Our responses to this crisis will be our legacy

Post author image. Guest Editor

Anna Purchas, Head of People, KPMG writes on why KPMG did not hesitate to accept when invited to work with Business in the Community (BITC) and National Grid to develop the recently published Death, Bereavement and Grief and the Impact of COVID-19 toolkit.

Anna is responsible for the strategic and operational aspects of human resources, learning and culture within the UK, enabling KPMG’s ambition to be a magnet for talent through attraction, development and retention of diverse talent at all levels of the organisation.  

As leaders, there’s no doubt we’re under the microscope right now. We’re still watching and waiting to see how the COVID-19 crisis will unfold, and the full impact it will have on the way we live and the way we work.  

COVID-19 has impacted all of us in different ways. From childcare challenges to cabin fever, work-life balance to learning new technologies, the corona-coaster of emotions has hit many of us. The unpredictability, isolation and fear for ourselves and our loved ones – it’s, as we keep hearing, unprecedented, and sadly not over yet.  

Back in March, when we realised the extent of the crisis, I met with KPMG’s leadership team to plan what we needed to do. It was clear to us all that this was a time for compassionate and empathetic leadership – to recognise that we needed to support each other through the turbulence that lay ahead. One of the first things we announced was increased flexible working and additional paid time off for those needing to care for dependants – a huge relief to our people.  

Soon after, we conducted a full review of our death-in-service protocols and gave additional guidance to leaders on supporting colleagues to deal with death and bereavement. The uncomfortable truth was, and is, that the pandemic would take away loved ones, and many before their time. We wanted to be prepared in advance and really clear about how we could support in these saddest of situations. 

“Talking about death isn’t easy and is deeply personal, but, if we are to provide our people with the support they need, it’s a topic we need to face into.”

We have a young workforce and this crisis will lead many of them to experience loss for the first time, and without the physical presence of family and friends to support, or the opportunity to follow the usual rituals in grieving. As a business community, we want to be there for our colleagues, responding with kindness and care.  

When we were invited to work with BITC and National Grid on the development of the Death, bereavement and grief and the impact of COVID-19 toolkit, we didn’t hesitate to accept. Talking about death isn’t easy and is deeply personal, but, if we are to provide our people with the support they need, it’s a topic we need to face into.  

The toolkit offers practical guidance for leaders and HR practitioners to support colleagues through death, bereavement and grief. It’s highly practical and lists the actions businesses of all sizes can take to provide better support and help mitigate the risks of longer-term mental health issues. 

Our responses to this crisis will be our legacy. As business leaders, every decision we make has the power to build or break trust with our people and clients – creating a safe a supportive culture is key to protecting our future.