Four colleagues in an office, all smiles, gathered around a laptop screen.

How to Lead Transformation Through Your Talent Management Strategy

Advice from hundreds of talent professionals on how to truly transform your organization with your greatest asset – your people!

The last year has taught us many lessons that can propel us into 2021 with a clear strategy for the kind of transformation needed to thrive in a post-pandemic world. I had the opportunity to gather feedback from over 400 talent professionals from companies spanning the entire globe last year – resulting in a list of collaborative advice for how to build a talent management strategy for the new year.

Overwhelmingly respondents felt that 2020 has enhanced the perceived value of HR in their organizations, and with that an enhanced responsibility to bring relevant data insight that aligns people to their business strategy.

Several topics were covered – ranging from barriers to transformation or change, developing leaders in 2021, and genuinely driving diversity and inclusion in your organization. Below are the top three survey responses for each, as well as my advice for turning these words into action.

How to Address Barriers for Successful Change or Transformation

We have never needed to be more agile in our businesses than now. There are loads of factors that are driving us to change – quickly. But many companies struggle to change at all, let alone fast. I asked participants what got in the way of progression, and they said:

  • Lack of communication about why the change is happening
  • Transformation initiatives are often driven from the top down
  • Fatigue – too much change has happened already

These barriers can be addressed through a few simple actions:

Engagement – Look to involve all levels of the organization in discussions about the transformation – that diversity of experience might highlight some useful perspectives about how to make the transformation a success, and it’s more likely to gain the buy-in of all

Communication – Ensure your messaging is clear, transparent, honest, and positive about why we are doing this and what it means for everyone at all levels

Change Fatigue – Move away from language that talks about the need for change, to a message that highlights the value of transformation for individuals, teams as well the organization

Move away from language that talks about the need for change, to a message that highlights the value of transformation.

How to Develop Leaders in 2021

The role, need, attitude, and talent of leaders has changed significantly this year. The pandemic forced leaders to learn how to support people remotely, the Black Lives Matter movement taught leaders to become more comfortable discussing issues of inequality in their own teams, and the rapid digital transformation of our world has required leaders to attain and develop talent beyond their formal education and learning and more about their potential instead. These are just a few adjustments that leaders have made, among many more.

I asked participants what they thought were the shifts companies would need to make in order to develop the right kind of leaders for 2021 and beyond; they said:

  • Align individual development needs with the strategic vision
  • Embed leadership development into business strategy
  • Provide resources for employees to take ownership of their own development

My advice on how to implement these shifts:

Make Development Relevant– When an individual can see the relationship between their personal development and what the organization wants to achieve, they are more likely to engage with the process and stay with it.

Make Development A Strategic Priority– Encourage the organization to see people development as core to the success of the business, rather than just a nice to have. This could have huge benefits for your employer brand and the organization itself.

Help People Own Their Development– Build a mindset that encourages people to take ownership of their own personal growth. Broaden the focus from building capability in role to leveraging development to support career aspiration.

Encourage the organization to see people development as core to the success of the business, rather than just a nice to have.

How to Genuinely Focus on Driving Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Diversity and inclusion are top of mind for many board rooms. From closing gender pay gaps to the Black Lives Matter movement that gained serious momentum in 2020 when the world woke up after the tragic murder of George Floyd – Businesses across the world have become more attentive to the problems that the lack of diversity, equity, and inclusion creates. Not only does it create significant and life-altering inequalities for many groups, but it also severely limits the capabilities and capacity of the organization overall.

I asked participants how an organization could genuinely drive diversity and inclusion that would make a significant difference; they responded:

  • Diversity and inclusion must be embedded into the organization’s strategy
  • Leaders throughout the company must take accountability for driving diversity and inclusion
  • The senior leadership team must become increasingly diverse year over year

This advice can be achieved through the following actions:

Strategic Imperative – Encourage your organization to think about the people and business value that can come from embedding D, E &I into your strategy. Taking bold action steps to really make it part of who you are as an organization is what will make the difference.

Set Diversity And Inclusion Targets – Setting goals for what the organization wants to achieve in terms of diversity provides a focus. Saying you are committed to diversity and inclusion is fine, but aiming, for example, to have diverse talent represent 30% of your senior leadership team, shows real intent.

Support Line managers – Think about how you can help line managers to think more broadly about diversity – so diversity of perspective, thought, ideas. By shifting the focus from what could be a tick-box process, to one where diversity can really help us shape a solution, is more likely to gain buy-in from your line managers.

Transformation and change will not be going away, but the suggestions provided, are there to help you confidently navigate 2021.

Contact SHL to learn more about how we can help you transform your business for success in the new year.

headshot andrew geake


Andrew Geake

In his 20+ years at SHL, Andrew has supported a wide range of organizations in the delivery of a range of activities including leadership development, organizational development, high potential identification, competency design, training, data analytics, solutions development. Andrew’s interest in how transformation impacts people and organizations, in particular leadership and D&I, is borne out of his experience of working with a diverse range of clients in North America, Africa, Europe, Middle East and Asia. Away from work, Andy enjoys creative writing, reading, eating out, travel, and watching his young daughter perform in various musical productions!

Explore SHL’s Wide Range of Solutions

With our platform of pre-configured talent acquisition and talent management solutions, maximize the potential of your company’s greatest asset—your people.

See Our Solutions