KPMG's Vice Chair on unlocking the potential that exists in 'all corners of our society'

KPMG's Vice Chair on unlocking the potential that exists in 'all corners of our society'

KPMG won this year’s Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the inaugural category of ‘Promoting Opportunity’ for its work on social mobility.

The big four firm was one of the first organisations in the UK to start paying their employees the voluntary living wage and was the first to publish comprehensive socioeconomic data about their workforce.

According to Melanie Richards, Vice Chair of KPMG in the UK, being transparent about their workforce has made a real difference. “I’m a great believer in the saying ‘what gets measured, gets done’.” she says. “We’ve had social mobility as a top business priority for a long time, but there is no doubt that having our performance out there for the world to see focuses the mind.

Richards told us why social mobility is a priority for KPMG: “First and foremost, it’s the right thing to do. No one should be denied access to a career at KPMG because of their background and, for us, that’s a good enough reason in itself.

“It is also vital for our business that we have a workforce which is diverse and representative of society. We need different people, who bring differing viewpoints, to be present throughout our business if we are going to continue to set ourselves apart from our competitors. It’s now become something our clients see as a real differentiator.”

In 2014, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) introduced the champion tier for signatories that wanted to publicly commit to lead the way on improving social mobility.

KPMG was chosen to be one of the 11 firms. “You can see from the focus the Government put on this issue that this is a priority for the whole country, not just KPMG,” adds Richard. “If Britain is going to continue to compete on a global stage we need our peers, competitors and customers to come with us on this journey. We all need to work together to unlock the potential that exists in all corners of our society.”

She also told us about the initiatives she is most proud of: “Away from the statistics, the KPMG Business Support Academy is a real flagship programme. The Academy targets young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to enter through an apprenticeship. We achieved this by working with specialist charity partners and local authorities to target young people from groups particularly at risk, including care-leavers and young carers. Ensuring these young people get a foot on the ladder is so important to creating a more equal society.”

Richard attributes the success of KPMG’s myriad of schemes to the hard work and collaboration from people right across the firm. “It’s exactly this sort of collective effort from everyone that is helping improve social mobility, both at KPMG and across the UK as a whole,” she explains.

“There is no silver bullet when it comes to social mobility. We need everyone to be mindful of it. It’s not just about how we hire people into the firm; it’s everything from the culture we foster to the tone of the conversations around the water-cooler. Our people are very engaged on the issue and proud that we are being transparent and tackling the issue head-on.”

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