Big Four accountancy firm KPMG will make unconscious bias training mandatory and linked to bonuses from next month, just over a year after its now ex-Chairman called the idea “complete crap”. The Telegraph has more.
The accounting giant’s 15,300 U.K. staff could have their bonuses slashed if they refuse to attend future lessons on bias, which will highlight how discussing skiing holidays, gap years and private schooling can isolate others.
The move, which marks the first time KPMG has made this training compulsory, comes just over a year after its former U.K. chief Bill Michael stepped aside following an outburst in which he told workers to stop “playing the victim card”.
His remarks also saw him call unconscious bias “complete crap”, triggering a backlash from staff who argued that dismissing the concept was “reckless” and reflective of his own privilege. Mr. Michael later apologised for his comments.
Companies are increasingly keen to show they are tackling unconscious bias – making assumptions about people based on characteristics such as gender, race or background – by trying to alert staff to hidden prejudices that might influence their behaviour.
However the results of training programmes have been mixed. Whitehall scrapped its unconscious bias training in late 2020 after finding little conclusive proof that it works.
Mr. Michael’s comments last year came just days after KPMG revealed that staff from ethnic minority backgrounds were paid an average of 38.2% less than white colleagues due to their underrepresentation in senior roles. Its partners pocketed an average of £572,000 each for the year to September 2020.
The Big Four accountant also vowed to ensure that a third of its senior employees come from working class backgrounds late last year, making it the first large British business to set a target for socio-economic diversity in the workplace.
KPMG’s compulsory training, which will start in June, will raise awareness of the workplace biases facing those from certain backgrounds as well as race, gender identity, disability and sexual orientation.
Worth reading in full.
Stop Press: If you’ve been ordered to undergo unconscious bias training at your workplace and want to opt out, the Free Speech Union has published some FAQs setting out what your legal rights are and how to push back while minimising the risk of being disciplined or fired. However, before refusing I recommend you join the FSU so we can defend your rights if you do get into trouble. For those wishing to furnish themselves with the evidence that unconscious bias training is a waste of time and money, the FSU published a briefing paper on its shortcomings here.