Episode 19: WERKIN with Melanie Richards on resilience


If there is one thing Melanie Richards, Deputy Chair of KPMG UK has learned in building a more inclusive company, it is that “it’s not quite as easy as pushing buttons”. Throughout her distinguished career in finance, and as a founding member of the 30% Club, a pioneering campaign focused on increasing female representation in FTSE Boards, Richards has learned that building a sense of belonging for all employees takes commitment and a willingness to learn. This week, Hayley interviews Richards, who discusses taking diversity and inclusion beyond recruitment, building a community of mentors, and the power of resilience.

So what does it take to create that sense of belonging in a global company?

“We need a broad range of people and we need a broad range of thinking and we get that from bringing all types of people into our organization. You have to be really mindful about what you're trying to do and that doesn't mean that it's easy or that there are any quick wins. I'd love to give you a nice list that says ‘do these things,’ but it's not quite as easy as pushing buttons.”

For Richards, companies need to move beyond focusing on recruitment to also consider how to retain employees from underrepresented groups, although this remains an important part of encouraging a more diverse workforce. Richards talks about the need to reduce bias through the language used in recruitment and promotion materials, “everything from how you describe a role, and there's even technology now where you can see if you are creating any sort of bias, and this is good not just for gender, but any bias whatsoever in the job description that you're putting out into the market.”

How has Richards sought to broaden her own advisors and influencers? Richards emphasizes the need to cultivate relationships with many mentors, sponsors and champions,

“I wouldn't put it down to any one person so as not to detract from the many great people [who have supported me]. I think there is an important message which you have different cheerleaders at different stages of your career. These relationships are really important professional relationships. It happens over time and it's if you deliver excellence through an unspoken contract that says ‘I'll work really hard for you.’ I think I've had many good people along the way who I've built and nurtured those sorts of relationships with.”

The importance of building diverse teams of advisers also translates into how Richards manages her teams, “I am quite clear about what I want and expect of people. I communicate that. I am a collaborator by nature. I like to pull people together and get them to be the best they can be, but also get the best out of them. I'm always trying to see what more somebody can do.”

Beyond a strong sense of collaboration, what does Richards count as her superpower? Resilience. And this is a value she likes to see in her employees, “When I ask myself what we need from the people coming through, it’s a level of resilience they're going to need, and their ability to operate in ambiguous situations. These are the things that actually funnily enough I thrive on.”

 For more from Hayley’s interview with Melanie Richards, listen on iTunes or Soundcloud.