15,300 UK KPMG staff could lose part of their bonuses if they don't attend unconscious bias training

Business Insider US
The training module is mandatory to ensure that it gets the attention it deserves, KMPG's chief people officer said.
REUTERS/Charles Platiau
  • From June, KPMG UK will introduce mandatory unconscious bias training for 15,300 consultants. 
  • It could impact a consultant's bonus if they fail to complete the training module, KPMG said. 
  • It comes 18 months after the former UK boss resigned after dismissing unconscious bias training.
  • For more stories, go to

KPMG in the United Kingdom is making unconscious bias training mandatory. Just don't tell their former boss. 

From June, 15,300 UK consultants will be expected to attend mandatory unconscious bias training, and could lose part of their bonus if they fail to complete it, the firm announced. 

The plans, which are the first time the consultancy has made such training mandatory, come 18 months after the company's former UK boss Bill Michael apologised and resigned after backlash against several comments he made. Among them were his remarks that unconscious bias training was "complete and utter crap."

Michael said he didn't believe in the training because "nothing's ever improved," even when it's carried out. He also said, at the height of the Covid-19 lockdowns, that consultants should stop complaining about the pandemic, and admitted meeting clients for coffee. 

Unconscious bias training is designed to mitigate the implicit, often unconscious biases that can lead people to make assumptions about others.

These assumptions have been shown to seep into hiring decisions and company culture. They are also seen as one of the many reasons why women, black and other minority employees remain underrepresented at senior positions across business. 

The training is part of wider plans by KPMG to boost the number of people from working-class backgrounds at its senior management and partner level, the firm told Insider. 

As part of the training, consultants will address "invisible barriers" faced by people from "lower socio-economic backgrounds," including assumptions about the type of holiday taken or the school that a person attended. 

It will also involve an immersive element, and see consultants take part in monthly themed "team activities" around subjects including Pride Month, Black History and disability inclusion, the firm said. 

Completion will be closely monitored and managers will be notified if a colleague failed to attend. This could "impact a colleague's performance rating, and by extension their bonus," KPMG said — although this will be on a case by case basis.

KPMG said that bonuses are linked to a colleague's performance rating rather than the training directly.

The training module is mandatory to ensure that it gets the attention it deserves, said Kevin Hogarth, chief people officer at KPMG UK. 

"We want all our people to come as they are, and that can only be made possible by challenging ourselves, confronting biases and listening and learning from each other," he said. 

Employers and campaigners tend to be split on the effectiveness of unconscious bias training

If implemented well it can be an effective way of helping employees empathise with their colleagues and think about the impact of their actions.

However, there is often little standardisation across businesses and it can appear to be merely a "tick-box" exercise, and will rarely change organisations unless implemented as part of wider measures.

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