‘An organization is only as good as its people’ is one of the most frequently quoted observations about modern business life.
Few would argue, but in an increasingly competitive and globalized commercial environment, the relationship between a business and its employees extends well beyond bringing aboard a skilled and motivated workforce. Organizations require people who have a genuine loyalty to both their employer and their fellow colleagues.
On the other side of the fence, among employees and job candidates alike, there is a real desire to work for organizations that offer not only engaging and worthwhile work but also scope to pursue wider interests. KPMG is committed to fostering just such employee engagement, as member firms like KPMG in Singapore pursue their own initiatives.
Aligning the firm and its people
HR Manager, Cindy Chan is responsible for developing KPMG in Singapore’s employee engagement programs. As she explains, her role focuses on aligning the firm and its people. “My job is really to reach out to our people and to help them feel that they are a part of the firm,” she says.
It’s a complex role, spanning recreational activities, professional development and programs designed to encourage partners and employees to give their time and expertise to the wider community. For instance, the firm has its own recreation club and organizes social and sporting events. In terms of community outreach, a volunteer program allows those who work for it to devote 40 hours a year to a range of projects. (Find out more about how you can benefit from programs like these by reading our feature on volunteering your skills) Cindy stresses that these are not top-down initiatives. “We ask our people what they would like us to provide,” she says.
As an active member of the recreation club, Cindy can testify to the popularity of sports among KPMG in Singapore’s workforce. In this regard, the recently launched PEAK initiative (see box-out) has generated huge interest within the firm while providing valuable support for Singapore’s elite competitors. Launched in 2009, the initiative is designed to allow sportspeople to develop high-level workplace skills within KPMG while simultaneously developing their athletic careers.
Benefits and rewards
KPMG in Singapore’s various initiatives complement KPMG’s overall global commitment to employee engagement, which includes a regular survey spanning all member firms. “The global survey is designed to find out what people really think about the firm,” says Cindy. “It involves a few hundred questions and its findings help us shape our initiatives.”
As Cindy sees it, KPMG’s ongoing commitment to understanding its people, coupled with ground-level engagement programs, delivers tangible rewards. “There are certainly benefits in terms of retention and recruitment,” she says. “Turnover has been falling while our brand as a recruiter has become more attractive. We employ a lot of graduates and they know that coming to us is not all about work. It’s also about having a life when you join the firm.”
Responding to what employees want
Formal surveys and informal discussions help member firms respond to the concerns of its employees. “In asking our people what they think, we can identify issues and address them before they become problems,” says Cindy. Again, this has a direct and positive impact on employee turnover.
Ultimately, a mutually beneficial relationship between an organization and its people is not something that can be imposed from above. “It’s really about listening to your people while also communicating the core values of the organization,” says Cindy.
Launched in 2009, KPMG in Singapore’s PEAK (Program for Elite Athletes in KPMG) initiative has been designed to help world-class competitors from Singapore develop work-related skills while they train for international events such as the Olympics.
The idea behind the scheme is simple. The International Olympic Committee advocates that all athletes should take responsibility for combining the development of their sporting abilities alongside their career and education. In order to satisfy that recommendation, PEAK offers selected athletes the support they require to achieve their training goals while enabling them to develop crucial business skills within the Singapore member firm.
Under the terms of the PEAK agreements, participants are given full-time contracts ranging from six months to two years, during which time it is acknowledged that sporting excellence is a priority. However, participants also working in KPMG member firm practices such as Audit or Advisory can take on an ambassadorial role on behalf of the firm.
To date, the program has taken on two world-class competitors, namely chess player Kevin Goh and bowler Jasmine Yeong-Nathan.
As Cindy Chang explains, the program does not only benefit the chosen sportspeople, it also has a real impact on the firm. “They [the sportspeople] don’t exist in isolation. Jasmine has represented KPMG in the bowling team and while Kevin’s focus is chess, he has also played soccer for the firm,” says Cindy. “We certainly hope that their presence is inspiring and motivating.”