Jenny Baskerville FICRS - Director of Inclusion, Diversity and Social Equality, KPMG in the UK
How did you get into CRS, and why did you choose this profession?
I joined KPMG in 2007 as a public sector audit graduate. I really enjoyed specialising in this sector and liaising with my varied clients: the Royal College of Art, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and Transport for London to name a few, however after qualifying as a Chartered Accountant I sought out a role that was more people-oriented. At the time KPMG was working with the charity Barnardo’s. I was successful in being appointed an Assistant Manager in the Corporate Responsibility team as maternity cover, leading the charity partnership for the firm. It was such a high energy, fascinating and socially purposeful role that I never went back to Audit and stayed in the team for five years. I have since been Head of Social Mobility and became Director of Inclusion, Diversity and Social Equality (IDSE) in late 2018, recognising socio-economic diversity as an integral pillar of the broader inclusion agenda.
Whilst CRS was not a profession that I considered at the outset of my career, the professional and personal choices I have made over the years have all been driven by my desire to make a difference and to follow what I enjoy. I don’t regret any of my career moves and interestingly they have all helped me prepare for the breadth and depth of our profession in different ways, including being an accountant. I am so proud to work for a profession that has both social and economic impact, allowing me to work with a whole range of stakeholders and across all sectors. The fact that the people are all so driven, collaborative and supportive, has been the icing on the cake.
Describe a typical day in your current role
As I am sure is the case for everyone in this profession, no day is the same and I love that. I start my day early, catching up on emails and planning the day ahead. I usually then have several meetings to attend from calls with the team, strategic discussions with our People Partners or Inclusive Leadership Board, through to monthly check-in meetings with our Employee Networks, HR Business Partner IDSE Champions, or with one of our Advisory Groups. Our IDSE team ensures that an IDSE lens is applied throughout the employee lifecycle and so, when I am not in a meeting, I might be reviewing our latest IDSE Management Information for trends or pinch points or co-creating a new IDSE programme or intervention with colleagues. Given my background in campaigns and advocacy, we also look for new opportunities to collaborate with government, charities and other like-minded businesses on IDSE issues. From attending roundtables, to joining a Living Wage Advisory Group or Access Accountancy Patron Group meeting, the purpose is to maximise effort, share best practice and learn from one another. My best days are when we get to celebrate and educate through an IDSE event, festival or occasion such as International Women’s Day, Mental Health Awareness Week or Black History Month with our colleagues and beyond.
If you didn’t work in CRS, what would you do? Be as far-fetched as you like!
This is a great question. I suspect it would not be far off my current role, perhaps working in the Civil Service in a policy-based role or working for an education/social mobility-focused charity. When I was younger, I always wanted to be in musicals and work in the theatre. Maybe if I had a better voice my career could have taken a very different path altogether!
Which professional project or achievement are you most proud of?
KPMG’s longstanding track record on social mobility is one of which I am extremely proud. As Head of Social Mobility it was my role to develop and then execute the firm’s first business-wide social mobility strategy. Being ranked number one in the Social Mobility Employer Index in 2018 was special recognition for all the hard work and commitment across our leadership, colleagues and partner organisations. I remember our Chairman wrote in his all-firm Christmas email that it had been the highlight of his year, what more could one ask for? That made the whole team very happy. You can read his post here.
What is the most challenging part of your role?
I think the most challenging part of my role is managing the expectations of our colleagues and, at times, mine. I have had conversations with colleagues who want a short tick list of actions and, when done, expect our endeavour of creating a more inclusive culture and diverse workforce, where all colleagues are heard and can thrive, to be ‘done’ and complete. Re-establishing how work is allocated, for example, or challenging how people’s everyday relationships have been formed, takes effort, time and leadership. I know I can be impatient for change too. It can be disheartening not always getting to see the impact of programmes straight away but knowing that it is all contributing to a bigger social and cultural movement continues to drive me forward.
What do you think are the most important skills for working in CRS?
The most important skill would have to be stakeholder management and, more specifically, the ability to collaborate, negotiate and drive consensus across a diverse group of stakeholders. With this comes the need to be a people person: to show empathy, to be curious and a good listener, but also to be patient and resilient, because challenging the status quo and driving organisational change is neither quick nor easy.
What advice would you give to others on getting into CRS?
Understand your transferable skills, explore qualifications, start networking and consider specialising: Entry level roles in CRS are sought after for obvious reasons; it is a great career choice and one where there is a clear path for progression. However, do not be put off if you come to it later in your career as I did. Think about what transferable skills you have to offer the profession and any relevant experiences you have acquired through previous roles or volunteering. For example, my Auditing/Assurance background was critical when leading the firm’s community data assurance for the first time. I became a Trustee for East London Business Alliance five years ago and was a School Governor at my old school for four years providing me with additional experience of financial and operational strategic decision-making. I also completed the Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Business at the University of Cambridge. Additional qualifications may not be for everyone, especially when studying alongside work, but it really helped me cultivate a more critical eye on sustainable business, increased my confidence to debate significant responsible business trends and enabled me to reflect on the longer-term, strategic aspects of sustainable development. Most critically, it gave me a ready-made CRS network; peers and friends with whom I am still in touch and bounce ideas off to this day. Remember to network as much as you can, using the ICRS is an excellent starting point. And, finally, you may want to think about specialising in one or two areas of CRS. Having a more general understanding of the wider sector is of course key but being known as an expert on something can help stand you out from the crowd and elevate your case for promotion.
What one question would you like to pose to the ICRS community?
2020 has been an exceptionally hard year however we have also been inspired by so many, from our remarkable NHS and social care workers; to Captain Sir Tom Moore, Marcus Rashford MBE, and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris; to formidable charities like FareShare and The Trussell Trust. Who or what has inspired you and how will you incorporate it into your CRS work going in to 2021?
You can follow Jenny on Twitter at @jkbaskerville