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KPMG is closing the UK’s productivity gap through diversity

Both internally and externally, KPMG is taking action to level the playing field and get more women working in the tech sector.
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KPMG has, like many other businesses, recognised the need to re-evaluate the progression opportunities available within its organisation.

The firm’s progress has seen it join a group of forward-thinking businesses on our 2017 First Women Business of the Year Award shortlist. Ahead of a popular vote by readers, we discovered more about its approach to gender diversity.

The firm’s history in addressing its diversity and inclusion challenges has been well documented over the years, and four years ago it published stretch targets for gender, sexuality, race and disability.

Melanie Richards, KPMG vice-chair and board-level diversity champion, told First Women that the company took the step believing that improving inclusion and promoting transparency are the routes toward progress.

“In truth, we’re still frustrated by the speed of progress, but it’s moved the conversation on inside the organisation,” Richards says. “Introducing our diversity targets has created a real culture change within the firm however we know there is still a way to go.”

Target setting has been critical, as KPMG focused on implementing diversity and female-specific interventions in the areas of recruitment, promotion and retention.

For example, after reviewing its graduate recruitment processes KPMG introduced Launch Pad in 2016, to ensure they attracted the best talent into the firm.

The programme has played a crucial role in widening the diversity of its talent pool, with graduate recruitment now almost at a 50-50 gender balance.

Between 2015 and 2016, KPMG launched GROW, a leadership development initiative –sponsored by Richards – which identifies the barriers facing under-represented groups, including women, and uses training and internal programmes to break them down.

The nine-month initiative includes a mix of workshops, group coaching and action learning sessions, in addition to psychometric personality testing and networking. It has resulted in 15% of GROW delegates receiving promotion in 2016.

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Last year KPMG also successfully piloted a 12-week internship programme in the management consulting and tax practices for returners who had been out of the workplace for 18 months.

The number of female partners, directors and senior managers currently stand at 16, 26 and 40% respectively, and the firm is looking to increase the figures to 25, 36 and 46% by 2018.

Achieving long-term change will depend not only on the success of its recruitment and promotion strategies, but also on retaining its talent.

“When women go on maternity leave, particularly if they take a full year, they can experience loss of confidence and a sense of dislocation in the workplace so we try to mitigate that,” Richards states.

“We coach people as they go on maternity leave, remain in contact with them while they are away so they are kept in the loop, and support them when they come back in to office.

Employees also have the option to visit the office for ‘KIT’ days to keep up to date with their colleagues and teams while on maternity leave.  They are compensated for the days they attend.

“We’ve also had extensive agile working policies in place for many years and we accept more than 90% of applications for flexible working.”

Both internally and externally, KPMG is taking action to level the playing field and get more women working in the tech sector.

In March, the group launched the IT’s Her Future initiative to encourage more females to consider careers in tech, and it participates in cross-industry initiatives working with the likes of Vodafone on their returner programmes.

Year-on-year progress has been made possible because of strong buy-in at leadership level, Richards says.  The firm plans to introduce a new programme of unconscious bias training, Beliefs, Biases and Behaviours, for people leaders this year.

“Our chairman was one of the founding members of the 30% Club ­initiative to increase the number of women on boards. We also created Connect on Board, which is a platform for candidates and businesses to work together to build more diverse boards.”

Richards says: “From a country-wide perspective, productivity in the UK is not where it should be and in the government’s industrial strategy, it’s a core area of focus. We should be utilising all the talent we have available; if we are not using talented women, we are missing an opportunity to close the productivity gap.

“We have a very demanding client base who are looking for fresh ideas, thinking and innovation. Clients are increasingly looking for us to mirror their own population and society at large, and improving the diversity of our own workforce is critical.”

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About Author

Dara Jegede is the editor of First Women, a platform for female entrepreneurs and senior-level professional women. Created by Real Business in 2005 to bring together women in business, the network engages through a series of First Women events, including the awards and an annual summit.

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