Q&A: KPMG UK on its Stonewall-approved D&I strategy

Q&A: KPMG UK on its Stonewall-approved D&I strategy

Jenny Baskerville, KPMG’s UK head of IDE, outlines the strategy that’s helped the firm beat the odds

Q&A: KPMG UK on its Stonewall-approved D&I strategy

While a greater understanding of diversity and inclusion appears to have entered the public consciousness in recent years, the workplace can often tell a different story.

According to eminent LGBTQ rights charity Stonewall, more than a third of staff have deliberately hidden their sexuality at work for fear of discrimination.

In aid of this, the foundation produces a yearly Workplace Equality Index, recognising what it deems to be the UK’s top-100 LGBTQ employers.

In February this year, Stonewall released its 18th edition of the index – for the eighth time running, it featured Big Four accounting firm KPMG.

In an interview with Accountancy Age, the firm outlined how its four-pillar inclusion, diversity and equity (IDE) strategy and its award-winning LGBTQ network are responsible for this accolade.

Talent – from acquisition to development and progression

In early 2022, KPMG refreshed its 2030 targets for IDE, settling on a goal of 6% LGBTQ representation – an increase of two percentage points.

Talent strategy sits at the heart of this, and according to Jenny Baskerville, KPMG’s UK head of IDE, the firm has sharpened its focus on acquisition by ramping up activity in the student recruitment space.

“We’ve been really thinking about how we can be out in the market and talking to prospective individuals and hoping to attract talent that way,” she says.

As part of this initiative, KPMG has developed close ties to AuthentiCity, a careers event exclusively for students among the LGBTQ community. Similarly, the firm has also begun to partner with UK universities to create a pathway into the firm for graduates.

This has, according to data gathered in 2022, culminated in LGBTQ representation among graduates and apprentice joiners reaching 5% – up from 4% in 2021.

Baskerville equally stresses the importance of talent management efforts at KPMG, making reference to GROW, the firm’s award-winning professional development network.

The programme is designed to support typically underrepresented groups at middle-management grades, taking stock of varying strengths and progressing individuals through the promotion pipeline.

This takes place through a range of workshops, group coaching and action learning sessions, in which candidates can build skills, confidence and techniques for stakeholder management.

“It’s about helping them establish what kind of leader they want to be and think about what impact they might have within the business,” Baskerville says.

On the talent development side, the firm has created a series of learning offerings with equal representation in mind. Most notably, in 2022, ID learning was rolled out across the organisation for the first time.

Baskerville calls this initiative an “important milestone” and a “real game-changer”, stressing the significance of the entire workforce going through the same process and receiving the same information.

Leadership & culture

Ultimately, as with any organisation, KPMG UK’s approach to diversity and inclusion is defined by how it is adopted and embraced by those at the top. With this in mind, Baskerville argues that leadership and culture are critical to the firm’s IDE strategy.

She goes on to attribute much of the firm’s success in this area to its internal LGBTQ network, Breathe, which celebrated its 20th anniversary last year.

“The network drives a huge amount of that leadership and culture work. They’re imperative to bringing a sense of a belonging for our colleagues.”

In practice, this is primarily achieved through initiatives such as learning programmes, community outreach, intersectional events and client partnerships.

For instance, Breathe has conducted awareness events for the past five years during LGBTQ history month. This year, it partnered with KPMG’s Afro-Caribbean network to explore the experiences of those who belong to both communities.

But perhaps most noteworthy is the network’s inclusive leadership accreditation, which offers sexuality and gender identity training in a more official, tangible form.

“I think the accreditation element kind of encourages people to take it seriously and to take it as something that’s going to add value,” says Mariana Ceccotti, a manager in KPMG UK’s infrastructure and government advisory team, and co-chair of the Breathe network.

“It both attracts and validates our position around inclusion. It’s not just turning up and paying attention – you need to take this stuff away and embed it into the way you’re working.”

Ceccotti adds that the presence of leaders and senior sponsors are a key part of the sessions for the accreditation programme, arguing that this can encourage more participation, and that the visibility can have a “ripple effect” across the firm.

Similarly, attesting to the success of the broader leadership and culture pillar, Baskerville adds that that “leadership have absolutely bought into” the agenda.

“They recognise the business benefits of having an inclusive and diverse workforce, and they are effectively holding themselves to account by setting quite public targets.”

Collective voice

Baskerville and Ceccotti both go on to emphasise the importance of “social mobility” in creating a diverse and inclusive working environment, explaining that this value has culminated in what the firm now refers as “collective voice”.

Baskerville describes this as a broader philosophy based on “knowing that we are a large business and that we have a responsibility to be talking about these challenges”.

“It’s about being present in our communities and trying to understand what the issues are and where we can support LGBTQ people, not just in the workplace but in the wider community.”

A prime example of this, Baskerville says, came in 2022 when the firm and one of its clients, Network Rail, collaborated to fundraise £40,000 for the Terrence Higgins Trust, an LGBTQ charity.

She also cited an awareness initiative conducted internally, in which senior leaders took HIV tests in an effort to address the stigma and normalise the topic.

“Having that wider impact is a really important element of our IDE and network strategy.”

Fairness in systems & processes

Baskerville goes on to emphasise the importance of “smaller, everyday details” in KPMG’s IDE strategy, pointing to “fairness in systems and processes” as the pillar which seeks to address this.

The firm’s trans policy and guidance is a prime example of this, she says, explaining that it has now been converted into a series of FAQs in response to complaints that it was too confusing.

Areas such as facilities, email signatures and guidance on sharing pronouns also fall under this pillar, Baskerville adds, arguing that the success of these initiatives is critical in earning the trust and respect of employees who belong to underrepresented groups.

“We’re always looking at ways that we can build these things into formal processes so it becomes second nature.”


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