A few words come immediately to mind: Energy. Engagement. Collaboration. Passion. But these and more only begin to describe the feeling in the rooms we spent time in together, October 17-19, in Montreal. Over the course of those three days, we worked with professors from the storied McGill University to deliver KPMG in Canada’s first large-scale, in-person training program since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic—and the first of its kind for new senior managers at our firm.
While it obviously isn’t yet being made partner, becoming a senior manager at a firm like ours is nevertheless a genuine milestone. It is the acknowledgment and the recognition not only of consistently high-quality work but also of leadership capacity. For the individuals, it is likewise an opportunity to find the wide-angle lens on the journey taken to reach that point, as well as where the journey’s continuing course might go from there.
It is, in short, a “moment that matters.” It matters to the new senior managers, it matters to those of us whose work is focused on creating the learning and development programs that help them reach those milestones, and it matters those of us charged with ensuring the experience of working at KPMG in Canada is unmatched in its value and impact.
We take these things very seriously, which we like to think goes some way to our firm having been named a Top 100 Employer in Canada for 17 years straight. It’s also why those days in Montreal and the ongoing virtual learning that will follow over the coming months were more than a ceremonial celebration. Much more. Sure, we could have planned a social event to just mark the occasion, but we know that’s not why professionals like these extraordinary senior managers want to work here, and least of all why they stay. So, we put a great deal of thought and care into designing this program, including in our decision to work with McGill University on both the program material’s development and delivery.
McGill, of course, is a leader in post-secondary education, and every person who completes the program will receive a leadership certificate from the McGill Executive Institute. It was also important to us to be able to offer the program in both of Canada’s official languages concurrently, which McGill was also able to support.
Irregularly scheduled programming
So, what all is in the syllabus? The in-person component featured sessions on leadership mindset, how to thrive in a rapidly changing world, leadership pragmatics such as motivation and performance management, collaborative value creation and client experience. These sessions featured both instruction from McGill faculty as well as panel discussions with some of our most senior leaders.
Naturally, we also included some intentionally social components to ensure our people (from all parts of the firm and all regions of the country where we operate) were able either to reconnect or connect anew, such as a cocktail reception, a celebration dinner—and a “business as unusual” session with The 7 Fingers arts collective, which provided a unique and experiential perspective on leadership and the principles of design thinking.
The virtual component will consist of 12 hours of learning activity led by McGill instructors and scheduled purposefully to provide flexibility over the coming months, with official graduation set for some time in the summer. This material will focus on adopting a design thinking mindset, building foundational negotiation skills, and tapping into individual networks to best lead the people around us through times of change.
So far, participants have been thrilled with the program, as has the firm’s senior leadership. Everyone has praised the high level of the instruction and the value of the content; our leadership team has made note of the authenticity of our participants’ engagement and enthusiasm; and the participants have expressed appreciation for the empathy and encouragement the leadership team has shown them as they mark this moment—because it does matter.
And why does it matter? Because we want our people to thrive with us—and we know that’s what they want, too. Not just a job, not even just a career. They want to do work that contributes to the world and makes it a better place, that has purpose—and they want to do it with other people who want the same things. That’s what this program is all about: seeing our people on their individual journeys and supporting them to make those journeys a lifetime of learning and growth, not just individually but together.
What we, as lead designers for the program overall, recognize above all is the basic truth of a simple statement: diversity of perspective makes a world of difference. It’s the sort of thing that’s easy to say but hard to prove. For us, those first days of this new program unequivocally proved it.
The program, of course, has only just launched, and we are sure it will evolve, on a journey of its own. We’re up for that, and we know our people are, too.
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