Ask the expert: Talent strategies

Featuring Mike Schneider, East Region Managing Partner, Audit, KPMG U.S.

Rallying staff resilience amid crisis

The emergence of COVID-19 upended how and where work gets done, including in large accounting firms that needed to quickly figure out how to move tens of thousands of employees to remote work. Mike Schneider, East Region Managing Partner, Audit for KPMG LLP, offered insights into how the firm is dealing with the changes to its workplaces while continuing to serve clients.

Q  What has been your firm’s chief goal in managing staff during this time?

A  The safety and well-being of all our people is our highest priority. We closed our offices and offered additional paid time off that our U.S. professionals can use if they can’t work because they are sick with COVID-19 or must care for a family member ill with the virus or for a child at home because school is closed. We’ve been checking in with our people and clients to see how they are doing, understand their challenges, and provide information and resources that match their needs. Our people, at all levels, are sharing best practices, stories of generosity, virtual coffees, check-ins, office hours, wellness exercises, and learning from each other.

Q  What is the most useful step the firm took to ensure that productivity targets are being met?

A  We’ve reinforced our “Thinking Heads Up” culture, which means working together, being empathetic and candid, confronting challenges, and always learning and improving. These behaviors help our people do their best work, be their best selves, and drive productivity. Our teams established communication schedules with clients and clarified expectations now that they are working remotely. We’re staying connected virtually and leveraging technology to host interactive meetings, workshops, and brainstorming sessions. We established an internal portal that provides COVID-19 information to help our professionals understand developments across the firm and marketplace while providing guidance on accounting and auditing considerations.

Q  What have you learned about managing a large workforce remotely?

A  We’ve learned how resourceful and resilient our people are. Many of our audit teams are accustomed to working on-site with our clients every day. We are truly leaning on and learning from each other, thinking in different ways, and adapting how we operate. We’re also using our Clara smart audit platform to facilitate data sharing among the engagement teams and give clients an opportunity to monitor the engagement’s progress. Communication has been essential to supporting our teams. We’ve encouraged people to not rely exclusively on emails or texts. There is no replacement for status calls or video chats during which individuals have the opportunity to express what they need help with on that day to be successful. It’s important that we continue to focus *on camaraderie and connectivity across our teams.

Mike Schneider is responsible for KPMG’s East Region with oversight for business and financial operations, audit quality, and resource management.


KPMG LLP, the audit, tax, and advisory firm (, is the U.S. member firm of KPMG International Cooperative (“KPMG International”), which is a global network of professional services firms. We operate in 154 countries and territories and have 200,000 people working in 14 member firms around the world.