KPMG staff to undergo mandatory unconscious bias training

Failure to complete the training may result in performance scrutiny

Kate Ng
Tuesday 24 May 2022 11:48 BST
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KPMG will make unconscious bias training a mandatory requirement for its 15,800-strong workforce, with penalties in place if staff refuse to undergo the training.

It comes 18 months after the auditing firm’s former chairman Bill Michael stepped down after calling unconscious bias training “complete cr**”.

KPMG, one of the Big Four accounting organisations, will strip staff of their bonuses if they do not undertake the new compulsory training.

The unconscious bias training will tackle assumptions made around the type of holidays, schools and sport staff are involved in.

It is set to focus on biases around “race, class, gender identity, disability and sexual orientation”, amid efforts across the Big Four firms to boost diversity and inclusivity among staff.

Unconscious bias refers to the way a person thinks based on their life experiences, which can sometimes include beliefs and views about other people that might not be right or reasonable, according to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS).

KPMG’s training, which begins in June, forms one part of the company’s social mobility action plan that it announced in September 2021.

The firm aims to boost the number of UK partners and directors coming from a working class background up to 29 per cent by 2030. Currently, 23 per cent of its partners and 20 per cent of its directors are from a working class background.

Any staff who fail to complete the training will see them being scrutinised by performance leaders and may impact their performance rating and bonus as a result.

Kevin Hogarth, chief people officer at KPMG UK, said: “Building an inclusive, diverse and equitable business remains a key priority for our firm.

“Not only is it the right thing to do from an ethical perspective, but we recognise that by having a diverse workforce, we also benefit from the wide range of experiences and perspectives our people bring to their day-to-day work. It helps deliver better outcomes for both our own business and our clients.”

He added: “Our upcoming inclusion, diversity and equity training module will be mandatory for all our colleagues and partners, ensuring it gets the attention it deserves.

“We want all our people to come as they are, and that can only be made possible by challenging ourselves, confronting biases and listening and learning from each other.”

Last year, Michael said during a virtual staff meeting that there was “no such thing as unconscious bias”, adding: “I don’t buy it.”

“I think unconscious bias is complete cr**, complete and utter cr** for years, it really is,” he said. “Because after every single unconscious bias training that has ever been done, nothing’s ever improved.”

A number of reports have claimed that the training will stop staff from speaking about things like skiing holidays and private schools.

However, KPMG has told The Independent that this is “not the case” and that the firm is encouraging staff not to make “assumptions based on such aspects”.

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