Continuous improvement and quality are essentials”
“Honesty is the only way forward “