Leadership infrastructure

by Sophie Leung

Harry Yu, audit partner and head of PML
KPMG China
Photo: Wallace Chan

People initiative boosts effective communication

Effective staff communication is essential to business performance, especially for companies that employ thousands of staff who are expected to provide high-level professional services to customers.

Committed to creating a collaborative and productive working environment for staff, multinational professional services firm KPMG has launched a people management leader (PML) initiative to encourage internal communication and connect people with the firm's core values the "KPMG Way".

Harry Yu, audit partner, and head of PML at KPMG China, notes, "The PML initiative provides a forum for our people to share opinions and best practices; it also demonstrates our 4C ethos —c are, communicate, connect and coach."

Way to go

Keeping in line with the KPMG Way, PMLs who are currently managers or senior managers are tasked with providing support and guidance for 20 to 30 designated colleagues, showing personalised care and respect to them as valued individuals. Not only does this enhance communication within the company, it also allows PMLs to provide assistance in a welcoming manner.

"We have suggestions, but not a strict agenda, on what PMLs should convey to staff or how they show care. Depending on circumstances, PMLs can talk to colleagues over the phone or informally at parties or cocktail gatherings. They are like mentors, offering support to colleagues in need on both career and personal fronts," Mr Yu explains, confirming the firm's investment in employee engagement. In some cases, PMLs are able to identify colleagues in crisis and lend them a hand before things reach the point where people may take extreme action, such as resigning.

"In helping others to grow by sharing valuable real-life experience, PMLs can strengthen their people skills and learn from the perspectives of others," Mr Yu adds.

Experienced staff have always taken on a coaching role towards their junior staff, but the PML initiative makes such activities more regular and effective. Mr Yu reveals, "KPMG China, including Hong Kong and Macau, employs more than 8,500 staff. By empowering leaders and strengthening communication, we adopt consistent practices and promote common values across regions, grades and functions throughout the company." Currently there are around 400 appointed PMLs, with a goal to build a high-performing organisation of engaged people who are capable of delivering high-quality professional services to customers.

Meeting of minds

KPMG's PML initiative is reviewed in monthly strategy meetings. Mr Yu states his vision for the communication initiative: "All our people would become PMLs and care for each other, showing respect to others and diligence to their work."

While PMLs offer help to colleagues in their teams, they meet senior PMLs in monthly meetings to receive support from partners. To promote defining values across cultures, the company assigns regional PMLs who are responsible for making regional concerns and successful practices known to other regions. For example, the Shanghai office launched a lactation room for working parents and other regional PMLs have decided to apply similar measures to their offices because of the popularity of the endeavour.

KPMG keeps the PML community updated with the latest news and happenings through various channels, such as regular newsletters and a website for internal discussion and peer support. Online resources for management skills and a database of cases and issues are available to all PMLs to assist them and allow them to learn from past experiences.

To fully equip and empower PMLs, KPMG hosts an annual conference in which messages from the top management are conveyed to employees and success stories shared. These activities serve as training and enable PMLs to address opportunities, challenges, career aspirations and issues that concern all.

In achieving KPMG's goal of becoming an employer of choice among high-calibre professionals, the firm fosters a pleasant working environment and provides opportunities matching those of other leading organisations. Mr Yu concludes, "By addressing personal issues and sharing experiences, we respect all staff as unique individuals, embrace diversity and become a stronger team together."


Taken from Career Times 10 October 2008, p. A2
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