Unique terroir produces top-of-the-class professionals

by Sophie Leung

Margaret So
human resources director
Photo: Nolly Leung

Multinational firm encourages informal staff interaction to foster high morale and long-term success

People tend to be reticent about speaking their minds in an overly formal setting, while a relaxed environment promotes easy communication and long-term partnerships with both colleagues and business partners.

In an effort to strengthen internal communications and boost morale, KPMG, one of the largest global organisations offering audit, tax and advisory services, regularly organises gatherings for staff and finds interestingly that a closer bond can be fostered over a glass of wine.

"People mingle easily over a glass of wine in a relaxed atmosphere," notes Margaret So, human resources director, KPMG.

The firm also hosts parties to welcome newcomers to KPMG's graduate recruitment programme, as well as cocktail parties for young recruits who have finished internships at the firm. At these gatherings, the young aspirants have the opportunity to meet the firm's partners and heads of departments and to learn more about the company in an informal setting. "This exceptional ambience encourages young people to freely voice their opinions, effectively facilitating a feedback-collection process," Ms So adds.

Networking essential

Jon Parker, senior manager
financial advisory services
Photo: Courtesy of KPMG
Such social gatherings also promote interaction between staff working in different departments. "These social events promote better knowledge-sharing and networking and it is great to meet with people with common interests and goals," points out Jon Parker, senior manager, financial advisory services, KPMG.

Since employees tend to travel often for business to the firm's offices in China, the Philippines, Singapore and other locations, they enjoy forming social get-togethers after work on Fridays to reconnect with colleagues, Mr Parker stresses. While staff members get to relax over a drink, they also have the opportunity for informal business discussions in a lively and upbeat atmosphere.

"The aim is to shake off the stress of the work week. While some time may be spent rehashing issues from the week, people are more inclined to discuss matters such as weekend plans and upcoming trips," Mr Parker notes.

Anita Chau, senior manager, markets, KPMG China
The firm believes that efficient internal communication holds the key to success. Anita Chau, senior manager, markets, KPMG China, appreciates the fun element brought to the monthly senior managers, directors and partners lunch which forms part of the KPMG culture and offers an alternative channel for information exchange.

Partners and managers value the opportunity to sit down with colleagues across service lines and to engage them in conversations. Comparing the lunch gathering with a conventional meeting, Ms Chau says, "Instead of a long and stressful agenda, we have food and drinks on the table and enjoy the networking opportunity. The benefit of such cross-departmental gatherings is that we are able to identify and explore new business initiatives and opportunities."

Appreciate life

Along the same line, KPMG encourages staff to attend regular wine tasting activities held at the firm's 12 branch offices. "Such events can promote professional sophistication," explains Irene Fok, senior manager, career development, KPMG. Ms Fok believes that some knowledge of wine can help staff to initiate small talk at social occasions and to connect with colleagues and clients in the working environment.

Qualified wine experts are invited to lead these wine appreciation sessions and discuss simple tasting rules and etiquette. "More than 600 staff members have attended these popular sessions," says Ms Fok. "Many see this as part of their efforts to enrich their personal lives and upgrade their business related skills."

Wine appreciation is one of the components of KPMG's myLife programme which was launched in 2007 in response to a demand for more staff activities and stronger internal relations. The comprehensive programme encompasses six dimensions. Wine tasting and other social skills training fall under the "growth" dimension, since these attributes helps with both personal and professional growth.

Under a well-being programme, KPMG also arranges Friday night movies, recreational sports classes and health seminars to promote fitness and ease work pressure.

In addition, KPMG has partnered with a professional counselling firm to establish a hotline providing employees with emotional support. "We care about the well-being of staff and support a balanced lifestyle for all our employees," Ms Fok concludes.


Taken from Career Times 01 August 2008, p. A2
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