Lynsey Harris and Jabari Bovell of KPMG in the Crown Dependencies explain how DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) drives innovation and brings about change
‘For KPMG in the Crown Dependencies, DEI means embedding a culture where people feel welcome and free to come as they are,’ says Lynsey, Head of People at KPMG’s Athol Street, Douglas office. ‘And that commitment to “live” DEI, to make sure people are respected and their voices are heard, extends right across KPMG’s global network.
‘Because DEI is so firmly embedded in our culture, people feel free to bring their own unique personalities and experiences to the workplace. That means that as a business, we’re able to connect better not only with our people, but also with our clients and with the communities in which we operate.’
A robust DEI culture is a powerful force for change, says Jabari, a Senior Manager in the firm’s Deal Advisory team. He says: ‘Celebrating and valuing those unique experiences and different perspectives help to create a diverse workforce. That, in turn, sparks innovation and contributes to enhancing the client proposition.’
Delivering on DEI is at the heart of KPMG’s ESG (environmental, social and governance) commitment, says Jabari, adding: ‘And the DEI “pillar” is central to KPMG’s overall impact programme. Impact is the name given to our local ESG plans, outlining actions and commitments across 4 pillars: Planet, People, Prosperity and Governance.’
Lynsey adds: ‘What’s great about the DEI pillar is that it serves as a forum to which people are actively encouraged to contribute and that helps to drive the DEI agenda.’
‘That pillar not only shapes our culture, policies and products but also has a positive influence on our recruitment programme,’ says Jabari. ‘At KPMG, retention is as important as recruitment. Recruitment is about getting the right people to build a diverse workforce. Retention is about making sure those people feel comfortable and valued and have equal career development opportunities, so they can become the best they can.
‘We recently ran an induction week programme for students where we made a point of saying we wanted to know not just about the person who comes to work nine to five, but about the individual, so we asked “what are you passionate about?”, because that’s what helps to drive change, shape and strengthen the firm’s DEI credentials.
‘People who come to work at KPMG know they’ll be valued, listened to and comfortable to bring their whole self – or as much as they choose to. KPMG’s approach to DEI is holistic. The benefit of the DEI pillar is a broader perspective; that a pool of people with diverse experiences and from different cultures can bring so much to the table. And it’s not just the lived experiences of our people; it’s the interaction they have with their families - even their children - that can add to the mix and ultimately help to shape the firm’s culture.’
‘We have around 40 different nationalities working here,’ says Lynsey. ‘As part of celebrating and recognising the diverse cultures in our workforce, we support events such as Africa Day and Black History month, and a number of us volunteered at this year’s Pride festival. I’m from the Isle of Man and KPMG is the most inclusive environment I’ve worked in. It’s a business where commitment to actually living DEI is very important and where leadership takes promoting and delivering on DEI very seriously.’
‘One of the great things about working for KPMG is that you’re part of a global network so you know that wherever you move within the organisation you’ll find the same values proposition and culture, delivered largely in the same way,’ says Jabari. ‘What does make a difference, though, is how leaders drive that culture, so those DEI policies and agenda go from being just words on a piece of paper to being transformed into practice.’
Jabari says he has seen a subtle change in leadership approach. ‘At the time of the “Black Lives Matter” march in the island, just after we’d emerged from the pandemic, I happened to say to one of the partners that I felt the firm could have perhaps done more in its response. It wasn’t that people here felt they couldn’t have supported the march; it was more that I felt the leadership should have taken a more supportive stance in the first instance and let people know that this was something there was a place for in the business. Now, though, I don’t feel the need to have those conversations. Our leaders are listening and responding, adopting a “how can we do more?” approach. And that’s where the DEI pillar can have such a positive influence, alerting leadership to what’s happening in the community.
‘Since I came into the business, I’ve seen how the impact programme has gained momentum and embedded DEI firmly into our culture, giving people from more underrepresented communities greater visibility and a voice. I’ve worked for KPMG for about seven years, first in Barbados, where I was born, then some four years ago I moved to the Isle of Man for the career opportunities KPMG offered and also for the personal growth opportunities I felt the island could provide. As a gay black man, I fall into two of the minority groups KPMG’s DEI culture actively supports. I want to make sure those more underrepresented, voices are heard, to reassure them that there’s a place for everyone in the business and that together we can bring about change.
‘I’ve never felt I’ve had to make a lot of “noise” to achieve this, though, because I know the business wants to hear everyone’s views and learn from those different perspectives.
‘We’ve said how DEI is a powerful force for change and the business will, of course, continue to change over the years, and that’s a good thing. But DEI always was - and will always be - at the heart of KPMG’s culture. The introduction, though, of Our Impact articulated and formalised that approach and is recognition of just how important DEI is to the business.
‘And while I applaud how much the business is doing around DEI, I wouldn’t want people to feel that after they go out of the doors of KPMG they’re entering a community that doesn’t respect or value diversity, because that could deter them from staying in the Isle of Man. Given that KPMG has such a prominent standing in the island, I feel it has an important role to play in driving the DEI agenda not only internally but also across the Isle of Man community as a whole.’
Lynsey says: ‘KPMG isn’t just about diverse cultures, it’s also about diverse careers. As well as opportunities to thrive with us, train with us and develop your career, there’s the global mobility programme where you can relocate within the worldwide KPMG network - to Australia or Dubai, for example - but wherever you go, you’ll be assured of that same nurturing and inclusive culture that distinguishes the KPMG brand.
‘KPMG is very much a people business and that’s reflected in our recent brand refresh, central to which is “people”, celebrating individual differences and extending an open invitation to “come as you are”.’