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“KPMG needs to constantly reinvent itself as an employer”

Interview with Christian Kehler

Christian Kehler, Head of HR at KPMG, offers a few insights into the challenging task of recruiting talent and retaining that talent at the company over the long term. How does KPMG still manage to attract top talent and specialists? And what makes KPMG an attractive employer in the long term?

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Christian Kehler, Head of HR at KPMG

Christian Kehler, Head of HR at KPMG

Which challenges does KPMG currently face on the job market?

The biggest challenge is finding the right employees to fill our openings and convince them to join KPMG. The growing regulatory burden, particularly with respect to restrictions on foreign specialists, is making this search more difficult. On top of that are candidates’ high demands in terms of job descriptions, salaries and other benefits. KPMG needs to constantly reinvent itself as an employer and position itself as an attractive place to work. What’s important is that we show candidates the extremely diverse range of career opportunities that they can expect from us and which set us apart from our competitors. That will also help us keep our competitive edge, both now and in the future.

Finding good staff is becoming increasingly difficult. How do you manage to attract top talent and specialists?

Not only do we engage in proactive recruitment and contact qualified talents and specialists directly, some of our most important channels for recruiting – and even winning back – suitable employees are our employees in their role as ambassadors as well as our large KPMG alumni network. In fact, we can offer our employees more than 120 different services in the areas of tax, legal, advisory and financial services in Switzerland alone. These different subject areas offer outstanding opportunities for multifaceted careers within the firm – with other perks like the global KPMG network and opportunities to go on international assignments. KPMG also invests heavily in training and development. What’s important is to highlight the careers we offer and the people behind all the facts and figures. We target new talent, like university graduates, by maintaining a strong presence at universities and job fairs where we hold workshops to give students a chance to familiarize themselves with our services. Real client case studies offer these up-and-coming professionals a good feel for what we do. 

Which role does diversity play?

While the topic of diversity is nothing new, it does represent a cultural shift in terms of how it relates to our talent recruitment efforts. Diversity doesn’t just refer to oft-cited gender parity, though. It also includes a person’s educational background, nationality and so many other factors that make a person who they are. We like using the term “inclusion” when talking about how each and every individual makes an important contribution and feels involved. We’re convinced that mixed teams perform more highly since they make a wider range of opinions and experiences possible. Our observations of the market have shown us that this diversity is a key decision-making factor for both potential employees and clients. 

Retaining top talent at a company over the long term is even tougher. What are you doing to sustainably position KPMG as an attractive employer?

As a unifying element, our corporate culture plays a pivotal role in positioning KPMG as an attractive employer. That’s also what we hear in feedback from our employees: our collaborative culture, team spirit and shared aspiration to come up with suitable solutions for our clients are the factors that unite them. And motivate them! At KPMG, employees can take on responsibility from the very start and gain valuable experience throughout their entire careers. “Official channels” at KPMG are usually short and we always listen to and respect our employees’ personal opinions. Other essential elements include employee events, sporting events, health initiatives, our corporate social responsibility and the activities of the KPMG Foundation. We’re responding to employees’ desire for greater flexibility and encouraging their sense of individual responsibility by strengthening mobile work models, in particular. At KPMG, whoever is ready to put in the effort can grow with the challenges and boldly help shape the future. 

How will you make sure that your employees are capable of coping with the future challenges that will be critical to the company’s success?

Training and development – whether external or internal – are one key aspect of our culture of learning. We attach great importance not only to technical qualifications and training but also to developing and strengthening employees’ soft skills, especially with an eye to future requirements. Traditional teacher-based training is supplemented by a wide range of digital classes. A clearly defined performance development process also promotes employees’ individual and personal development. As part of this process, employees can receive regular feedback from supervisors and other individuals who collaborated on projects, for example. We not only offer coaching and mentoring initiatives but also career outlook and review discussions in an effort to foster all aspects of our employees’ development. Our culture of learning also encompasses international mobility, which helps us meet the needs of each and every one of our employees to continually improve their skills and keep abreast of the latest developments. 

What advice would you like to give young graduates as they get started?

Be curious, keep an open mind and voice your critical opinions. After all, learning is a never-ending process and the job you’re applying for today might be completely different in five years. Also think about what it is that you really want and mention that during your job interview. In the spirit of lifelong learning, don’t focus on pay, rather on your opportunities for personal and professional development. That will lay the foundation for a promising career.

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