The right skills, the right way, at the right time
The right skills, the right way, at the right time

The right skills, the right way, at the right time

This reengineering of the definition of work will, by many estimations, create as many as 58 million more jobs than it eliminates by 2022

As the pace of change accelerates and market demands increase, organizations are under intense pressure to transform processes, systems and job functions—quickly and smoothly and with the desired business results. They are now forced to continuously adapt and transform, making agility and thinking differently critical skills in today’s hyper-evolving business climate. This point is confirmed by KPMG’s Growing pains, 2018 CEO Outlook, in which 59 percent of CEOs indicated they believe agility is the new currency of business.

However, leading change is not a capability many organizations and leaders have focused on developing. Unclear priorities, inconsistent approaches, conflicting projects and agendas, mixed messages and internal politics often impede the success of change initiatives. This is affirmed by KPMG’s The future of HR 2019, where a prevailing gap was found between HR leaders who are confidently riding the wave of change engulfing the business and those trailing in its wake. The survey also found that there’s a trend forming in which CIOs, CHROs and CFOs are casting an eye on the people agenda.

When change is constant and necessary, communication, engagement, and empathy skills are just as important as operational business skills in helping an organization successfully adjust and adapt.

To succeed in today’s business arena where the business changes themselves are more complex, leaders must also effectively engage with a multi-generational, global, and mobile workforce. Leading a broad workforce (many of whom may be part-time, contingent or “gig” workers) through the challenges and opportunities of change requires different skills like storytelling to drive the vision, comfort with conflict to align differing viewpoints, and political acumen to navigate agendas and networks. It’s not just the skills that cover the “what to do” that leaders must focus on – the “how” of action and behaviors behind the skills are what create the change experience for the workforce and are taking on unparalleled importance in the equation for transformational success.

To find and develop the right change leaders, it’s time to look beyond purely operational experience and roles and focus on the behaviors and skills needed to lead an enterprise in times of disruption.

Transformational change requires leaders who possess critical capabilities, characteristics and behaviors, including the ability to:

  1. Create a compelling story—engage diverse audiences
  2. Activate networks—leverage the right people, at the right time, in the right way
  3. Drive agility—model behavior focused on new ways of working and collaborating
  4. Pace implementation—have the courage to prioritize and the confidence to manage expectations
  5. Create an enabling environment—understand responses and hear concerns
  6. Manage political dynamics—address tensions and build support for change
  7. Challenge viewpoints—design the optimal path despite conflicting views
  8. Sustain outcomes—manage talent and energy to drive and reinforce change


Critical capabilities and behaviors that allow communicators to successfully lead Change Management efforts

The What

Creating a Compelling Story


Engaging diverse audiences to create a clear vision and bring others on the journey. 

Activating Networks



Leveraging the right people to help you at the right time in the right way.

Driving agility


Modelling behaviours that are focused on finding new ways of working and collaborating.

Pacing Implementation


Having the courage to prioritize with the confidence to manage expectations accordingly.

Creating an Enabling Environment


Understanding individual and team responses and creating a "safe to fail" space to hear their concerns.

Managing Political Dynamics


Addressing the tensions of completing agendas and expectations to build support for the change effort.  


Challenging Viewpoints


Stepping into conflict appropriately, including your own, to design the optimal path forward.

Sustaining outcomes


Managing talent and energy levels to drive the change and ensure results are monitored and reinforced.


The How



Stepping back from personal agendas into the "shoes" of others to see the change through the eyes of others, and meeting them where they are.  



Instead of leading with the answers, relying on the right questions to explore issues; searching to identity new possibilities and opportunities.  



"Staying the course" in overcoming opposition amidst the challenge; stepping into perceived failures to develop lessons for success.  



Openness to candid feedback to idenitfy opportunities to become better, acknowledging vulnerabilities and allowing others to shine.  


In order for these skills to have an impact, the successful leader must also possess essential traits that help achieve success:

  1. Empathy—step into others’ shoes to see through their eyes; meet them where they are
  2. Curiosity—rely on questions to explore issues; find new possibilities and opportunities
  3. Resiliency—stay the course amid opposition and challenges; step into perceived failures for lessons learned
  4. Humility—be open to candid feedback, acknowledge vulnerabilities, allow others to shine

We have often found that leaders struggle the most with these behavioral traits, despite being what the workforce observes the most during transformations. The challenge for many organizations lies in preparing leaders for a role that employs the right skills and traits—beyond their operational role, to engage, inspire, and guide a new type of workforce through unprecedented change. By committing to developing both the “what” and the “how” of your leaders, your organization can more successfully respond to the constant need to steer change and drive transformation to achieve continued success in this exciting and volatile business climate.

Visit our Behavioral Change Management page to learn more on how KPMG can help.

KPMG plans to open a new learning, development and innovation center in Orlando by January 2020. It will feature 90 learning spaces supported by innovative technology to enable learning opportunities on 55 acres. The facility also will include 800 single-occupancy guest rooms; multiple dining, recreational and wellness areas; an Insight Center and a social venue.