Lead Story by KPMG and Telum Media - People are the engine of business

Businesses come in different sizes and different forms but they have at least one thing in common: they have people in business. We interviewed two of our members about their people in business; KPMG, a global organisation of independent professional services firms providing audit, tax and advisory services and Telum Media, a start-up company in journalism and communication.

KPMG China & Asia Pacific Erik Bleekrode, Head of Insurance

How many employees does your company have? 

KPMG currently employs over 12,000 partners and staff in mainland China, Hong Kong SAR and Macau SAR. We are based in 27 offices across 25 cities and work collaboratively across these offices deploying experienced professionals efficiently, wherever our client is located. In Hong Kong, we employ around 2,000 people.

How does your company educate and inspire employees?

At KPMG, our people are our greatest asset and their development is a priority. That’s why one of our main objectives is to inspire and empower them to unleash their potential for the benefit of our clients and themselves. This is done by cultivating a culture and environment to make KPMG a great place to work. We have a comprehensive people development programme for people with different levels of experience, whether they are new to the firm, or an experienced member of the KPMG family. We pride ourselves in providing insightful leadership and business programmes in this increasingly challenging world.

How does management encourage employees to speak up?

We organise regular town hall meetings hosted by our Chairman and Vice-Chairmen to share strategic firm-wide messages including updates on business- and people-related topics. These town halls provide an open opportunity for our people to raise questions and queries about the firm and for them to learn more about the firm’s strategy. There are also different communication channels such as our weekly newsletters, intranet, internal social media channels, etc., to communicate firm-wide priorities and allow employees to provide feedback and comments regularly.

How does your company celebrate success?

Our people across the firm are encouraged to celebrate successes with their teams and we are proud to have our enCORE programme which recognises an individual or a team for a job well done. This may include showing appreciation by posting a note on the digital wall, sending a thank you card or recognising an individual or team for their significant contribution to the firm’s strategy through demonstrating KPMG Values.

How does your company make people feel part of the team?

An important make-up of KPMG and our people is how we live our Values and reinforce a great culture for our people to thrive. Values are the DNA that underpins our culture and they impact our day-to-day decisions big and small. One of our core values is “Together” – that we respect each other and draw strength from our differences.

What company trait of an SME do you wish you had in your business?

Agility is an important trait of any business, and with a large organisation, to be able to adapt quickly to market changes - internally and externally – can be challenging. At KPMG, thanks to the “Everyone Agile” program launched in 2019, we responded rapidly and embraced change at the very start of the COVID-19 situation. We continued to conduct business without compromising quality, to help our clients, our people and the local community.

Another trait of SMEs is how their operations and processes are likely to be more straightforward than in a large business. This can be a key factor in responding rapidly to change. This is an area for any large organization to constantly challenge itself in especially in the New Reality.

Which advantages do you as a business have over an SME?

One of the key advantages of a large firm is having a more well-established brand in the marketplace. This could mean enjoying more repeat business, and in corporate businesses, means greater access to funding.

Besides, more resources are generally available in large firms and corporate businesses, which can mean more products and services to serve their clients and being able to serve different markets.

Finally, as a large firm, we have a diverse workforce which allows people from various background and skills to draw strength from our difference. The diversity also fosters innovation and collaboration which is a big advantage for business and people development.

Telum Media Annemarelle van Schayik, Client Director

How many employees does your company have? 

In Hong Kong, we’re currently with 18 people with about 100 people across Southeast Asia, Australia and the UK. In the Hong Kong office, we’ve got various teams focusing on both our stakeholders: journalists and communications.

On the journalist-side, our teams keep our media intelligence platform up-to-date for the Hong Kong, mainland China, Macau and Taiwan markets. This is done through networking, helping journalists post Media Requests and by publishing industry personnel moves, insightful industry articles as well as our newly launched Media and PR Jobs Board.

The colleagues focusing on our PR stakeholders, which I’m part of, know everything about the PR world in our dedicated markets. Some run PR-focused industry newsletters, others demonstrate our database and CRM platform to PR agencies and in-house communication teams and some service our clients closely.

How does your company educate and inspire employees?

We are all about making genuine connections with our external stakeholders and aim to do the same with our people. Team leaders work closely with their team members on developing the individual’s skill set.

As any start-up – if we can still call ourselves that – we have gone through growing pains where sometimes you can forget the importance of employees, but we try and get them involved in different parts of the company with an internal wish list where everyone can post diverse workgroups and team outings. Focusing on the individual employee also means we can help them grow and develop.

How does management encourage employees to speak up?

We use various communication platforms including Slack, email, calls and our own back-end system. Colleagues can start or join conversations on Slack to directly communicate with any colleague across all offices including our board – and trust me most of us hear from our CEO directly at least daily. Our HR department is also regularly in touch with junior as well as senior team members to make sure we all feel comfortable, especially with most of our offices still working from home.

How does your company celebrate success?

We run two Slack channels where we post all our new wins and renewals. That said, we wouldn’t be anywhere without any of our teams who maintain the database, do quality assurance, build the product and so on - without any of them we wouldn’t have a system to sell or renew. We encourage shout-outs in office Slack channels, weekly office stand-ups and our monthly company-wide newsletter for everyone (junior or senior) to share and see.

How does your company make people feel part of the team?

We’ve been around for about eight years now and it takes time to build a company culture. We do regular teambuilding for the smaller teams and the bigger offices. We’ve also done company quizzes and murder mysteries and locally we’ve gone to do laser tag, VR, the usual dim sum lunches and office cheese and drinks.

What company trait of a corporate do you wish you had in your SME?

While we invest in our people and want to upskill them, I would have loved it if we had even more resources with company-sponsored training and courses.

Which advantage do you as an SME have over a corporate business?

Firstly, we’re fairly flexible with quick decision-making processes when needed. We’re still small enough that everyone kind of knows everyone (especially in the APAC-based offices) that we get to speak to each other regularly and that your voice is heard. We’re relatively flat with everyone being able to contribute ideas, change the way we work, know what we’re working on and be part of the Telum story. Everyone who is with us or has been with the company has contributed to and impacted the success that is Telum today.