“Organizations face a lot of challenges at the moment,” says Mark Spears, Global Leader in KPMG’s People and Change practice. “There is pressure to cut costs and pressure to react more effectively to the demands of customers. We are also seeing a lot of regulatory change, particularly in the financial services sector. All these factors require organizations to consider different ways of doing things.”
But changing the way an organization works is seldom straightforward. Outsourcing key functions or installing new IT may well save money and create efficiency but in the period following the change, managers and staff must get to grips with unfamiliar working practices. Equally, any acquisition that gives a business bigger market share and economies of scale will mean personnel within that enlarged organization having to adapt to new roles.
A key role
As organizations adapt to new challenges, they often find their existing HR operation is not fit for purpose. The experienced HR professionals working within KPMG’s People and Change team collaborate with organizations to improve the quality of their people management functions. Often, this means taking action to ensure the work carried out by HR is aligned to the requirements of the wider business.
The work of the People and Change practice can be broken down into four areas:
- Behavioral change
- Organizational design and development
- HR optimization.
As Mark Spears explains, behavioral change is really about helping clients ensure their people are ready and able to work within a changed environment. “It’s about getting people to buy into the changes while adopting new ways of working,” he says. “It’s also about making sure they have the skills they need.”
But the organization must also be prepared, with the right structures in place to get the most out of its workforce. Mark cites the example of rewards. If a remuneration and reward policy is to play a role in helping an organization deliver on its goals, they need to be well planned and aligned with those objectives. “So you need to look at whether the reward structure is having the desired effect and also whether it is being properly measured,” he says. “An important part of what we do is putting the metrics in place.”
Attracting and retaining talented people is a challenge for organizations. “The trend is towards people moving from one job to another more readily,” says Mark. “So the question facing employers is how do you attract staff in the first place and how do you retain them?” The People and Change practice works with clients on developing the kind of career paths and working conditions that will attract employees.
Finally, HR optimization is focused on helping clients get the most out of their people functions. “We help with strategy. We work with clients to create effective processes. We help develop the people within HR and assist in defining the operating model,” says Mark.
Engaging with clients
Much of the work carried out by the People and Change practice is sourced through other KPMG professionals. For instance, when a KPMG team is working on a financial transformation within a client organization the chances are that people issues will arise. “So we are often called in by colleagues,” says Mark.
“We get a lot of work from companies that are already audit clients,” confirms Maggie Jablonska, a manager working in the People and Change practice in Germany. “Our colleagues in audit work closely with these companies and they get to understand their needs. There is a lot of cross-selling.”
However, as Mark Spears stresses, the People and Change team also spend time developing their own board-level relationships. “We talk not only to the HROs [human resources officers] but also to CEOs, chief operating officers and financial directors,” he says. “They may be concerned that their HR function doesn’t understand the business and they want to get a better return on their investment. Equally, they may be concerned about the company’s ability to retain talent, so they talk to us about solutions.”
Routes into People and Change
There are several routes into the People and Change department. External candidates with HR and consultancy experience are much in demand, but there are also opportunities for those with the relevant skills from inside KPMG itself.
Maggie Jablonska is a case in point. She joined KPMG ten years ago to work in the HR function. She became involved in transformational work when she helped with the introduction of a shared services centre in Germany. “After that I went to Vietnam where I managed the HR department at a time when KPMG’s business there was expanding,” she says.
In addition to project management, Maggie is also actively involved in acquiring new business and the development of the People and Change team through training programs, mentoring and appraisals.
From the German perspective, demand for People and Change services is not focused on any one particular sector. “It’s more a question of size,” says Maggie. “The businesses that have a requirement for our services tend to be large.”
In London, the importance of the financial services sector has led to a lot of work. “There is a lot of regulatory pressure in financial services at the moment,” says Mark Spears. “That in turn drives change and creates demand for our services.”
Much of the work is international in scope, whether driven by cross-border mergers, the installation of global IT structures or shared services centers. In that respect, KPMG, with its international network of People and Change practices, is well placed to fulfill the needs of clients.