One step ahead of the game

KPMG has long recognised the value of flexible working and been one of the most forward-thinking organisations in its implementation, but it has not rested on their laurels. Its efforts have won it a Workingmums Top Employers Award.

KPMG has long recognised the value of flexible working and been one of the most forward-thinking organisations in its implementation, but it has not rested on their laurels.

The global professional services firm has continued to push ahead with initiatives to engage staff, including working mums, and it was this willingness to try out new approaches which recently scooped them a Working Mums Top Employers Award for Innovation.

The judges were impressed by KPMG’s record on transition coaching, maternity coaching, women’s networking and managing other colleagues’ perceptions and felt its approach was the most comprehensive and was a model of best practice.

The firm, which has 10,000 staff, offers a wide array of flexible working, including “glide time” when you can come in early and leave later or vice versa, job shares, flexi-hours and part time work. One of its most innovative additions is annualised days. These are open to all employees and mean they can choose to opt for working longer hours at some points during the year and fewer days on other occasions, such as in the school holidays. “It’s like term time working, but it is open to people without children,” says Gaynor Francis, Diversity Assistant Manager. “It’s not as rigid or exclusive as term-time working. Our flexible work policy is open to everyone. We don’t want to restrict it just to parents.”

The firm also offers staff the ability to buy up to five additional days off a year. This is then deducted from your monthly salary.

Glide time
Francis herself has an 11-month-old daughter and works three days in the office and one day at home and uses glide time, coming in early and finishing early. In some cases, she says, flexible arrangements for staff are formalised, but they can be agreed on an informal and occasional basis.

KPMG is very keen to spread the message about flexible working benefits to its staff and to promote the business case for it. To this end, it has prepared a lot of case studies of people, including senior managers, who have worked flexibly and succeeded in furthering their careers. Such positive case studies are carried on its KNOW UK [KPMG Network of Women]. “The role models are not just about flexible working, but about how they have made it as women in KPMG,” says Francis. The firm also has a dedicated flexible working site which includes case studies and hints of how to balance work and family life. “It’s about how to make flexible working work for you,” says Francis. “The firm offers all kinds of flexible working, but it is up to the individual to make it work in the way they want it to. It’s a two-way thing. It has to fit in with what is good for the team, your clients and your needs. If you can make it work the firm will not turn it down.”

KPMG also has a website called My Family Matters which includes issues of interest to parents, such as maternity coaching, advice about work life balance, the different stages of parenting and emergency childcare.

KPMG pays for staff to have up to 20 days a year of emergency childcare, the first five of which do not require a manager’s approval. It works with My Family Care, a childcare specialist which provides emergency childcare including nannies and Ofsted-checked childminders. Employees with children are encouraged to register beforehand so all the details the firm needs if there is an emergency, such as children’s allergies, are on file.

Francis says she has used it herself. She wasn’t sure at first about leaving her daughter with a stranger, but she made sure the nanny came a few hours early so she got to know her first. “I thought I would never use it when I went back to work, but I had to be at work that day and it is a really good service,” she says. “The nanny who came had a lot of experience and it means you don’t have to worry if something comes up at the last minute and you have a meeting booked.”

Transition coaching
The firm also offers transition coaching to mums to be so that they can talk about the issues that concern them when they go on maternity leave and just after they return. Initially, external coaches led the sessions, but now it is done in-house and is subject to regular review.

Francis runs the maternity returners workshop and says most questions women have are around keeping up their profile and networking when they can no longer stay late after work. They are also interested in how they can progress their career when they are working part time. “We look at the kind of things people need to do to get promoted and how you have to think creatively about how you can add value. If you can’t be present for drinks in the evening, for instance, can you add value differently, perhaps by having more lunch meetings,” says Francis. “How can you stand out?”

The firm is also keen to further its work in finding out what dads at KPMG need in terms of support. It offers parenting seminars which are open to all parents and it has a Parents Network which is looking at what it can offer which is uniquely for dads. “We want to do more on paternity leave,” says Francis, adding that the firm already offers two weeks’ paternity leave on full pay. “Some dads want extra money and time, while others want more advice about how to be better parents.” Currently, the firm’s maternity policy allows for up to 18 weeks on full pay, but this is based on over four years’ continuous service with the company.

KPMG constantly keeps this under review to ensure it engages staff, responds to what they want and is always one step ahead of the game it what it offers.

She says the firm was delighted to be recognised by Workingmums in its awards. “We circulated the news round all our employees,” she says. “We wanted to celebrate the award and why we won it. We will also share this news with our recruitment team to use it to attract more women to the company. Many people find the softer benefits we offer, such as flexible working, and a firm’s culture are as important or more so than salary these days.”
 

 





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