Employee engagement is tricky at the best of times, but the challenge is magnified when you are a business rapidly growing in value and size with a geographically dispersed workforce constantly burning the midnight oil. Despite such hurdles, however, accounting firm KPMG China decided to boost and consolidate its employee engagement efforts on realising that the old way of doing things was less than ideal. 'It had become increasingly difficult for heads of department to manage their team due to the large staff numbers and the fact that much of the work now requires travelling,' said Harry Yu, an audit partner at KPMG China, the second runner-up in the Large Enterprise category of the HKIHRM/SCMP People Management Awards. Audit departments that had 30 to 40 people a decade ago now had about 100, he added. 'We wanted to streamline our previous people engagement efforts and give staff the personal touch and more care and attention,' Mr Yu said. The solution was the launch of KPMG's People Management Leaders initiative, which recognised talented leaders within the organisation and tasked them with the responsibility of coaching, mentoring and guiding other team members. The firm has more than 340 such leaders in Hong Kong and the mainland. These managers, senior managers and partners have been chosen for their positive influence, attributes and people skills. Though the leaders have largely a free hand in the way they engage their assigned staff, usually a group of 20 to 30 employees in the same department, KPMG prepares them well for the task at hand. The leaders attend a two-day offsite training programme that focuses on crucial leadership components such as team building, advanced coaching, people management and motivation. In addition to regular workshops during the year, senior management leaders, also partners of the firm, provide additional coaching to leaders. 'It is up to the leaders how they wish to engage their team but they are expected to focus their efforts around the 'four Cs' - care, coach, communicate and connect. We will assist the leaders should they come across any problems,' said Mr Yu, who is also head of the initiative. The leaders' responsibilities are wide-ranging, from organising the department's social activities to acting as both mentor and buddy to employees. They also meet with staff regularly and help address personal and professional issues. The effort has yielded dividends. The attrition rate is significantly lower than ever, with the firm also reporting some of the industry's best results for the professional Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants examination. The focus will now be on enhancing internal communication in order to generate greater brand awareness of the scheme.