Career Journeys

Gretchen M. McFadden 

Chartered Organisational Psychologist & NZ Registered Psychologist, PGDip I/O Psychology (Distinction), MSc in Applied Psychology (First Class Honours), BSc).

Having always been fascinated human performance, Gretchen first studied psychology straight out of high school. However, after only one year she put her studies on hold to take up an offer of ski instructing in Canada. This, along with travelling the world increased Gretchen’s fascination with performance and in particular, why some people outperform others, even when natural ability is not on their side. Working in large organisations whilst travelling she also developed an interest in organisational performance and the inextricable link with their employees’ mind-set. Once her skiing and travel urges subsided, she returned to University to finish her studies with a view to specialising in Organisational Psychology. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science majoring in Psychology and subsequently, completed a Master of Science degree in Applied Psychology from the University of Canterbury.  

The Master’s programme focussed on a range of practical topics related to performance, from both an organisational and employee perspective. With a heavy emphasis on evidence-based practice, the programme developed rigor, discipline in approach and high levels of critical thinking. The question of “are the latest human resource trends actually going to achieve all they purport to?” was constantly assessed from a scientific viewpoint.  

On completing her studies Gretchen secured a consulting position with a nationwide company, specialising in organisational development and executive recruitment. She also went on to complete a Post Graduate Diploma in Institute of Organisational Psychology so as to become a Registered Psychologist with the New Zealand Psychologist’s Board. 

After three years consulting Gretchen then moved client side, as the Head of Organisational Development at PGG Wrightson. This was a Greenfields role deemed necessary due to the recent merger of Pyne Gould Guinness and Wrightsons and the resulting need for culture development and alignment of Human Resources systems and processes across the Group. A key component of this role was assisting in the development of the Group HR strategic plan and managing the design and delivery of core people and culture initiatives across the multinational Group, via partnerships with Leaders and Human Resources. Project management, change management and a strong knowledge of organisational development and the link with business performance were pivotal for this role. 

Following this, she moved into the role of Head of Human Resources for PGG Wrightson Seeds. As member of the Senior Management Team, this role was accountable for the strategy, design and delivery of comprehensive People & Culture solutions to facilitate the achievement of business outcomes across New Zealand, Australia and South America. She also led the people component of mergers, acquisitions and challenging change projects where maintaining positive levels of employee engagement was seen as critical, and continued to assist on Group-wide Organisational Development projects in the areas of talent and succession, leadership development, performance, team dynamics and psychometric assessment.

In 2018, Gretchen returned to consulting and set up her own business (Evolutio Ltd).  Having identified her purpose as ‘helping people get down their black diamond runs with grace’, she specialises in organisational development and change – often in the areas of team dynamics, culture evolution, talent and succession, leadership development, and mergers and acquisitions. She enjoys working with a wide range of organisations from both the public and private sector, of varying sizes and complexity. After almost 15 years working in her field of expertise, Gretchen is still fascinated performance at the individual, team and organisational level and loves what she does.  She finds the practical, yet evidence-based approach of organisational psychology adds huge value to organisations and their people while they all strive to achieve their goals and adapt in an ever changing world.