There can be little doubt that some industries, typically those with long-standing traditions and a history of attracting the elite, can find it difficult to rejuvenate their working practices and move with our rapidly changing society. However, there can also be little doubt that there are organisations within those industries that are trailblazing a path towards a more socially conscious model. KPMG, winners of the inaugural ‘Leadership of the Year’ for organisations and ‘Mentor of the Year’ award for individuals at the UK Social Mobility Awards 2017, are one of those organisations. A year on from the first ever awards ceremony dedicated to social mobility in the UK, I spoke to Jatin Patel, Inclusion, Diversity and Social Equality Manager at KPMG, to discuss the impact of the awards and what to look forward to in the future. The article also features quotes from KPMG’s Jenny Baskerville, Co-Head of Inclusion, Diversity and Social Equality and Lorcan Lennon, Director.
KPMG won the ‘Leadership of the Year’ award at the inaugural UK Social Mobility Awards and Lorcan Lennon won the ‘Mentor of the Year’ award – what did it mean to the company to get that recognition?
Jenny Baskerville: Having taken a leading role in improving social mobility for over a decade, we were delighted and proud to have received ‘Leadership of the Year’ at last year’s awards. This type of recognition allows us a moment of reflection but, perhaps more importantly, the ability to influence our clients, suppliers, government and the wider business community with authority.
Jatin Patel: Promoting social mobility is an incredibly important strategic objective for KPMG – from being advocates for the real living wage to being one of the founding partners of Access Accountancy, an organisation that helps young people gain work experience with accountancy firms and professional bodies. There’s a lot of competition in our sector but we work together to ensure more people can gain access to our profession, answering the challenge set by Alan Milburn when he, quite correctly, said the accounting industry was behind in terms of social mobility. Receiving an accolade in a room full of diverse organisations and colleagues gave us immense pride and helps emphasise the fact that it’s worth making the effort.
Have the initiatives for which you won continued to be successful and have there been any new initiatives in the last year to advance social mobility?
JP: Our [social mobility initiatives] have gone from strength to strength – we continue to promote volunteering and mentoring opportunities and more of our colleagues have an understanding of what we are doing on social mobility and why.
Since last years’ awards, we’ve launched the One+1 Programme following a pilot with the Social Mobility Foundation. Any time we offer a placement, we make sure that another young person also gets one, and that spot always goes to somebody who wouldn’t otherwise have that connection.
We have strong relationships with schools in ‘coldspots’ across the country and offer workshops and mentoring opportunities to students through our staff volunteers. One of the key ways we do this is as a cornerstone employer in conjunction with the Careers and Enterprise Company. In government listed Opportunity Areas we have collaborated with other organisations to understand local problems and use our people, resources and efforts to make a difference.
What changes have you seen since winning at the UK Social Mobility Awards 2017?
JP: The Social Mobility Awards were fantastic to win and we were equally delighted to be ranked first in the Social Mobility Employability Index this year. We’ve created momentum with clients and suppliers by hosting several roundtables on the issue and as the first company to publish the socio-economic data of our workforce, have been advising our clients and suppliers on doing the same. But our work is by no means done. While the wider social mobility agenda focuses a lot on education, which is important, businesses can be doing so much more – from early outreach, strong school-leaver programmes to supporting individuals from low socio-economic backgrounds to flourish and thrive within their own organisation.
Lorcan Lennon: I was shocked and humbled to receive the ‘Mentor of the Year’ award last year. There are countless people doing extraordinary things to mentor and support others, but the award gave me even more reason to discuss this kind of activity with others and encourage colleagues and friends to get involved.
Why is it so important to have social mobility embedded at the core of the company?
JB: Promoting social mobility is not just about fairness – which is of course important – it is also a strategic imperative. It supports our objective to be a magnet for the most talented people, regardless of their background.
JP: Political uncertainty and technological advancements are disrupting the way we work, meaning we need to look in different places for skills and talent. People have a variety of different and relevant skills – be them soft or academic – but do not always have access to the same opportunities. Therefore we need to target different schools, colleges and universities to ensure we are helping all young people gain the experiences and the skills they need to succeed, and so we can build our own future workforce.
Why would you recommend other organisations participating in the UK Social Mobility Awards?
JP: The awards, and the range of categories that they cover, are really important. It’s not just about businesses – we are celebrating individuals and the impact they have outside and inside their business – which is really inspiring.
JB: We know there is much more we and others must do if we are to really drive social mobility and this award encourages us to continue advocating for this change both within KPMG and with our wider stakeholders.
LL: Whilst I have always been committed to mentoring the next generation, the award and my activity since has solidified, in my mind, the importance of improving social mobility in society. The opportunity, and responsibility, means we all have to play our part – it can be the little things we do that make a difference.
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