Inclusive work experience at KPMG

Inclusive work experience at KPMG

KPMG's head of student recruitment explains why social mobility will only be achieved if businesses take action; it's not enough just to make the claim

Corporate responsibility (CR) should be apparent throughout all organisations. If companies can work with local communities, develop and protect the environment as well as deepen their relationships with both their customer and employees, they should make every step possible to do so.

KPMG have recently rolled out their ‘one +1’ work experience scheme, where they allow employees to take on work experience students through the traditional routes and for every candidate placed, they work with the Social Mobility Foundation to match a student from a low socio-economic background and offer them the same quality work experience opportunity. As a new initiative, and part of their CR outreach, we wanted to find out more about the programme and spoke with Charlotte Carter, Head of Student Recruitment at KPMG to explain further.

Charlotte, what is ‘one +1’ work experience?

Last year we began working with the Social Mobility Foundation (SMF) on their ‘one +1’ programme and piloted the scheme within our organisation. This programme ensures that students from lower socio-economic backgrounds, who may have less access to professional networks, can gain quality work experience in a professional services firm.

KPMG currently has an ad hoc work experience policy, people within our business can request that personal contacts can come and spend 2 weeks with the business. This year across a period over the summer we’ll be looking to match these personal contacts with a ‘+1’ through the SMF, therefore the employee will be hosting two people with exactly the same work experience opportunity and SMF will source the ‘+1’s’ from their communities across the UK.

The programme will take place across the UK and we are aiming to get 85 matched students over the summer period which runs from mid to end of June to mid-September to coincide with university and school holidays, as this is when we receive most of our requests. The majority of placements will be in London, however the SMF have a community throughout the UK and we have numerous locations hosting this scheme including Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Glasgow.

Why did it launch in the first place?

Social mobility is at the heart of everything we do at KPMG, it’s very important to us and one of our corporate priorities is to widen access into our profession, we can’t make that claim and just expect it to happen, we have to take action to make it happen. We are a large employer and we can influence our local community and therefore, given we’ve got that influence, we should be acting on it.

We trialled it last year, had a fantastic response from both the internal host and the candidates themselves. Our Inclusive Leadership Board then signed off on expanding the programme this year and who knows where it’ll go from here.

What is your personal involvement in the scheme?

I’m Head of KPMG’s Student Recruitment for the UK, and the student recruitment team will be running the programme this summer. Our UK Head of People, Anna Purchas, is sponsoring the programme but essentially, it’ll be the student recruitment team that deliver the programme, and we’re in a great place because we work with students all the time.

“Social mobility is at the heart of everything we do at KPMG, it’s very important to us, and one of our corporate priorities is to widen access into our profession. We can’t make that claim and then just expect it to happen, we have to take action to make it happen”

We can feed into our pipeline for future programmes any opportunities which may be of interest to candidates as they finish their school/university studies, and we intend to keep in touch to ensure we are top of their minds when they consider their career post education.

What are the key challenges that you face while rolling this out?

In an organisation our size, the key challenge is around communicating the huge benefits of the programme both to the firm, to the host, and then to the candidates themselves. In an organisation of 15,000 employees it’s quite difficult to get this passionate message across in a way that resonates with everyone.

“We are working on a guide detailing what quality work experience means.”

We’ve worked hard with our internal communications team to make sure that we have a focused communications plan in place to ensure we get the message out to all the right people. We had a partner conference last month and it was one of the first things that Anna Purchas shared with our whole UK partner community. It’s was also in all the communications materials that went out to them post conference, which very much focused on inclusion within our firm. Having that tone at the top is something that is vitally important to us as a firm, and really helps when cascading information throughout the organisation.

It’s difficult to know what challenges we’ll face when going from a pilot to the full roll-out, I’d like to anticipate that there won’t be any huge obstacles, but who knows.  One of the things we are going to do is ensure that everyone receives ‘quality’ work experience, and ensuring consistent quality is probably our biggest challenge.

We are working on a guide detailing what quality work experience means, this sets out expectations around the tasks they should expect to do, the meetings they should be having, and the training and recruitment practises they could be undertaking while they are with us, which will hopefully ensure a consistent and quality experience across the board.

Will this work experience open a door for them later in life to come back to KPMG?

The way that we assess candidates is by using a balanced scorecard, we ensure that we are not just looking at someone’s academic background. We also look at their performance in our online tests and any work experience they have. Where a candidate falls slightly short in one area, they might perform excellently in another area which allows it to balance out. This then secures a much more diverse candidate pool coming through our pipeline.

If they come in and spend some time with us during work experience, then that will give them a higher score on their balanced score card. In terms of future employment prospects, I’d like to think that spending a week or two with us gives them things they can talk about and add to their CV which helps demonstrate their career motivation for any professional services roles they might go on to.

It also gives them scenarios to talk about in future interviews; they will be meeting and working with new people, developing their commercial awareness – all behaviours that we look for in our future hires. Equally coming into a large office and having to navigate through unknown situations will help the individual build confidence.

Will each of these candidates have a mentor? How do you envision managing them?

The student recruitment team will be taking overall responsibility for them, speaking to them beforehand and giving them materials so they know what to expect before they join us. We’ll give them ‘passports’ that they fill in everyday, detailing who they’ve met and what they’ve done, this helps to ensure they have a record of what they have done to draw upon in the future. They will be managed directly by their host, and will also start to develop their networks across the team they are placed in. If they do want to have an informal mentor or there is someone that they’ve clicked with, they can do that on an informal basis.

How many candidates take part?

We are looking to match 85 over the same period. They won’t be joining in bulk, they’ll join over an eight-week period at different times. They’ll be joining five, or six at a time – which means that they’ll always have a cohort that they are joining with which is great for them in terms of keeping in touch over the period, and subsequently creating a network for themselves.

 

Emily Sexton-Brown is the editor of HRD Connect.

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