To find a higher purpose, common thinking suggests that one must continually strive to discover a more conscious, meaningful way to live. While that sounds all warm and fuzzy and gives the sense of just having read “Siddhartha” for the first time, there is a serious business application here.
With its ambitious Higher Purpose initiative, KPMG understands that the journey of a thousand miles always begins with a single step. Though the global professional services firm is three years into that journey, the path to enlightenment for its employees and executives remains a never-ending quest to learn, grow and evolve.
“Higher Purpose is part of our DNA here at KPMG,” said Christine Griffith, the partner in charge of KPMG Tax School. “It’s a part of our culture and is integrated into our learning and development — here’s why we do this, and here’s what it means to us and our clients.”
Griffith, who has been with KPMG for 25 years, said it’s crucial to recognize that there’s a purpose and reason for everything they do, especially when articulating the “why” when developing a learning and development program at the KPMG Business School, or KBS. She said quantifying any program’s success often takes a conscious recalibration, whether it’s Web-based or live.
That manifests in a commitment to blended learning, which in turn fosters a culture that encourages pre- and post-event evaluations rather than maintaining the status quo.
“Our approach gets us away from a one-time training event,” Griffith said. “We recognize that learning is not one size fits all. We facilitate individuals’ learning needs. Our CEO [Lynne Doughtie] places an immense amount of emphasis on our learning culture. It’s essential to our success.”
The Higher Purpose initiative takes it a step, well, higher. Now integrated with every large learning program KBS offers, rather than the drab conference center walls that traditionally greet learners, wall-sized banners celebrating KPMG colleagues’ achievements festoon the facility.
Higher Purpose posters created by KPMG professionals answer the question: “What do you do at KPMG?” The responses vary from, “We get auto companies back on the road” to the very serene “I promote peace.” Session leaders also relay stories about the difference their work has made. Similarly, participants learn how to craft tales around their own personal achievements.
“It’s not just, ‘Here you go.’ We’ve developed this culture of constant learning and teaching,” said Griffith, who works out of KPMG’s Houston office. “We see at all levels of the organization how important it is to continuously communicate the importance of learning.”
Last year, the company expanded on Higher Purpose with its Portraits of Purpose initiative, which promotes employees highlighting their colleagues’ achievements. “Cyber defense protects big data!” proclaims one banner with portraits of several employees; “Kaia West builds enduring relationships,” states another along with a photo of Kaia West.
Higher Purpose, Portraits With Purpose — the initiatives sound wonderful. But do they work? Absolutely, Griffith said. Since implementation three years ago, employee engagement has soared. More than 90 percent of employees whose managers communicate purpose said KPMG is a great place to work vs. 66 percent whose managers don’t communicate the mantra. That engagement works in the learning organization’s favor.
“Part of our culture is that we treat training as an event,” Griffith said. “The more that we put into L&D, the more that we get out of it. We always recognize that we do something for a reason.”
So, what is Griffith’s higher purpose at KPMG? “I have an investment to make everyone the best that they can be.”
Griffith said she was attracted to KPMG a quarter-century ago because of its innovative culture of creativity and its spirit of ownership. She said that buy-in remains. “I’m an instructor; my only aspiration was to be part of L&D here.”
Rick Bell is Chief Learning Officer’s editorial director. Comment below, or email editor@CLOmedia.com.