Forming the perfect partnership

by Martin Chow

U Kin-chong, career development director human resources
Photo: Edde Ngan

Audit professionals involved on every level of people development

In today's competitive business environment, talented graduates fresh from university are no longer looking for monetary rewards alone when weighing up career prospects. Many are now taking the initiative and mapping out an unequivocal career trajectory at an early age.

At KPMG, that professional trajectory is both explicit and relatively short in business terms, rendering the firm incredibly attractive to competent, focussed professionals who strive towards partnership status early in their career.

Unlike conventional organisations, people development at KPMG is a firm-wide initiative rather than simply an HR one. U Kin-chong, career development director, human resources, KPMG clarifies this, "All our partners and senior managers wear important caps. They are the key drivers in our career development programmes such as People Management Leaders, 360 feedback assessments and Dialogue performance management programme."

The company also offers a "Senior Manager Development Centre" where senior managers role-play as partners and partners in turn act as assessors. Role-play situations offer partners a more global picture of senior managers' finer skills while giving senior managers a taste of the complex decisions partners must face.

People Management Leaders is an initiative where senior managers and partners are assigned as dedicated people managers to monitor the people development of the team. Their role is multifarious involving day-to-day guidance and career coaching. "A manager needs to achieve through the strengths of the team, so knowing the strengths of each team member is essential," he explains.

"360 degree feedback is achieved thorough observation from a variety of sources. Bosses, peers and subordinates are invited to provide feedback on an individual's performance so strengths and areas for improvement can be identified," adds Mr U. Feedback is offered on a regular basis so staff can gauge their professional competencies from a wider perspective.

The Dialogue programme ensures employees set their own career aspirations allowing KPMG to provide a path towards long-term goals. Staff members are allocated dedicated counselling partners (senior members of the firm) who offer longer-term professional guidance. "KPMG employees have a clear picture on where they currently stand career-wise, and more importantly they are encouraged to develop and work towards their long-term career aspirations," says Mr U.

Through these initiatives which essentially help staff visualise and achieve their goals in a clear and cohesive framework, promotion from accountant to partner can be achieved in about 12 years. Employees in their early thirties can then take on comprehensive levels of responsibility and enjoy the accompanying rewards, which are commensurate with their continuous commitment to KPMG.

This paradigm shift in the way partners and senior managers form an integral part of the everyday functioning of the firm is facilitated by heavy investment and commitment, distinguishing KPMG from its competitors as a truly people firm.

The real deal

In explaining the firm's position on recruitment and retention of qualified talent, Mr U notes that KPMG considers the EVP (Employee Value Proposition) when devising people initiatives. Several aspects of the proposition permeate the higher echelons of decision making in areas such as career development, rewards and recognition, employee wellbeing and maintaining a supportive working environment.

Career development and rewards and recognition involve partners and senior managers who help each employee understand their professional situation and how they may reach the next level.

KPMG's commitment to wellbeing means employees can benefit from the plethora of activities on offer. "The 'myLife' programme was conceived to help employees establish a healthier work-life balance. Under the programme, lifestyle events like wine appreciation and family fun days alongside more traditional team games such as basketball and badminton are organised," notes Mr U.

A supportive work environment is of paramount importance if people are to feel valued and proud of their position. KPMG provides a healthy and comfortable work environment to their people by providing pleasant office setting and equipment so that people can work efficiently and productively.

Rewarding responsibility

Outside the office Mr U is also aware of the immense sense of reward employees feel when they participate in corporate social responsibility initiatives. The KPMG Foundation was established to enable the company to give as much back to the community as possible, not by simply offering monetary donations but by involving staff in projects which focus on supporting disadvantaged people across the globe.

Currently, KPMG's corporate social responsibility programmes include providing aid for underprivileged children in Sham Shui Po (partnered with the Society of Community Organisation), the Operation Smile initiative and Great Wall Project in China (providing financial aids for teenagers to go to universities). Mr U notes, "Staff are tremendously supportive of these projects because they want to give something back to the community."

"KPMG's corporate and personal development plans are clear and comprehensive. Partners are involved on every level and this is what fundamentally distinguishes us from the rest," Mr U concludes.


Taken from Career Times 18 January 2008
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