Language selector

KPMG Canada

Page controls

Page content

KPMG LLP (KPMG) is the Canadian member firm affiliated with KPMG International, a global network of professional firms providing audit, tax and advisory services to clients in over 140 countries. KPMG in Canada has 33 offices nationally and over 5,000 professional staff.

KPMG is committed to creating and supporting a diverse and inclusive workplace culture that respects and values peoples’ differences. KPMG Canada has won many awards for its efforts. For example, for the past two years, KPMG has been the only accounting firm, among the top four accounting firms in Canada, to be named one of the Best Employers for New Canadians and Canada’s Best Diversity Employers.

The Pulse Survey

In 2001, KPMG introduced the Pulse survey, an annual employee engagement survey. This replaced Interchange, an employee engagement survey that has existed since 1996. The Pulse survey includes 16 statements (out of approximately 90 questions overall) that relate to diversity. Some of the questions are designed to measure and track how people perceive and experience the workplace. 

The Diversity Profile Tool

In June 2009, KPMG rolled out the Diversity Profile Tool (DPT). This new and effective automated process allows KPMG to collect specific demographic data on its employees. This self-identification tool replaces the old Employment Equity (EE) survey that all KPMG employees had to complete during their orientation, or “on-boarding process,” because of KPMG’s commitment to the Federal Contractors Program (FCP).

The DPT has 14 questions; including four mandatory questions on membership in the four designated groups required under the FCP, and 10 additional questions relating to: cultural background and national heritage, religion and faith, primary language, marriage and parental status, sexual orientation, and foreign trained professional status.

Why consider collecting data?

Various factors motivated KPMG to collect employee information using the Pulse Survey, including:

  • A desire to monitor and measure the impact and success of KPMG’s diversity initiatives and programs, and to identify gaps that need to be addressed - “We can’t monitor what we can’t measure.”
  • A commitment to ensuring its leaders were accountable for addressing the outcomes of the Pulse Survey and taking appropriate action.

Factors that motivated KPMG to collect employee information using the DPT included:

  • A need to make sure KPMG complies with the FCP and the Employment Equity Act. This allows KPMG to continue doing business with the federal government. This has represented a fair amount of business for the firm in the past, and hopefully more going forward.
  • A desire to enrich both KPMG’s national diversity strategy and its people programs – the information collected will make sure that KPMG continues to target and meet the needs of its people as employees
  • A desire to better reflect the changing needs of KPMG’s people and create a workplace that complies with legislation, but is also truly inclusive. The earlier process allowed KPMG to collect data on four specific groups only, and did not provide enough detail for the information to be valuable to the firm.

Goals of the workforce census

The overall goals of the Pulse Survey and the DPT are to help KPMG:

  • better target its diversity initiatives
  • better monitor and shape its diversity programs
  • better engage its people
  • create and support a diverse, welcoming and inclusive work culture that respects and values peoples’ differences
  • be an employer of choice.

Challenges and planning

KPMG had to consider a number of challenges when planning how best to collect the data using the Pulse Survey:

  • the need to develop statements that can be tracked and measured every year
  • the technical limitations of tracking intersections of employees’ identity using the Pulse Survey
    • For example, the Pulse Survey can tell KPMG how women and visible minorities will respond to the statement, “Racist comments are not tolerated at KPMG,” but it cannot show how women who are visible minorities respond to the same statement.
  • the difficulty of not being able to track certain groups of employees by office, because people are not self-identifying, or because there is not a large enough sample size in each office
  • For example, KPMG’s overall firm numbers may show that there are issues or challenges a particular group, such as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Trans-Identified (LGBT) employees, are facing. It may, however, be difficult to determine what office is facing these challenges because there may not be a large enough sample of LGBT employees in each office and/or some employees are not self-identifying as LGBT.

KPMG had to consider a number of challenges when planning how best to collect the data using the DPT:

  • the need to develop a strong business case to get buy-in from senior leaders, particularly the partners, associate partners and KPMG’s “People Leaders”
  • the support of a number of other stakeholders in the organization that would be responsible for playing a key role in developing, implementing, delivering and ensuring quality of the DPT, like the Human Resources Services, Information Technology, Communications and Legal Teams
  • concerns about the use, privacy and confidentiality of the information being collected.

Preparing for the Pulse Survey and the Diversity Profile Tool

To address the above challenges, KPMG took the following steps before launching the Pulse Survey:

  • Made diversity a strategic business priority, and set goals that showed a serious commitment to creating and supporting an organizational culture that respects and values peoples’ differences.
  • Worked closely with an external provider and subject matter expert in the area of employee engagement to create statements that could be tracked over the long term and allowed the respondents to provide feedback that was relevant to KPMG’s work.
  • Collected and analyzed qualitative data gathered through such methods as focus groups, to track intersections of employees’ identity and understand how people can experience or see the workplace differently.
  • Used different approaches to track and address issues that affect groups that may not self-identify and/or may not have a large enough sample size. Approaches included looking at overall firm numbers and setting up a mentoring program. Depending on the nature of the issue and other factors, KPMG may also address concerns through: an appropriate KPMG network (e.g. Pride@kpmg), a national taskforce (e.g. National Aboriginal Taskforce), or KPMG’s local and national Diversity Councils.

Before launching the DPT, KPMG took the following steps:

  • Had the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion team coordinate the DPT initiative, which included identifying and involving all key decision-makers/stakeholders in planning, implementing and communicating the DPT.
  • Piloted the DPT in early 2009 with a national human resources group. This group helped identify potential issues, confirm positive elements of the initiative, provide valuable feedback to enhance the survey, and create a draft frequently asked questions (FAQs) document
  • Consulted other human resources staff who provided constructive input used to draft the final FAQs document circulated to staff and leadership.
  • Identified champions within the organization to be key communicators and to promote the importance of completing the Diversity Profile.
  • Vetted all messaging through Communications, the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Team, and the Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) before circulating to leadership and staff.
  • To address privacy and confidentiality concerns, involved both internal and external legal counsel in preparing the demographic data collection questions, to make sure KPMG was meeting all legal requirements. Respondents were assured that all responses were anonymous.
  • Conducted an extensive communications plan so that respondents understood key points such as why the demographic questions were being asked and how employees benefited from taking part.
  • Addressed privacy and confidentiality concerns, via the communications strategy and detailed FAQs, which highlighted that:
    • employee responses will only be reviewed to identify overall population data and to identify trends
    • KPMG’s aim is to create initiatives that will positively support all staff
    • no one person will be singled out because of their responses
    • Diversity Profile information would be encrypted and stored in a Canadian database, subject to Canada’s Privacy Act, and could not be accessed by anyone outside of KPMG
    • both internal and external legal counsel had been consulted to make sure that KPMG was meeting all legal requirements
    • employee profiles will be password protected with a password that each employee creates, and no one will have access to employees’ passwords
    • employee profiles will be completely confidential and will never be shared with Performance Managers or any unauthorized persons
    • the Management Committee has authorized the Director of Diversity to be the only firm member with access to the Diversity Profile information, and the Director must abide by Canada’s privacy laws
    • one member of the Human Resources Services Team (HR Services Team) will help create reports on the profile data, but will not have access to the name associated with each profile
    • individual employees can access and update their Diversity Profiles at any time.

Administering the Pulse Survey and the Diversity Profile Tool

Pulse Survey:

  • The Pulse Survey is a voluntary employee engagement survey that is conducted every year, usually in November or early December.
  • The survey contains 16 statements (out of approximately 90 questions overall) that relate to diversity. There are also eight demographic questions based on Code grounds and non-Code grounds.
  • Employees and partners are advised that it is not mandatory to complete the Pulse Survey, but they are strongly encouraged to fill it out.

Diversity Profile Tool:

  • The DPT consists of 14 questions, including four mandatory questions on
  • membership in the four designated groups required as part of the FCP, and 10 other questions relating to a number of areas, including cultural background and national heritage.
  • Respondents are told that it is mandatory for all employees and partners to complete the survey. Respondents can choose not to answer a question but must submit their profiles, even if they opted out of answering some or all of the questions.
  • In June 2009, KPMG’s CHRO launched the DPT by sending an e-mail to the partners, associate partners and People Leaders. The e-mail outlined the launch of the DPT, its importance, and the benefits of encouraging staff to complete it. Detailed FAQs were included to help management address questions from staff, like how their privacy and confidentiality would be protected.
  • A week or two after the CHRO’s e-mail to senior leadership, the National Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion sent a similar e-mail and detailed FAQs to all staff.
  • The HR Services Team was available to respond to any questions or concerns, and used a detailed script to help them do so.
  • If the HR Services Team could not answer a question or an employee wanted to provide feedback about the new DPT, they were advised to contact members of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Team directly. Staff could also send questions, comments or concerns to KPMG’s diversity mailbox.
  • Employees who did not complete their Diversity Profiles would get automated e-mail reminders.
  • The DPT is now an ongoing part of the orientation process.

Some key results

Pulse Survey:

  • Last year’s return and response rate was 77%; the sample size was 5,144 employees.
  • Everyone throughout the firm responded 12-18% higher to the statement, “My future career opportunities look good here at KPMG, overall."
  • Many groups are feeling more positive in terms of gender and visible minority stereotypes being effectively addressed.
  • KPMG has seen that creating a welcoming, inclusive environment is enabling employees to bring more of themselves to work, resulting in higher productivity and increased loyalty to the firm.
  • KPMG has also seen that its efforts to embed diversity in the business and address work-life effectiveness, through initiatives like Fitness Memberships, flexible work programs and reflection rooms, translate into lower absenteeism and sickness – and healthier employees.
  • KPMG has learned that if it effectively promotes programs, more people will access and benefit from them (e.g. the Sabbatical Leave program). This is particularly important when considering that the suite of programs and benefits offered at KPMG is one of the key reasons why people join the firm.
  • Overall, the results say that KPMG has to continue the momentum of the work it is doing.

Diversity Profile Tool:

  • The sample size was 5,144 employees. Because the DPT was recently launched, KPMG does not have key results to report back on and cannot confirm a return and response rate. KPMG is still sending follow-up e-mails.
  • KPMG anticipates being able to report back to staff on key results by the end of the fiscal year.
  • Based on available data from the last Canadian Census, KPMG’s Toronto offices represent the communities they serve – having higher than average representation of measured groups.
  • The DPT is able to adequately gauge KPMG’s demographics. The information collected is still being analyzed to provide an understanding of the current composition of the national workforce, among other insights. 

Acting on the results of the Pulse Survey

  • The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Team deliver results through presentations or information meetings with Partners, People Leaders and each business unit leader, who in turn decide how to communicate results to their staff.
  • In many cases, KPMG’s programs were created in response to employee feedback, such as the Pulse Survey results.
  • Depending on the nature of an issue of concern and where it is based, KPMG will tailor interventions accordingly. Examples include:
  • holding focus groups with particular groups to better understand and address issues
  • conducting professional development and/or diversity training
  • connecting people to KPMG’s professionals clubs/networks (e.g., Women’s Interchange Network)
  • setting up a Diversity Council in a particular office or the region to help make sure that local diversity issues are addressed and solutions are implemented and leveraged within the business units, consistent with KPMG’s national strategy.
  • The following are examples of some KPMG programs and initiatives that have been developed and implemented as a result of employee feedback, such as the Pulse Survey results:
    • To help and support new Canadians who are existing or potential employees, KPMG supports TRIEC’s mentoring partnership program. KPMG also recently partnered with the newly formed Edmonton Region Immigrant Employment Council (ERIEC) and Immigrant Employment Council of British Columbia (IEC-BC).
    • KPMG has set up reflection rooms in its major offices to give people a tranquil space where they can pray, reflect and meditate.
    • KPMG’s Reciprocal Mentoring Program connects its senior leaders with employees of diverse backgrounds and varying levels. Through one-on-one, face-to-face interactions, employees receive invaluable professional development advice while leaders gain perspective on diversity issues and experiences in the workplace that differ from their own. Participants also contribute to developing strategies for creating a more inclusive work environment, and the program enhances communication and relationship building among staff.
    • To remove barriers to advancement and diversify the workforce, KPMG has introduced a program to help increase the number of women and visible minorities in partnership positions. KPMG is also working with its national recruiting team to ensure diverse hiring practices.
    • In 2008, the firm created the national KPMG Aboriginal Task Force. Headed by an Aboriginal partner, the Task Force was created to raise awareness of Aboriginal issues while supporting and advancing the needs of Aboriginal employees. The Task Force also helps to implement a strategy for recruiting and retaining Aboriginal employees by increasing representation of Aboriginal peoples in the accounting industry as a whole, and in finance and accounting post-secondary programs.
    • As part of its Aboriginal Inclusiveness Strategy, KPMG is one of the first corporations to take part in a pilot Aboriginal Youth Mentoring Program aimed at encouraging Aboriginal youth to complete high school and pursue careers in accounting. KPMG's Hamilton office has partnered with the Martin Aboriginal Institute – a project of the former prime minister, the Right Honourable Paul Martin – and the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants for this pilot project.
    • People Matters is a firm-wide initiative that focuses on designing people practices to support KPMG’s goal of being a great employer. Programs have been created to help employees manage different aspects of their life and find work-life effectiveness so they can remain fully present at work. One example is Backup Child and Dependant Care, which gives all employees the availability of emergency back-up care when regular care arrangements for children and elderly dependents are unavailable.
  • Data collected from the Pulse Survey allows KPMG to set targets for achieving change to improve the organization and make it more inclusive.
  • All of KPMG’s business unit leaders are accountable for addressing diversity concerns in their unit by tracking, comparing and evaluating all business units’ Pulse Survey results, year after year.
  • KPMG is also developing a diversity report card that will include key performance indicators based on such factors as the Pulse Survey results, retention rates, and the community involvement of a business unit.

Best practices

  • Collecting information through the Pulse Survey, on an annual basis, has helped KPMG: track and monitor its progress; recognize that “you can’t monitor what you don’t measure”, be proactive rather than reactive, and ensure that its programs are effective and of benefit to its employees.
  • Gathering data through the Pulse Survey, on an annual basis, has helped KPMG further segment its Pulse Survey results and identify gaps, trends, and issues of concern.

Lessons learned

  • Unless people identify themselves (e.g. as a visible minority or Aboriginal person), further effort and creativity is required to track and monitor a particular group of interest.
  • When organizations are developing statements/questions for an annual survey or other tool, they must be certain that the statements/questions are ones that they want to be asking over the long term - they must plan and think through carefully.
  • It is okay to modify statements/questions now and then, but modifying them too much can prevent an organization’s ability to track a response if there’s too much variance between the original statement/question and the modified one.
  • Tracking the intersections of peoples’ identity and how they can experience or see the workplace differently would be helpful.
  • When necessary and able, an organization should supplement numbers with qualitative data collection methods. Such an approach can often provide a better understanding of an issue and how to address it.
  • If a concern comes to the attention of a business unit and changes are put in place, the business unit should not expect change overnight. Some issues can be resolved that quickly, but in most cases, it is a process to see an organizational culture change. You may see a shift in the following year or it may take longer than that.

Book Prev / Next Navigation