KPMG in Singapore

KPMG in Singapore took home the gold award for 'Excellence in Employer Branding' at the HR Excellence Awards 2021, Singapore.

In this interview, Janice Foo, Head of People, KPMG in Singapore (pictured above, right), shares how her team worked with the leadership to make informed employee-centric decisions, as well as drive these through the firm effectively, in a bid to roll out a strong employer branding strategy.

Q What is your organisation’s winning HR strategy, and what are some milestones you’ve accomplished along this journey?

KPMG stands by a people-first culture where we position KPMG to be a great place to work in. The importance of doing so can be seen from our research, where about 24% of Singapore CEOs surveyed by KPMG said they view employee value proposition as their top operational priority over the next three years, as compared to just 13% of their APAC and 19% of their global peers.

Business leaders in Singapore are also increasingly prioritising how they reward and incentivise talent (38% in 2021 versus 14% in 2020), as the race for global talent heats up.

Hence the future workplace will need to be a place where people want to work because they’re driven by a sense of purpose, where diverse perspectives lead to innovative solutions, and where everyone has the flexibility to set their own schedules. Identifying the factors that inspire employees to be a force for positive influence in the world will be key, even as we reimagine new ways of working in the future of work.

We’ve been initiating several programmes to keep employees engaged and motivated in the new world of work.

Here, we see a constant need to be grounded and in touch with the workforce – especially since physical distance can set us apart.

We’re also committed towards supporting the aspirations and career development of our people throughout their life stages. Among the initiatives we have rolled out to support this vision are the global mobility and women’s leadership programmes as well as our cross-border and intra-firm collaboration and innovation opportunities for employees.

These initiatives were recognised at the Employee Experience Awards 2021 for 'Best Global Talent Exchange Programme' (gold) and 'Best Woman Leadership Programme'. We also won the gold for ‘Excellence in Employer Branding’ at the HR Excellence Awards 2021, and were nominated by LinkedIn as one of the top 15 best workplaces in Singapore to grow their careers.

Q How has this strategy helped you achieve your HR priorities, and what role has the leadership played in helping make this initiative a reality?

From the onset, our central strategy of having a strong engagement plan for our staff and candidates was key. We employed a data-driven approach to gain insights on employee sentiments which were able to help us craft our strategies and work with the leadership to not only make informed decisions, but also to help drive them through the firm effectively, especially where changes and new policies and processes needed to be implemented swiftly.

In our ongoing efforts to attract top talent, we developed a recruitment approach foremostly based on data from various market surveys and knowledge gained from interactions with candidates, resulting in our ability to effectively resonate with them, which is testament to winning the award for employer branding.

Q The revolution to working styles, especially due to COVID, has had significant impact on expectations of how employees in organisations perform their roles. How has KPMG addressed this?

COVID-19 has certainly accelerated our implementation of ‘future of work’ plans, but it is important we have a deeper and holistic view of this as it is more than simply shifting to hybrid work arrangements.

Guided by the strategy of engaging effectively with our people, we have had to be agile to leverage emerging technologies to facilitate collaboration and communication. However, beyond using the virtual communication channels efficiently, we re-tooled how we engage our people to help keep everyone engaged and motivated with increased frequency of updates, as well as expanded programmes and content to show that their wellbeing is important to the firm. Some examples are healthy work-from-home self-care information and wellness packs sent out to staff.

Learning tribes are also part of the mix – aimed at provoking thought among participating employees keen to discuss future trends and innovative business models.

An open company culture anchors these interactions, with employees having a voice in stakeholder conversations and meetings, whether physical or virtual.

In essence, COVID-19 has taught us that disruptions can happen anytime. In an unpredictable future, leveraging agility will be a competitive differentiator. We need to build a lasting company on this fragile planet, with the help of a highly engaged and capable workforce that is here with us to make a difference for societies and communities.

Q In rolling out your talent strategy, what challenges have you faced, and how have you overcome them?

We have found that a key element of an effective talent strategy is in seeking and incorporating feedback attained. Gathering and collating the data is a major task in and of itself, however, we have devised methods to prioritise the information to roll out impactful initiatives.

What ensues is a constant process to educate everyone by leveraging change management techniques driven by clear communication and activation. Ultimately, we want our people, as well as candidates looking to join us, to understand that KPMG is a place where they have opportunities to flourish and grow.

Q How does the organisation future-proof employees and ensure that they have clarity on what they need to learn?

Our approach is for teams in KPMG to create their own learning tribes, where they seek to drive innovation, provoke new thinking, and creatively pivot around business models where required - all achieved by engaging employees, building deep subject-matter expertise, and leading with purpose. This involves conscientious efforts to gather experts from across the firm and externally so that not only knowledge and skills can be shared generously, but to also push our people out from their comfort zones.

Cross-country projects, multi-business interactions, on-the-job learning, and inter-departmental immersion stints will also contribute to greater engagement while upping the ante. Our KPMG Singapore Leadership Academy has learning roadmaps that aim to develop capabilities in four categories: human-centric, growth mindset, cognitive flexibility, digital & data. This approach increases engagement for employees at all levels because they are clear about what exactly they need to learn.

Q We’re now seeing HR manage portfolios that were previously considered far from their job description. In your view, what are the top three skills and attributes of today’s successful CHRO?

While HR management is traditionally led by CHROs and their equivalents, people and talent management are at the very heart of KPMG in Singapore, as the value we deliver to our stakeholders is generated by the quality and capabilities of our people, which is facing increasingly complex demands. This inadvertently extends HR leadership beyond the conventional practice, which means that the success from HR strategies needs to be realised through the ranks of HR practitioners.

The skills we know are critical include resilience, which helps practitioners address and overcome the pressures in managing the ever-evolving working environment.

We also see the ability to exercise flexibility as important, so that strategies can be devised to navigate contemporary issues - such as hybrid work policies to find the sweet spot between providing autonomy and flexibility without sacrificing team cohesion, productivity, and inclusion.

Most importantly, empathy and mindfulness are required, especially in the ability to better acknowledge and appreciate the new workstyle challenges the staff could be experiencing. We believe it is imperative for HR practitioners to have a constant feel of the people to better devise methods and initiatives to support them.


Image / Provided by KPMG in Singapore

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