In February, KPMG faced backlash after its former chairman, Bill Michael, rejected the concept of unconscious bias training calling it “utter crap.” Since then, the global accounting firm has begun developing a new strategy to tackle socio-economic inequalities in its workplace.
As part of this, KPMG has announced a plan to increase the number of working-class partners and directors to 29% by 2030. This would mark a significant increase from the current amount of working-class employees at the company, which makes up 23% (582) of partners and 20% (1,297) of directors.
Alongside this initiative, KPMG intends to deliver “invisible barriers” training to its 16,000 members of staff in the UK. The goal is to highlight the difficulties those from lower socio-economic backgrounds face in the workplace.
The company defines working-class people as those who had parents with “routine and manual” jobs.
According to the Social Mobility Commission, those in the UK who are from a privileged background are 60% more likely to be in a professional job.
Speaking about the new plans, Bina Mehta, chairwoman of KPMG, said: “I’m a passionate believer that greater diversity improves business performance. Diversity brings fresh thinking and different perspectives to decision-making, which in turn delivers better outcomes for our clients.”
Working-Class hires and HR
Daniel Callaghan, CEO and founder of global background checking and applicant screening platform Veremark, tells UNLEASH about the practices that would need to be introduced in KPMG to make the new goal a success.
Callaghan notes: “Data shows people born to working-class parents are less likely to have university degrees, so KPMG will need to find other ways to attract candidates, rather than dwelling on academic achievements.”
He says that “making personality tests – such as psychometric tests which can help HR assess a candidate’s logical, analytical and problem-solving ability – part of the hiring process would help it to find the right people for specific roles.”
Additionally, Callaghan states: “As well as offering apprenticeships, it could also consider doing what Google has done since it relaxed its mandatory degree from a top university requirement, which is to design and offer its own training courses. These could be made available to existing employees who wish to pursue leadership roles, as well as to new recruits.”
Yetunde Hofmann, former FTSE 25 Global HR Director and founder of the pioneering leadership program for black women Solaris, explains to UNLEASH that the progress of employees within the company is essential. Hofmann notes that she would track “the number of black employees progressing through to partnership [or] managing director – the number and the pace by which they are progressing.”
Hofmann also states that KPMG can “examine the number of people progressing from apprentice status upwards; fresh graduate trainees with backgrounds from the state; home addresses (and for how long) of their graduates and the extent to which employees at different levels are the proud “firsts” in their families to go to university and with regards to their supply chain, they could look to examine the diversity of their suppliers and business partners and how many overtime are businesses owned by women and in particular women of color.”
While this is a landmark commitment from KPMG in the UK, Hofmann tells UNLEASH that hiring more people from varied socio-economic backgrounds could be achieved globally, ” [the measures] can be introduced globally – although there are nuances. The challenges in the USA are slightly different to that of the UK and other parts of Europe for example. The key is to keep the measure generic and applicable to the local context.”