Social mobility is not a 'nice to have', it's a strategic imperative - KPMG chief

Posted On: 
13th July 2018

Deputy Chair of KPMG, Melanie Richards says in order to flourish, a business needs to be a true reflection of society.


It’s no secret that high performing teams tend to bring together different personality types, working styles and ways of thinking. Even the best ideas benefit from challenge and scrutiny and if everyone in the room thinks the same, that simply won’t happen. In order to flourish, a business needs to be a true reflection of society. That is what clients and consumers expect, and it is vital that businesses deliver on that expectation.
And it’s no great secret that as a sector, professional services simply isn’t as diverse as it should be. We have seen progress, especially around reporting and transparency. But to truly address this in the future we need to look at all levels of seniority and the barriers to progression people may face. 
At KPMG, our senior leadership and our people have been working on this issue within our firm and supporting others in the communities we work with for more than a decade. In 2014 we kicked off a major new phase by starting to gather information on things like eligibility for school meals and parental occupation from all new staff. Continuing that commitment to transparency, at the end of 2016, KPMG became the first UK business to publish comprehensive data on the socio-economic background of our workforce. 
The data shows we still aren’t where we want to be in terms of representation. We are moving in the right direction, but as with any major change, it is taking time to address. Robust data is vital to this improvement as it provides an evidence base. It allows us to evaluate the effectiveness of internal policy changes and enables us to make further targeted interventions across our hiring and promotion processes and initiatives.
We are also getting out and into schools to help recruit the next generation. Over the past five years we have delivered 225,000 volunteering hours to over 60,000 young people. Last year alone, KPMG volunteers delivered 40,000 hours directly supporting 17,000 young people across the UK through career insights, employability workshops, mentoring and work experience. 

But it is widely accepted that those with existing connections in a profession have a distinct advantage when taking that vital first step in their career. It is natural that people will always want to help a relative, family friend or neighbour get workplace experience. But when not everyone has these connections, arguably this is a barrier to social mobility. So we have put in place an additional scheme to address this – for every student that comes through our door via a connection within the business, we will offer a high quality work experience placement to someone who doesn’t know anyone in the building, via the Social Mobility Foundation. 
Our ambition is to be a magnet for the most talented people, whoever they are, regardless of gender, ethnicity, age, disability, sexual orientation, religion or socio-economic background. As our summer recruitment campaigns ramp up – our message is clear. We are open to all and future potential is one of the most important things that will get you through the door. 
Social mobility is not a nice to have. For us, it is a strategic imperative and we are immensely proud to have been recognised as a leading employer on the Social Mobility Employer Index. Over the coming months we will be redoubling our efforts to create a fairer firm, pushing for a fairer industry and increasing opportunity for all within it