Global CPO reveals key to succeeding in 'unpredictable' world

'I think back to when I played softball as a kid. It wasn't enough for me to be a strong player"

Global CPO reveals key to succeeding in 'unpredictable' world

Donna Kimmel, executive vice president and chief people officer at Citrix, knows a thing or two about inspiring change. Dedicated to putting the ‘H’ back in ‘HR’, we caught up with her to discuss the future of the people function, navigating unforeseen disruption and how her childhood influenced the type of leader she is today.

We asked her how exactly Citrix is addressing the rapid pace of change around us today.

“Work is no longer a place, it’s an increasingly dynamic activity that people expect to be as adaptable as they are,” she told us. “Citrix powers digital workspaces that combine freedom and security. Whether work happens on-site, on the road, or in the cloud, Citrix solutions gives you confidence without compromise.

“The human part of human resources has always been at the centre of what I’ve done (and what I currently do). We’ve moved away from the overwhelming and unrealistic task of trying to perfectly balance work and life. The real conversation is around work-life harmony where people feel free to be their authentic selves in a safe environment. We’re more connected than ever and that gives us flexibility to work better and live better.

“Citrix technologies have freed people from the office and enabled remote working. I believe companies that trust employees with flexibility and personalised tools to boost productivity, engagement, and creativity will have the upper hand. There’s a tremendous advantage in recruiting, retaining, and empowering the best talent, with the preferred resources that make technology an enabler not an inhibitor.”

And, considering Kimmel is such a powerful influencer in the people function, we were curious where this passion for HR had sprang from.

“I’ve always understood and appreciated the power of putting people first and inspiring them to maximise their potential to achieve something great.

“I think back to when I played softball as a kid. It wasn’t enough for me to be a strong player. It was just as important for me to focus on the success of others. This meant cheering on my teammates and practicing my own skills while helping those around me feel good about theirs.

“More often than not, encouragement and effort would lead to a strong performance. We also had the attention of great coaches and supporting fans (aka our parents) who would use positive reinforcement to help us grow, while they guided us to leverage our unique strengths for the good of the team.

“It was these elements that came together to achieve a win. And it was these elements that made a lasting impression on me as a young child.

“Fast forward a decade or so later and I found myself pursuing a career in HR. I saw there was a powerful opportunity to put people first, to help them grow, to celebrate their wins, to reward their contributions and to leverage their strengths to achieve shared, tangible business results. It was a familiar feeling of success and excitement that harkened back to my days on the softball diamond.”

Having held prestigious positions at leading tech giants, such as IGT and Sensata Technologies, Kimmel revealed that she simply cannot pinpoint on definitive career highlight.

“It’s more like a highlight reel,” she told HRD. “There are many memories that come to mind of working through and solving big challenges.

“I love the rush of accomplishment after partnering with a great team to achieve the extraordinary. But also included in that highlight reel is something unlikely - memories of me failing and things not going to plan. That’s because I’ve grown so much from the times when I’ve stumbled and picked myself up, that I haven’t placed a negative filter on these memories.

“Having a growth mindset has helped me appreciate learning and living while giving me the mental freedom and confidence to take risks, venture into the unknown, and make new discoveries.”

Kimmel did, however, reveal her most treasured memoires seem to have three recurring themes.

1. Enabling people to thrive, contribute, and be their authentic selves. It’s about learning over and over again that no matter where we are around the globe, we have more similarities than we have differences.
2. Helping drive organisational effectiveness: At a previous company we successfully built a private standalone global company and then took the company public on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). This was a big effort filled with incredible and relevant experiences.
3. Embracing innovation: Joining Citrix has been an incredible experience because we’re powering the future of work. The company underwent a transformation over the past couple of years and one of the key outcomes was creating organisational strategies centered around our people, the talent that fuels Citrix. Today, we’re stronger than ever and our products reflect the innovation and energy of our team. We launched a superior people-centric experience that supports end users, gives them more choice, and makes them more engaged and productive.

And her advice for HR professionals looking to shine in the challenging environment whirling around us? Simple – put people first and you won’t be disappointed.

“It’s a marathon with a few sprints along the way. So, look at everything—all change—as an opportunity to grow, to learn, to succeed. The HR organisations of today are dynamic, critical partners in creating and implementing business strategies. Take advantage of opportunities to create strategies optimised for today while positioned to thrive tomorrow.”

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