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Why KPMG is treating employees who want to learn AI to a $450 million retraining center that feels like a luxury resort

Submitted by Tech Insider on January 14, 2020 - 12:54pm

KPMG_Lakehouse

  • Establishing and promoting company culture is increasingly important as organizations look to adopt new digital tools.
  • At KPMG, the professional services giant considered reflecting the company values in the design a top priority when planning a new $450 million training facility.
  • Outside of the cultural aspect, the KPMG Lakehouse is also a hub to train workers on the newest tech tools. Such investments are necessary to stay competitive, but it's also an effort to retain current employees, according to CFO David Turner. 
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Promoting the company's culture was a top priority when KPMG was making preliminary plans for its new $450 million training facility.

It emerges in different ways throughout the 800,000-square-foot facility, some more subtle than others. The hallway to the main conference space, for example, is lined with artifacts from KPMG's heritage, including a ledger from original founder James Marwick dating to 1898. In another area, a set of lights that hang over the cafeteria change colors — a nod to the importance of diversity at the firm.

KPMG_lights

"There are things that the physical representation here is designed to really reflect what we see as our core kind of cultural aspects," said chief financial officer David Turner. "What we will be doing going forward is gradually introducing things to people so that they begin time and again to make that connection."

It's not just KPMG that is making this a focus. As companies across corporate America look to upgrade their digital platforms and retrain their employees on the skills to make that shift possible, executives are realizing the importance of the accompanying culture change.

"More than ever, culture and values are huge keys to enabling a business strategy," CEO Lynne Doughtie told Business Insider. "I'm hearing more and more business leaders and boards focus on culture as an enabler of technology."

For professional-services companies, that connection back to values can be vital to business — even if an employee leaves the firm. Individuals that depart could land at organizations that KPMG currently serves or wants to land as a client. Tying workers to the culture helps create "a lifetime hook to KPMG," Turner said. "That is part of what we want to try and achieve."

But it can be more difficult to do that in a company where employees are constantly on the road and working deep inside some of the world's largest corporations. That was a key impetus for the Lakehouse.

"This will bring it all together. Because a lot of the time our people are very dispersed," Turner said. "It's not a thousand different cultures spread all around a thousand clients. There's something that is consistent, and this ties KPMG people to each other."

'This is a massive example of how we're investing in our people'

Outside of the cultural reinforcement, the Lakehouse is also a recognition that KPMG needs to create a workforce that can excel in an increasingly digital environment, where skills like AI specialist and software engineer are in high demand.

Such efforts are increasingly necessary for professional-services firms to stay competitive. But it is also about investing enough in existing employees to convince them to stay. At the Lakehouse, KPMG will train its employees on advanced tech like AI and blockchain — and those employees will in turn use the knowledge to better serve clients. 

"How do you actually make people understand that you are not just about taking from them as a sort of employer-employee thing," Turner said. "To us, this is a massive example of how we're investing in our people."

And it's that testament that Turner is counting on lasting for decades to come — well beyond the current crop of leadership. "You don't get many chances in your career to point at something that is truly not about yourself as an individual," he said.

"It's a true legacy that they're creating to both infuse and reinforce, but also to establish KPMG's culture for generations," Turner added. "I won't be here in a few years' time. This facility will, and the people coming behind will benefit from it for many, many years."

SEE ALSO: These are the billion-dollar programs KPMG, Deloitte, and PwC plan to use in 2020 to retrain thousands of employees on the hottest new tech

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