KPMG's CEO Reveals How to Be a Strong Diversity Leader

KPMG CEO and Chairman John Veihmeyer asserts that his strict commitment and daily, personal communication with mid-level managers is the best way to generate buy-in.

Even top-performing companies like KPMG, No. 22 in the 2012 DiversityInc Top 50 and our 2011 Top Company for Talent Pipeline, face challenges when generating buy-in on inclusion efforts from middle management. KPMG Chairman and CEO John Veihmeyer knows the pivotal role diversity has to his firm's business operations and has personally invested himself to make sure all his decision makers are impassioned to reach those goals.

"When I came into this role, it was really important that we elevated the visibility of diversity as an objective force," recalled Veihmeyer as he spoke with DiversityInc CEO Luke Visconti at a DiversityInc event. He discussed with Visconti why he believes equitable values are key to an inclusive workplace and how best to communicate those to the entire organization.

He noted that communicating the importance of diversity doesn't stop with memos, emails and webcasts. "You will fall flat on your face," he said.

Read: CEO Commitment: Why Visibility & Accountability Matter

Generating Buy-In

Veihmeyer had to convey KPMG's goals to all leaders of local business units—a total of 150 people—and connect with them on a daily basis. "If you aren't passionate about this, then you can't be in your leadership role, and we do have people who don't respond the right way," he said. He noted that all 22,000 employees might not yet buy in, but it is imperative to have his 150 local leaders on board.

"Diversity is not just a nice thing to do because we are all good people. It's about trying to connect the dots and intellectually make the case for why we won't grow as fast, be as profitable, have the best latent and achieve all of our objectives without inclusion," he added.

Recruiting & Retention

Talent management is also high on KPMG's agenda. Despite high unemployment rates, the firm globally is facing a talent shortage. It has shifted its thinking toward an environment of sponsorship.

Veihmeyer says this mentality is an active responsibility for career progression among employees. KPMG has a Leaders Engaging Leaders program in which participants take responsibility for at least two high potentials and are held accountable for their continued growth and resignations.

Community Connection

Additionally, KPMG encourages volunteerism and community outreach. Veihmeyer believes that there is a connection between how you treat employees and clients. "I think those drawn to caring about community and making a difference in the lives of people can look at clients from an empathetic standpoint," he said. "It's not just about generating a fee but finding solutions and getting to the next level."

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