Three students from the Aalto University’s department of management studies: Katariina Helin and Katja Neimala (M.Sc. students) and Hilla Back (PhD candidate), conducted a customized business project for the School of Business’s partner company KPMG. The team was supervised by postdoctoral researcher Kristiina Herold from the School of Business, who is specialized in organizational behaviour.
As the world is changing fast, employee diversity has become a hot topic in both positive (innovativeness) and negative (inequality and discrimination) terms. KPMG wanted to know more about their current state of diversity and how it is affecting employees and the organization.
The aim of the project was to create a framework for what diversity is, and subsequently collect data on what kind of personnel groups work at KPMG and how these groups experience the different aspects of diversity that affect their work. Attention was also paid to decision making in the organization. At the end of the project, the students gave KPMG recommendations for implementable diversity acts for 2020.
The students conducted background research to form a diversity framework and built a survey based on this framework. As the survey yielded not only quantitative data but also hundreds of open answers, the students were able to obtain rich and descriptive data from which it was possible to identify meaningful themes and thus create valuable conclusions. Based on the analysis, an action plan for diversity acts 2020 was created and presented to the firm.
‘We will benefit immensely from the analysis when taking these issues forward in the organization. A huge thank you,’ says Hanna Niemi, Lead of People, Performance & Culture at KPMG Finland.
A great learning experience and very smooth cooperation
Katja Neimala tells that the topic of this project was very close to her heart personally, so it was extremely interesting to get to work on it with a great group of motivated peers.
‘I also got to learn more about how to conduct research in organisations and about data analysis methods, which I’m sure will be very useful in my future,’ she says.
‘As I'm writing my doctoral dissertation on issues of diversity and inclusion, this project was greatly beneficial in allowing me to see how these issues actualize in a large organization such as KPMG Finland. This project also offered me a glimpse into how diversity and inclusion issues are managed on a management level, and even gave me new ideas for the rest of my PhD,’ comments Hilla Back.
The supervisor of the project, Kristiina Herold, also recognises the importance of diversity and inclusion at the workplace and sees the value of the project to the student team’s learning experience. According to her, a work climate in which members can embrace different viewpoints, feel that they belong, and know that their contributions are valued is a great platform for a thriving community. Thus, creating processes that advance diversity and inclusion are essential for organizations. This project was a great learning experience in many ways and cooperation with KPMG Finland was smooth.’
‘In the final presentation, all parties were pleased with the outcome, and I was especially proud of how the team combined large amounts of data into useful insights and thoughtful actions that the partner company can use to take forward their diversity and inclusion processes,’ Kristiina Herold says.
KPMG member firms operate in 147 countries, collectively employing more than 219,000 people, serving the needs of business, governments, public-sector agencies, not-for-profits and through member firms' audit and assurance practices, the capital markets. The company has close to 1,500 employees across Finland and Estonia, Finland having 22 offices, Estonia two.