KPMG celebrates two years as a Disability Confident Leader

KPMG celebrates two years as a Disability Confident Leader

KPMG assesses the benefits and what the company has learned in two years of its inclusion programme

The accounting sector might not be renowned for its diversity and inclusion when compared to some industries, but some are working hard to change that.

Today (November 2) marks the second anniversary of the Department of Work and Pensions scheme Disability Confident. KPMG has acted as a Disability Confident Leader during that time, one of 13 firms chosen to spearhead the government initiative, which helps companies recruit and retain people with disabilities and health conditions.

“We are all learning from each other,” said KPMG partner and non-executive board member Tony Cates.

The firms involved meet regularly to share best practice and swap ideas. In some cases, this has led directly to new approaches or projects at KPMG.

New ways of working

In May, the company produced a report entitled Leading From the Front: Disability and the Role of the Board, which was the first time the topic had been approached at board level.

The report examined not only the issue of representation at the highest level, but ways in which disability affects employees, consumers, stakeholders and suppliers. It arose out of a collaboration with disability organisation Purple.

On another occasion, KPMG collaborated with the organisation Auticon, an IT and compliance consultancy which only works with people on the autism spectrum. Together the two companies have developed a pilot scheme aiming to recruit people on the autism spectrum for their audit tech team.

Cates said that while many of the right policies and processes were already in place, from accessible offices to HR policies, that message was not necessarily filtering down to employees and line managers.

“Line managers and people with disabilities were not always aware of what was there,” he said. In some cases, managers might feel awkward broaching the subject with their employees, who in turn needed to feel confident about asking for extra support if necessary.

Benefits to business

A lot of companies might be aware that adapting to the needs of people with disabilities is the right thing to do, but it might not be so obvious to them they can benefit too, Cates said.

“It means we can cast the biggest net when it comes to recruiting people. When people look for a job, they think, ‘will I fit in in this organisation? Would they be happy to make adjustments to accommodate my disability?’”

Being able to pick from a wider pool of talent in the first place benefits the organisation – as does being able to hold on to capable individuals if something happens to them which changes their situation.

A changing culture

An important part of the Disability Confident scheme is creating the kind of culture where people feel confident they can approach their manager if they need support.

This is especially critical for those invisible disabilities. “It’s about making sure that person is confident enough to tell you if there is an issue and they need help. In a macho culture where people might see that as some sort of weakness, that isn’t going to happen,” Cates said.

Mark Russell, an advisor to KPMG’s Inclusion, Diversity and Social Equality group, knows the importance of this first hand.

“I’m registered blind, and though I can get around, the reality is I can’t see much at all. Five or six years ago, I would hide it, but now I’m confident enough to talk about it.

“I might work in a slightly different way, using certain software, or I might record the minutes of a meeting and listen to them later. It’s important to have an open, honest environment where people can talk to their line management and concentrate on the skills they have too – it’s about changing the perspective on disability, to make it more positive.”

Another practice the firm has taken up is to be more inclusive on questionnaires to staff, as some people might not even recognise their condition as a disability.

“We try to broaden the definition [of disability] so it doesn’t sound so narrow, and list conditions themselves so people can understand it easily,” Mark said.

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