Representatives of KPMG Business School — seated, from left: Alexa Malone, Alimou Diallo, Tina Marie Farrington, Madeline Ciriello-Schwartz, Carla Luciano, Dana King, Scott Fox; standing, from left: Mary Ann Maher, Ed McDonough, Jill Murray, Tyler Dedrick, Nikki DeLuca, Joy Lulis, Katherine Baboulis, Evans Scala, John Miller, Patty Petrula, Pete Mascharka. (Photo by Brandon Murray)
"I fight fraud.” “I promote peace.” “I protect our energy.”
These might not sound like typical job descriptions for an accounting firm, but through its Higher Purpose initiative, KPMG is reshaping how employees think about their jobs.
The campaign asked individuals and teams to create posters detailing, “What do you do at KPMG?” So far more than 40,000 stories have been collected, each celebrating the positive change employees make in the world as part of their job.
But this higher purpose would not be achieved without the KPMG Business School, or KBS. Cyndi Bruce, executive director for KBS, said what makes the school so effective is the intense alignment between learning and business strategy.
“We sit at the table with our business leaders and we focus on what their goals, direction and strategy are going forward. We work with them to ensure that the direction of what we’re doing in the [learning and development] area is directly aligned with that.”
A key aspect of this strategy is a commitment to constant innovation. KPMG regularly updates its learning program to ensure its employees’ needs are being met as effectively as possible. Consider KPMG’s audit practice learning program. In 2011 and 2012, pre-course assessment scores for associate and senior associates reached all-time highs. Employees were joining the company better prepared than their predecessors. KBS used this opportunity to tweak its audit program, recalibrating the curriculum to offer more advanced skills training.
“We’re focusing specifically on what they need to become effective and efficient in their jobs and making sure there’s a clean alignment between the skills they’re coming to us with and the skills we need to develop to make them become key contributors very quickly,” Bruce said.
The business school also adapts programs to incorporate new technology. In addition to traditional classroom courses, it offers virtual instructor-led classes and Web-based self-studies. Virtual simulations give students hands-on experience, while the Hub, KPMG’s internal social network platform, encourages discussion about course topics and enables users to easily ask each other questions.
KBS is also developing mobile learning apps. Partly through a focus on mobile learning, Bruce said it is working to instill a learning culture at the firm. “Our learning goes beyond the traditional learning and really gets involved with the culture of the firm and impact the way our people learn and think about KPMG in general,” Bruce said. “We’re focused on helping people learn on the job through coaching and mentoring and things like that.”
Mentors often include higher-ups at the company. KBS brings in internal subject-matter experts to help train employees. These instructors go through a formal certification program prior to teaching and often serve at KBS on a rotational basis, bring real-world experience to the classroom and help to ensure training relevance.
Company leaders also help employees find their “Higher Purpose.” This year, the New Manager Forum guided more than 1,000 newly promoted managers to identify and shape compelling stories about their work. When participants arrive at KPMG training programs, they are greeted by wall-sized banners celebrating KPMG professionals’ positive impact. At opening general sessions, company leaders describe the difference their work has made, and the difference they’ve seen others make.
“The Higher Purpose initiative really created a renewed focus on the difference our people can make through the work that they do, and we believe it created a sense of well-being within our people that we’re seeing throughout the way they go to work, through the way that they serve our clients,” Bruce said, noting that this was a very profitable year for the firm. “We believe it has had a significant impact on the bottom line, not just from a revenue perspective, but also from the culture and morale of our people and experiences our clients are having.”
As for the “Higher Purpose”? The KBS answer to what they do is all about preparing employees to achieve their own purpose: “We create a ripple effect.”