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By Lord Watson of Wyre Forest
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KPMG reveals employees’ parental occupation in a bid to increase social mobility

KPMG LLP

5 min read Partner content

KPMG has become the first firm in the UK to publish comprehensive data analysing the socio‐economic profile of its workforce.


KPMG in the UK has published detailed workforce data outlining the socio‐economic make‐up of the firm.  It is the first business in the UK to publish such comprehensive data, which measures employees’ parental occupation and education and the type of school employees attended. KPMG also shared graduate and school leaver socio‐economic data from the past three years, demonstrating the efforts made by the firm to ensure a more diverse talent pipeline.

It reveals that the vast majority of the workforce – 74% of respondents – received a state school education: 60% attended a non‐selective state school and 14% attended a selective state school, with 23% receiving private education.  Additional detail on parental education shows that 48% have a parent or guardian with a university degree, while 43% do not.

On parental occupation, 58% have parents in a higher managerial, administrative and professional occupation, 16% have parents employed in a manual occupation and 11% have parents in intermediate occupations. Of around 1,000 graduates and 250 school leavers to join the firm in 2016, 11% and 18% respectively had been eligible for Free School Meals. KPMG is the first business in the UK to share details of the parental occupation of its workforce, which is recognised by social mobility experts as a strong indicator of socio‐economic background.

Melanie Richards, Vice Chair at KPMG, said: “When we talk about diversity, people immediately think of gender or race, but social background is equally as important.Professional services firms have often been cited as bastions of the so called social elite and it’s important we consign this stereotype to the past. We recruit from a wide range of schools and universities and while we do require a level of academic ability, we need personal qualities such as adaptability and curiosity, to help our clients analyse and respond to complex challenges.

“While the traditional milk round will always have a part to play, we have rethought the way we recruit, introducing new entry routes into the firm for those who want to join us earlier and learn at work rather than university.

“Now we need to assess the progress we are making and these statistics will play a vital role in helping us interrogate the socio‐economic make up of our workforce.  As well as forming an evidence base for change, we hope this data will enable government and third parties to evaluate the effectiveness of policy in the workplace.  We need others to do the same and report their workforce data too to more effectively benchmark and track whether or not business is making progress on this issue.”

KPMG worked closely with experts at the Bridge Group, who advised the organisation on the most relevant data points to measure social mobility and analysed the data, delivering a statistical overview.

Nicholas Miller, Director of the Bridge Group said “We are delighted to provide analysis to support KPMG in this leading piece of work. Understanding workforce diversity is essential to underpin any activity aimed at improving it, and this is most complex in relation to socio‐economic background. KPMG have undertaken the most comprehensive collection of workforce data of any business to date, with evidence showing they are making positive progress with their school leaver and graduate recruits, and the inclusion of parental occupation provides particularly important insights.”

KPMG has already made investments in its recruitment and outreach programme to increase the diversity of the firm’s talent pipeline.

These include:

  • working with more than 100 secondary schools and 30 primary schools across the UK to improve young people’s skills and experiences of the world of work, identified through an algorithm developed by the Bridge Group used to assess schools based on socio‐economic disadvantage.

  • launching the KPMG Discovery work experience programme, in support of Access Accountancy, which aims to raise awareness of opportunities into the profession for young people and is helping to build a diverse pipeline for KPMG’s school and college leaver programmes. In 2015, the nationwide expansion saw the programme being offered in 20 of KPMG’s offices across the UK and in 2016, the firm delivered more than 320 placements, with over 70% taken up by students from disadvantaged backgrounds.  KPMG is also working with the Social Mobility Foundation to offer residential placements to students in harder to reach areas where opportunities are limited, including ‘coldspots’ identified by the Social Mobility Commission.

  • creating new school and college leaver programmes, including the KPMG360° apprenticeship programme and the Business Support Academy, which were developed as alternative entry routes in to the business to attract candidates seeking an alternative to the traditional graduate entry route.

  • working with the Bridge Group to undertake a detailed analysis of the diversity of KPMG’s graduate and school leaver intake, giving the firm the evidence needed to recruit from a wider range of universities and subjects than in the past.  

  • commissioning the Bridge Group to interrogate the firm’s selection processes to explore how candidates’ socio‐economic background affects success at each stage of the process, and this has helped inform changes to the way in which they identify talent.  

  • introducing Launch Pad, a new streamlined approach to graduate recruitment which combines the traditional three stages of first interview, assessment centre and final interview into a single day. The pilot of Launch Pad had promising results in terms of diversity and the firm will continue to monitor the impact of the scheme on diversity in future years.

As one of Government’s founding Social Mobility Champions, KPMG has also worked closely with the Cabinet Office and the Bridge Group on its engagement to develop a common set of measures for employers on the socio‐economic backgrounds of their workforce.  

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