HR Star: Michael Bach, “The Diversity Dude”

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Michael Bach
Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Organisation
KPMG

Main business
Deliver diversity strategies for KPMG’s operations in Canada from strategy to implementation and execution.

Number of employees
6,000

Years in HR
Six

The worst job you ever had
In high school I flipped burgers, and that was awful. You come home smelling like hamburgers and it just permeates your skin. My worst professional job was probably when I tried my hand working at Queen’s Park for a politician and that was not so good. Politics is not for me, I’m not a game player.

Your first job in HR
This role at KPMG – I have an IT background. I wrote the business case for the creation of my role.

The most outrageous (and best) company perks you’ve experienced
I don’t know how outrageous it is, but it was outrageous for me. When I first started at KPMG, I had been there literally a couple of months, they gave me an iPad. I asked “Why are you giving me this?” and they said “to show you how much we appreciate you.” I was quite flabbergasted.

Your best candidate interview story
One person came in for an interview and all their responses were “Um… I don’t know.” I would ask “What are the key issues facing diversity that we need to address?” and they would say “Oh. Um. I don’t know.” That was their response to every question. At the end I said “You don’t want this job, do you?” and they said they didn’t expect to get an interview.

Your most embarrassing HR faux pas
Four or five years ago at an HR conference, which KPMG put on, I was doing a presentation at 9am on the second day. On the evening of the first day myself and another one of the directors stayed up until the wee hours drinking wine as if it was on sale. I started off my presentation at 9 o’clock in the morning saying “Okay, I’m really hung over so I’m going to keep this quick.” The presentation was fine, but I was so embarrassed. It was my new boss’s first day and I had just hired someone and that was her second day on the job. I ended up having to leave early because I was so hung over – not a good moment in my history.

What inspires you
Helping people, seeing the effect of the work I do. Seeing people enjoy their jobs more and being able to bring their whole selves to work.

The best thing about working in HR
It touches everything. It touches every aspect of the business and being able to be involved in the shaping of what we do as a business. We’re a people business and the most important aspect of what we do is the people. It’s nice to be able to have that effect.

The worst
You aren’t always recognised for the value you bring to the business. When you get a leader who dismisses you as not being relevant that’s unfortunate.

Does HR have a place at the boardroom table?
Absolutely. No matter what business you’re in, you rely so heavily on your people and if HR doesn’t have a place at the table they don’t have a voice. They don’t have the ability to influence and that’s when things can go off the rails.

What are the biggest challenges facing you in your role?
It really can be a mammoth undertaking. There’s so much to diversity that if you don’t control it in some ways it can balloon out of control. It’s a fine balance between what’s good for the business, good for the people, and the social justice side of just doing the right thing.

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