Lydia Ashall and David Conder

Making the most of all their talent is top of KPMG's agenda. David is Head of People for Europe, Middle East, India and Africa (EMA) region and he explains how offering employees’ greater choice and flexibility has never been more important in attracting and retaining extraordinary talent. 

He says that extensive research, carried out across the KPMG network and in the external market with current and future talent has shown that choice is a core principal to creating a world-class people experience. Given KPMG firms recruited over 50,000 people last year alone, including more than 37,000 university graduates and entry-level professionals, bringing this sense of choice to life has never been more important.

Lydia is a Millennial who has already experienced several different roles within KPMG. She says that she can see that the global network works hard to build choice into the design of its talent and career initiatives. She says: "One of the big drivers to join is the breadth of domestic and international exposure you can receive, but at the same time in such a big organisation you don’t want to become lost."

And if you get lost you might leave. The retention challenge is at its greatest at the newly qualified level. David says at a time when people qualify member firms have to re-recruit their own employees. 

He says: "Newly qualified is a pivotal moment in their career. When you qualify you have a huge decision to make about your career direction. We need to make sure our newly-qualifieds see as much choice in their career potential at KPMG as they do elsewhere.” That means providing them with different career paths and destinations, including moving between functions and facilitating international mobility."

That's where KPMG can leverage its presence in over 150 countries. In 2017, around 2,700 KPMG people were on assignment across the globe, with 2,000 of those under 35. The UK firm holds internal career fairs reinforcing the attractive development opportunities and reminding people why they joined in the first place. 

And for those who decide to leave David says the idea is that they leave as friends. KPMG keeps in touch through active alumni programmes and there is also a recognition that they become potential clients.  

Choice is increasingly built in from the start. Recruits traditionally would have been locked into service lines – tax, audit or advisory – now there is fluidity even during training. David says: "What we hear from graduates is that they seek more flexibility." To respond to that the Canadian firm is currently experimenting with trainees rotating through different functions to build more understanding and finding their natural place and best fit. 

Canada's experiment is three years old and is seeing interesting results in terms of the sort of people being introduced to KPMG. David says: "It is a more open approach to how people join professional firms. This gives us the opportunity to appeal to graduates with different backgrounds and career intentions."

David says different parts of the global network will continue to experiment and innovate. The underlying trend is towards building a broader consulting approach. KPMG also encourages choice over how employees work: seeking more agile working opportunities, for instance where commuting is excessive; looking at flexible start and finishing time to help those with caring responsibilities. Even where possible, trying to schedule people to work on clients who are near their home.  

For David, the measure should be on outputs rather than inputs.