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Accenture to pump $3bn into AI; more employers embracing ‘Juneteenth’

In this week's HR news round-up: Accenture announces massive investment in AI technology, while more employers embrace Juneteenth as a paid holiday

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Jun 23, 2023

Accenture announces $3 billion investment in AI

Professional services consultancy, Accenture, has announced it will invest $3 billion in AI over the next three years – a move that it says will see its AI-focused staff double to 80,000. In doing so, Accenture also plans to use generative AI more in its client work and help customers increase their use of the technology. The move follows PwC announcing it would roll out training on artificial intelligence platform, ChatGPT, to its entire 65,000 workforce – also over the next three years. Accenture currently has 738,000 staff, and the move is reflective of how consultancies are grappling with AI and its potential to erode their services. At PwC the mammoth training effort is being led by both PwC’s chief people officer, Yolanda Seals-Coffield (who called it a “fundamental” need for all employees), as well as the firm’s vice chair and chief products and technology officer, Joe Atkinson. “AI’s strength is in the crafting of words and not always in the crafting of the facts,” said Atkinson. “That understanding is really important for somebody who is just experimenting with the early stages of how they can apply AI to their jobs.”

More employers embracing ‘Juneteenth’ as a paid public holiday

New data shows more employers are embracing ‘Juneteenth’ – which commemorates the end of slavery – as a paid public holiday. Around 40% of firms now treat Juneteenth as a paid holiday – up from just 9% as little as two years ago. The June 19th date was officially declared a federal holiday in 2021, after President Joe Biden signed the Juneteenth National Independence Day Act. But the holiday is now observed more widely, with most major banks now closed, and even Nasdaq and the New York Stock Exchange also not trading that day. Bank of America, Chase and Wells Fargo were all closed this Monday, while TD Bank, which remained open last Juneteenth, was also closed for the first time. On June 19, 1865, Union Army Gen. Gordon Granger told enslaved people in Galveston, Texas, that they had been liberated – nearly three years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation to end slavery in the US.

Anheuser-Busch CEO promises to protect US jobs in wake of Bud-Lite fiasco

Brendan Whitworth, Anheuser-Busch CEO of America, said he would be “investing to protect frontline workers”, in the aftermath of its disastrous link-up with trans influencer, Dylan Mulvaney. Reports suggest the divisive ad campaign, which saw Mulvaney holding cans of Bud Lite and drinking the beer while having a bubble bath, has lost the company $27 billion in value, with sales dropping 21.4% in April. Bars and venues across America are boycotting the beer following a backlash from customers. As part of the investment, Bud Light will reportedly triple its marketing spend this summer in a bid to woo customers back to the tarnished brand. The announcement by Whitworth follows Anheuser-Busch’s chief marketing officer, Marcel Marcondes, seemingly being embarrassed to pick up a ‘Creative Marketer of the Year’ gong at Cannes Lions – the ‘Oscars’ of the advertising industry – where he said the controversy was a “wake-up call” and that there was a need for marketers to “really understand our customers.” Marcondes added: “It’s tough to see the controversial and divisive debates that have been happening in the US. Bud Light is coming back. It’s going all around the country, reconnecting with consumers, moving forward. That’s what you can expect from Bud Light in the US.”

Company receptionists show no sign of dying out

What with a global pandemic, increased working from home, and Zoom/Teams calls now becoming the norm, one might expect the traditional receptionist role to be quickly dying out. But not so, according to new research by outsourced receptionist firm, Moneypenny. It finds 72% of US facilities managers it surveyed said they still have a receptionist at their office, with 83% believing they will still have one in five years’ time. Amongst those that maintain a receptionist role, they say the position has changed – with receptionists’ main task now comprising welcoming guests (50%), answering calls (48%), supporting other departments (37%), and diary management (34%). Other roles also included managing post, doing PA duties, booking rooms, and organizing lunches. But this widening of their responsibilities means, finds the research, that receptionists now have much better career advancement prospects, with 46% moving into office manager roles, and 34% even moving into HR assistant roles. Said Richard Culberson, CEO North America at Moneypenny: “Computers have taken over a lot of physical jobs, but I believe a lot of people still rely on the human aspect of work.” Amongst those that have stopped having a receptionist, 54% now say they use a ‘contactless’ tech-based check-in solution for visitors.

The Great Resignation continues, as workers seek better pay…

Hopes that employees might be sitting tight, and riding out the cooling economy, appear to be dashed, with consultancy PwC finding a quarter of workers it has surveyed claim they’re expecting to change jobs in the next 12 months. This figure is actually up from the 19% that said the same thing last year. What’s driving it is a search for better pay, and to offset recent rises in the cost of living. “With the ongoing economic uncertainty, we see a global workforce that wants more pay and more meaning from their work,” said Bhushan Sethi, joint global leader of PwC’s people & organization practice. Its ‘2023 Hopes and Fears Global Workforce Survey’ found 46% of households were struggling to pay bills every month, or could not pay bills ‘most of the time’. Even amongst those who are planning to stay put, 42% said they were planning to demand pay rises.

…while those working for top firms saw their pay increase massively

While average Americans quest for better pay, employees working for S&P 500 firms saw bumper pay rises, according to analysis by the Wall Street Journal. It found that for 278 of the 500 top firms, compensation for the median worker was higher in 2022 than in 2021. It revealed that 100 of the top 500 companies awarded staff pay rises greater than 10%, while slightly more than one-third of the companies analyzed were revealed to pay their median worker at least $100,000. Vici Properties, a real estate investment trust specializing in casinos and hotels, had the highest-paid median worker, earning nearly $415,000 annually, although that figure was based on only 22 employees. Meta Platforms, Facebook’s parent company, had the second-highest-paid median worker, earning nearly $300,000 pa. The median Alphabet worker earned $280,000 per year – although this was actually a drop of 5%. In 2022, energy companies, which experienced significant shareholder gains in the S&P 500, made up five of the top 20 companies with the highest-paid median workers.

Restaurant fined for using fake priest to extract workers’ ‘sins’

A restaurant-chain owner in California has been ordered to pay $140,000 in back wages and damages to 35 employees across two of its sites after being found to have hired a fake priest to extract workers’ confessions. In a case which federal investigators have dubbed one of the most “shameless” acts of corruption, restaurant owner Taqueria Garibaldi was found to have hired someone masquerading as a priest to ask staff if they had ever been late for work, or stolen money from the tills, or had “bad intentions” towards their employer. Investigators also found the restaurant had denied employees overtime pay, managers were paid bonuses from the employee tip pool, while some employees faced “adverse immigration consequences” for cooperating with investigators. “This employer’s despicable attempts to retaliate against employees were intended to silence workers, obstruct an investigation and prevent the recovery of unpaid wages,” said regional solicitor of Labor, Marc Pilotin.

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