Celebrate the small successes, says CHRO Makgotso Letsitsi

The qualified auditor with a passion for people has been at KPMG for over two decades.

When Makgotso Letsitsi, the current head of People, Citizenship and Transformation, took over as head of People at KPMG in 2018, the professional services firm was facing a number of challenges.

“It was certainly not an ideal time to start in the role,” she recalls. “It was a difficult and dark period, however in hindsight it was really a great time to learn and introspect as organisational difficulties were thrust into the spotlight and we were able to institute real change within the organisation.”

As head of the Advisory function at the time, Makgotso had to acknowledge that the company was losing a lot of talent, morale was low and there was a need to reshape and restructure the organisation.

“The key for me was to figure out how to hold on to the critical talent that we needed for the firm to survive, to provide a value proposition and create an environment that would allow people to stay and thrive,” she explains.

These clear objectives, amid a crisis, were invaluable and led to the development and execution of real strategies, which included the need to be open and transparent with people and dealing with questions about leadership and integrity.

“There were lots of moving parts and we went through it and have been able to stabilise the organisation, which is back on track in terms of the growth trajectory,” she says.

Makgotso has been with the firm for over two decades and has worked in numerous roles as a leader at the firm. Ironically, even though she is a qualified auditor, she spent the least time during her career in audit.

“I have worked in numerous roles as a leader in the firm and I have enjoyed working with people and people development has always been my passion,” she says. This is why she took on the current people leadership role.

“I was not completely new to it, as I have always fulfilled a role of people leader in all my roles across advisory, management consulting and audit. I believe that an HR executive has a lot to do with stakeholder management and relations and I’ve built long-term relations with key stakeholders in the organisation,” she says.

Makgotso adds, “Rather than looking at matters through a traditional HR lens, I bring in a more strategic insight and a business viewpoint and am able to elevate the role of HR and the organisation. I certainly bring a different perspective to the table. It is easy to get buy-in with all stakeholders once you understand the needs and pain points of business and know where the strategic changes need to happen.”

This exposure to many different parts of the business has been one of the major reasons that Makgotso, who loves entertaining and is a keen cook, has been with the firm for so many years.

“I’m not unique: a lot of partners have been here a long time. What has kept me here for this long is the people and the opportunities. It doesn’t feel like I’ve been with one organisation all these years, as there has been growth on a personal and professional level,” she says.

Although she admits that she does sometimes miss the client facing roles of the past, there are opportunities to dabble in core business within the HR space by working with audit trainees and counterparts in the advisory space.

Looking back at her own time as an audit trainee, Makgotso says she would advise her younger self to “really trust your gut”.

“As a young professional you tend to achieve a lot in a short space of time. Sometimes you do tend to be too hard on yourself. It is important to celebrate the small successes,” she says.