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A New Opportunity for Human Resources—as Transformation Curators

HR professionals and business leaders have a once in a lifetime opportunity to make a lasting difference in their organizations and societies.

As we enter the second half of 2020 it’s natural to pause and reflect. Only seven months in and 2020 is already a year like no other. Where we would normally struggle to recall the challenges faced, the disruptions encountered, and the moments of achievement and celebration across our home and work lives, there’s no forgetting these experiences.  

The concepts of agility, resilience, learning, and growth have been tested and implemented across so many aspects of our lives. And, the significant change we are experiencing has also unearthed serious societal concerns. Issues around well-being, inclusion, sustainability have always been there, but often hidden, bubbling under the surface of everyday life. Now, they’ve erupted. Every organization, community, and family are now discussing these topics with gritty resolve to make a difference.

This presents a huge opportunity for HR professionals, occupational psychologists, and business leaders to drive tangible and experiential change. To look at their corner of the world and evaluate what’s important. What must we do to ensure our business is still here in 12 months’ time? Do we want to maintain more flexible, remote working approaches? How can we harness the power digital advances offer? Are we building a genuinely inclusive, community-linked organization?

What must we do to ensure our business is still here in 12 months’ time? Do we want to maintain more flexible, remote working approaches? How can we harness the power digital advances offer?

Daunting Priorities

We are now experiencing the previously mythical ‘future of work’. Technology, digitization, automation – we required a compelling need to speed up adoption and COVID-19 provided it. So many businesses forced to change and evolve, just to survive.

Flexible, remote, and contingent workforces were often heralded as great mechanisms for achieving better balance and well-being. Now, for many, this is a necessity. As we live and work for longer, our organizations are increasingly multi-generational, and the recent events in the US have sent global flares across societies and organizations that we must do much more to build fair and inclusive communities.

As humans, we are feeling raw. A torrent of emotions pulsing through us every day. From instinctive survival – concerns for ourselves, our families, our colleagues; worries about financial security, job longevity; to broad societal debates being held across so many breakfast tables around the world, about our roles and responsibilities in our workplaces and communities. The pressure and expectation on us all shouldn’t be under-estimated.

The rapid change means that every CEO has a new set of priorities to address. Not simply to grow the business, improve share price, satisfy customers and stakeholders. Big, daunting, significant topics with lasting impact: To transform businesses so we can thrive in a post-pandemic world; to build, promote and maintain a kind, caring, supportive and inclusive organization; and to enable individuals to navigate and balance an ever-changing world whilst maintaining relevance and well-being.

Transformation Curators

How does this create an opportunity for HR? Because the progress we need to make starts with people. And, right now, those in positions of power and influence, are really listening. Many are talking about a human revolution. Valuing and promoting behaviors focused on care, empathy, humility, and genuine inclusion. Human behaviors exposed throughout this period and helping shape the positives to emerge through tackling a global pandemic.

The opportunity we have is to engrain this wave of empathy into the fabric of our post-pandemic organizations. And embed the great progress in technology, employee experience, and people science we have been making over the past few years into the culture of our organizations.

The role of HR in our new world will be focused on enabling constant reinvention and transformation – for individuals and organizations through:

  • Building growth cultures founded on psychological safety and trust and empowering individuals to own and navigate their own careers.

  • Holding up a mirror for leaders and managers to understand their own styles, biases, strengths, and weaknesses and to constantly challenge ways of working to drive improvement in diversity and innovation

  • Designing inclusive employee experiences across talent acquisition and talent management.

  • Helping individuals and teams to learn new skills, use new technology and move their careers in surprising directions

Partnering with business leaders to reimagine, model and stress-test future scenarios and organizational design – using powerful and predictive data and insight to explore team and role fit, based on the potential to learn and develop, not just past experiences


The opportunity we have is to engrain this wave of empathy into the fabric of our post-pandemic organizations.

Start the Ripple

The experiences (and I am sure there will be more to come) of 2020 will shape us forever. What a fantastic achievement it would be if future generations look back on this moment in history and the events it triggered as a catalyst for building a more responsible, sustainable, healthy, and inclusive society. And, if the role HR played in curating business transformation was proclaimed as a driving force of the human revolution.

If we start with our own corner of the world, the ripple will follow.

Across the next few months, we will share our thoughts, research, and practical guidance on how HR and Business Leaders can become transformation curators for their own organizations through their approaches to talent management. Sign-up for our first webinar here.

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Sarah McLellan

Sarah is a business psychologist who spends her days seeking to understand and optimize the power of people to help individuals and organizations flourish. As Director of European Professional Services at SHL, she’s responsible for an international team who design talent solutions to help solve business challenges for hundreds of companies around the world. Sarah has been partnering with organizations for over 15 years, consulting across talent acquisition and talent management. She is passionate about optimizing the role people science can play in shaping the future of work.

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