“One of the most refreshing things about working for KPMG is the fact that learning and development is taken very seriously,” says Senior Advisor Gregory Kingsley. “Everyone is continually engaged in gaining qualifications and certification in specialist fields.” Based in the Johannesburg area of South Africa, Gregory joined KPMG’s Advisory practice in 2007 as a graduate recruit who already had some experience of consultancy work under his belt. “My specialist fields were energy, resources and financial services,” he says. “I wanted to extend my experience in the financial services space with a particular focus on strategy work.”
KPMG has provided Gregory with an opportunity to do just that. Since joining the Advisory team, he has worked on projects involving multi-billion rand organizations, including one major bank, with much of the work centered around helping local member firm’s clients to effect changes in strategic direction. It’s been an exciting and rewarding period, but, as Gregory acknowledges, new recruits to the Advisory team have much to learn.
Training and development within the Advisory team takes the form of hands-on learning on client projects coupled with more formal programs. The latter is increasingly based on a global curriculum which allows professionals to acquire new skills and qualifications via both internal and external programs.
In Gregory’s experience, this practical training has been vital. “Much of the experience I’ve gained so far has been down to interaction with colleagues,” he says. “When you’re working on a project, you’re there alongside senior people, including partners, and you learn a huge amount.”
It’s a process that is often multi-disciplinary, with specialist advisors across a range of fields coming together to work for individual clients. “You might find that on a single project you’ll have experts in, say, IT and finance working together,” says Gregory. “That provides an opportunity to widen your skills and acquire new competencies.”
The broadness of KPMG in South Africa’s client-base also encourages professionals to move beyond their existing skill-sets and into new areas. Gregory cites his own experience in financial services. “Previously, the work I did had largely been in the investment area,” he says. “With KPMG I’ve been working in the banking sector.”
Learning and development
As Gregory points out, informal on-the-job training is underpinned by formal learning and development programs. “When you join the firm, there is a four-day induction process,” he says. “During that time you’re made aware of the learning and development requirements and the opportunities available.”
The induction itself includes educational elements, with sessions covering subjects such as KPMG culture and his firm’s approach to engaging with clients. Equally important, professionals are introduced to facilities such as KPMG’s learning portal. They also have an opportunity to discuss their training requirements and career options as they progress through the firm.
This learning and development process isn’t a case of “one-size-fits-all”. Each specialist business unit within the learning and development practice has its own hub, and each unit has a manager responsible for ensuring that professionals have access to internal and external courses appropriate to their professional requirements and chosen career paths. “You have the opportunity to discuss your requirements with your performance manager and identify useful courses,” says Gregory. “The performance manager is there to help you plan your training, navigate the system and ensure that you get the qualifications you need.”
In some cases, this will mean certification in specialist fields. For instance, Gregory is pursuing a certification for TOGAF, the software framework used for the design, planning and running of enterprise information systems, he is also continuing with his MBA prior to joining KPMG. Students are also encouraged to pursue further academic qualifications at degree and higher degree level. “The firm has been very supportive in allowing me the time and facilities to study for that,” says Gregory
Both the learning and development programs and the strategies of KPMG member firms at a national level are reinforced by a global skills and competencies framework aimed at delivering flexible training that can respond effectively to changes in market conditions. There are a number of key components to this framework, including a global curriculum (due for launch in 2011), which gives students access to learning opportunities across 100 core competencies.
Learning and development requirements at national level are supported through a global virtual classroom, a browser-based system providing a range of media, including video, audio and text. This online learning environment is particularly appropriate for technical training that involves methodologies. A global advisory portal also allows personnel to define their career path and access courses available through the KPMG Tax Business School®.
Processes such as induction are also standardized across member firms and, in the case of the Advisory practice, the process of ‘on boarding’ is facilitated in part through an online learning course that sets out KPMG’s strategy, vision and culture. Similarly, a toolkit, outlining KPMG’s approach to project management has been created for member firms.
The client benefit
In Gregory’s view, KPMG’s approach to training helps to benefit clients by ensuring them that KPMG personnel have the expertise and experience they need to handle major projects. “When we send a proposal to a client, everyone involved in the project is listed along with their competencies and qualifications,” he says. “That is a very powerful way to convey the expertise on offer.”
Gregory believes that when he joined KPMG in South Africa, his own qualifications appeared modest compared to those of his colleagues. However, thanks to the training made available to him this is no longer the case and his range of competencies continues to grow.