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How Listening to Your Employees Helps with Retention and Recruitment

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Sponsored by:
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Sponsored by:
Elio Luongo

Elio Luongo

CEO & Senior Partner, KPMG Canada

Julia Innis

Julia Innis

Director Employee Experience, KPMG Canada

Emily Brine

Emily Brine

Managing Director, Firm Operations, Talent & Culture, KPMG Canada

In today’s competitive labour market, KPMG’s innovative employee listening strategy is proving to be a key to recruitment and retention.


The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the way we work, combined with today’s competitive labour market, has made attracting and retaining top talent challenging for many employers. As a result, Canadian companies must find new and creative ways to engage with their employees.

KPMG is responding by incorporating an active or “always-on” employee listening strategy. “I’ve always believed in reverse mentorship and learning from our employees and how they’re approaching and thinking about different situations, but this became even more important during the pandemic when we shifted to a remote working environment overnight,” says Elio Luongo, CEO and Senior Partner at KPMG Canada. “With so much change and so many unknowns, we really wanted to hear from them on how they were adapting to working from home and to make sure they knew their personal needs and challenges were being understood and supported.”

Wanting to respond to an ever-changing reality for its people, KPMG redefined its employee listening strategy in 2021. “We’re intentional about incorporating the voice of our employees into business decisions that will impact their work experience and our success as a firm,” says Luongo.

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Listening to employees at all levels

The voices of KPMG’s employees are heard through several different mechanisms — from the annual KPMG worldwide employee engagement survey, which is focused on core areas such as values, leadership, and learning, to quarterly pulse surveys, to various employee listening circles run at the local or business function level. The firm also has a group of “Listening Champions.”

One particularly innovative listening initiative is the Leaders of Tomorrow Circle, spearheaded by Luongo. Open to employees at all levels and currently comprising 26 members, the Leaders of Tomorrow Circle acts as a sounding board to the CEO and provides feedback on future business activities that are going to affect KPMG’s people.

“The Leaders are a diverse group of people representing different business functions, job levels, and geographies who meet monthly with our CEO to share perspectives on firm initiatives and help shape the future of our organization,” says Julia Innis, Director Employee Experience at KPMG Canada. New Leaders are chosen every year through an application process. This year, Luongo asked applicants to create an action plan on how to offer an outstanding employee experience. One of the recent outcomes of the Leaders of Tomorrow Circle has been new and actionable ideas to shape new policy guidelines around environmental sustainability.

“We find that this ‘always-on’ listening strategy really helps with employee retention because employees are encouraged to use their voice to drive change within KPMG, which in turn makes them feel more invested in the organization’s success,” says Innis.

With so much change and so many unknowns, we really wanted to hear from them on how they were adapting to working from home and to make sure they knew their personal needs and challenges were being understood and supported.

Turning employee listening into action

In December 2021, KPMG circulated an internal survey asking employees which benefits they valued the most. The feedback was that they would like more dedicated time off, and the company responded with an initiative to give employees a chance to recharge, refresh, and disconnect from work.

This summer, KPMG employees can look forward to Summer Splash, where employees get Fridays off during July and August. This means long weekends every weekend for those who work at KPMG.

Summer Splash follows a similar initiative in 2021 called Summer Shakeup, which provided employees with six extra paid days off. “We also gave them a $500 bonus to deposit into their accounts and redeem for cash or gift cards, donate to a charity of their choice, or use toward their TFSA or RSP,” says Emily Brine, Managing Director, Firm Operations, Talent and Culture at KPMG Canada.

Based on the positive employee feedback of Summer Shakeup, KPMG announced its Winter Refresh initiative in December 2021, giving its employees paid time off from December 23 to 31 and stretching the winter break to 11 consecutive days.

Flexible options allow employees to be most effective

Along with more time off, KPMG employees indicated they wanted more flexible ways of working. “Like many Canadian organizations, we were trying to think forward about new ways of working and take what we’ve learned throughout the pandemic,” says Brine. A key learning was that employees should work where they’re most effective to meet client, team, and business needs. “That could involve working remotely some days and working at client sites or the office on other days. We’re trusting our employees to work with their teams and clients to make decisions on where they work each day, and that trust and flexibility helps us to attract and retain talent,” says Brine.

By adopting a people-first approach through active listening, KPMG can adapt quickly to the needs of employees and show commitment to its workforce. “Recognizing employees’ unique lived experiences challenges us to strike the right balance between capturing individuals’ voices and broader employee representation needs,” says Luongo. “We’re all invested in driving change and will take ownership in driving meaningful action to improve our employees’ experience.”


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