Connie Gibney, LinkedIn EMEA HR Director


Published on

On the cover of the 100th edition of HRD, our very own Connie Gibney. Read her interview on why talent is LinkedIn's No. 1 priority.

Published in: News & Politics
1 Like
  • Be the first to comment

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Connie Gibney, LinkedIn EMEA HR Director

  1. 1. HRD Celebrating our 100th Issue The only independent strategic HR publication the HRDIRECTOR Issue 100 Of all elements necessary for growth, talent is our number one priority Interview Connie Gibney HR Director LinkedinAlso featured in this issue:Roundtable Tribunal Health & safety A raft of Redundancy management Change management Old Apprenticeships Somemanagement, ETS under new considerations; As another tranche of habits die hard! Nudge and employers have deliberatelypressure, employers employer responsibility for redundancies loom, we nudge again, people need misinterpreted the schemedisillusioned - will reform “grey fleet” drivers, AEDs in look at options to culling to be reminded of both the to utilise cheap labour, inimprove the outlook? the workplace and new fees what is left of the workforce rationale and importance exchange for 100% no paid for editorial
  2. 2. Interview: Connie Gibney int Connie Gibney, HR Director - Linkedin She was an amazing mentor, and led by example with how to really engage with the business, how thinking commercially enables HR to add real value to the business. Diane was very influential in my early career and I still reflect on the programs I worked with her in developing. Foundationally, I still use many of those concepts today. Another very influential person for me, early in my career and at the same company was Robbie Vann-Adibe, who was one of the founders of Viant. Robbie pushed me to think ahead of business demand and also encouraged me to move away from the US to work on opening up offices in Europe as part of the company’s international expansion. I took his advice and moved to London where I was based for two years, working throughout Europe and this really put my career in a new trajectory and since that time I have always had an international remit in my HR career. You were still relatively inexperienced, going from a long-established business to start ups, how did you prepare for that? I had to really call on everything I had learnt early in my career and think about how best to apply my existing knowledge to what was essentially a blank canvas. I had to re-invent myself, from being simply an HR practitioner carrying out parts of the whole, to thinking and managing on a broader, global scale. I found it both very challenging and exciting. I discovered that I had a solid foundation as an HR practitioner and could translate that experienceall the world’s to support a business that was in rapid expansion. What was your first experience of working HR strategically at a high level? I remember my firsta stage experiences of interacting with the board was at eCast - we were going through a merger and I was leading the HR assessment. The CEO and I had identified some critical differences between the companies’ HR practices that could impact on the merger. One major difference was pay structures andIt may be lazy journalism to trot out how the internet is rewards, where the two companies were incompatiblerevolutionising the human race, but it is truly gob-smacking and would require significant change management. So my first big strategic work was in this tricky andthat in its tenth year, Linkedin has 200 million registered users. potentially disruptive area. We had to build a strategyJason Spiller interviews Connie Gibney, Linkedin’s HR Director, and get agreement quickly at an executive and boardand finds out what is driving this phenomenon. level so that we could roll it out as part of the merger. It was far from easy and something I hadn’t done before, but it taught me to ask a lot of questions,Connie, give us an idea of your early career, and what were the key influences that have to think through good procedures and ensure soundhelped determine your career in HR? I didn’t choose HR, it kind of chose me! I studied decision-making is communicated well. You’ve alsopsychology at school, but my first job was as a business analyst at Texas Instruments, which got to have faith in your own abilities and not beyou won’t see on my profile, because very soon after joining I was asked if I would like to join afraid to question executives in a constructive waythe HR team as a Recruiting & HR Coordinator. This was a great opportunity to learn the to help them find the right answers.foundations of HR in a well organised and established business. I worked there for aboutthree years, progressing to a senior HR generalist and from there I joined a start-up company Today I think I can classify myself as a start-upin San Francisco. It was a consulting company called Viant, and I was the second HR person specialist, being able to work in an agile way acrossto be hired by the firm in the late 90’s, during the dotcom boom. It was a start-up in every all HR functions and with executive andsense and the person who eventually became our chief people officer, Diane Hall, had no management levels. I really love small companiesHR background as such, but had a passion for people and learning. When I look back at the with big ambitions but also with a focus onkey learnings of my life, unquestionably, what Diane taught me was so valuable. developing people. It’s a very different environment8
  3. 3. Being in start-upsmeans you have toroll your sleeves upand personally getstuck in, but you alsoexperience therewards of seeingyour tangible worktake effectto working for large and long-established companies,of course, but I could not have stepped up to theplate without well-grounded experience in a biggerfirm, because it exposed me to big scale and bestpractice in a multitude of HR areas. The start-upexperience, however, allowed me to apply it quicklyand with a keen eye. For example, I can look atcompensation frameworks in Germany and knowwhat questions to ask to ensure we are meeting themarket competition, I can have a conversation aboutequity in France with some authority and Iunderstand about setting up HR operations in a newcountry even if I’ve never worked in that countrybefore. I enjoy everything in HR from appropriateprocedures and compliance, to businesspartnerships, succession planning and thinkingcreatively about career paths for people. Being instart-ups means you have to roll your sleeves upand personally get stuck in, but you also experiencethe rewards of seeing your tangible work take effect.But that creates significant pressure, there is noroom for mistakes and there is no hiding place.Sure, it increases pressure, but when I talk withHR practitioners in other firms, they invariably saythat they wish they could do the stuff I get to do.When I ask them “why not?” they often say theculture of the company wouldn’t support thatchange. I think there is benefits to establishedprocesses and procedures just as much as there Connie Gibneyis to trying new things out. Keep in mind, there is HR Director – Linkedinusually a lot of chaos in start-ups and you have to Connie Gibney is HR Directormanage up as well as down, constantly keeping of Linkedin. She was interviewedleaders in the loop and being open to changing by Jason Spiller and photographed by Stuart Thomas.your idea. You might not need so many signoffs,but the hardest part is creating the idea in thefirst place; that’s where you need a team tocollaborate with and that team isn’t always just in
  4. 4. Interview: Connie Gibney int Connie Gibney, HR Director - LinkedinHR. Something you can influence and, if you proud of is that weve maintained our values, maximising the marketing potential of thecan leave your mark on a business, that’s which are not just stated but, crucially, lived by brand, and not only being a recruiter, but alsomassively rewarding no matter the size or everyone who joins the company, as well as a marketer to candidates. This way of thinkingscope of the company. our executive leaders. allows companies and recruiters to look at the awareness of brand, which is compelling when Does the nature of the business, it being measuring success of hiring. It’s about a web-based facility, make it easier to marketing and extending the employer brand expand internationally with one clear beyond your own website and attracting talent employer brand and culture? I definitely globally, and that’s an increasingly think so, but it needs to also be thoughtful valuable resource.You have to be of the employees in countries we expand into.thoughtful about We’re a big brand, but we’re also relatively small as a company. Although our brand does Would you say Linkedin is on the radar of young talent as a potential career? Yes andcultures and values have incredible reach, the site being available increasingly so, but we cannot rest on our in 19 languages worldwide, we recognise the laurels, and assume this will always be theand how you foster combined strengths of a global brand and case. We have been actively makingthem. You might also the importance of localisation. When connections with students and higher education you bring that back to how you operate from institutions to ensure we remain top-of-mind forhave the look and an HR perspective, it helps to have brand new university grads. For example, we have afeel of an office, but awareness as you go into new markets, but you also need to ensure your employee really great new university grad program in the US, where weve developed strong relationshipsyou can’t force experience matches that brand expectation. with key schools, and this really helps in sourcing young talent. That awareness comessomething on I should imagine that the ambition is to through at many stages of a student’s life and,people’s attitudes really capitalise on emerging markets, how does the Linkedin culture fit say, in China or when they come close to graduating, it comes top-of-mind who they want to work for.towards a company the middle-east? We are currently exploring what makes sense for Linkedin in China, but Here in Europe we hire a lot of sales I think a real strength, and this was a professionals, from early stage career to conscious decision, is wherever you are, you highly experienced, but we also hire many can walk into any Linkedin office around the young professionals in HR, Finance, Marketing, world and it feels like Linkedin. The employees Customer Service and Sales Support. InGive us an idea of what how Linkedin share the same values and culture that are the Ireland where Im based, as well as in the UK,painted its picture of the future and what it same across the company. You have to be it’s good to see how many people in thoseexpected you to deliver with HR? Linkedin thoughtful about cultures and values and how industries are on Linkedin and actively usinghas always been an evolving company. At the you foster them. You might have the look and it as a professional tool. We really leveragetime I joined there were only about 65 feel of an office, but you can’t force something the site for recruitment, as you might guess.employees outside the US, but there were on people’s attitudes towards a company. We haven’t found problems hiring because ourlarge growth plans in place, so they kind of We like to foster our employee culture in a few brand is exciting and we also have great toolsturned the tables by asking me what I thought different ways. Take Dubai, where we have to find the talent we need.they should be doing Internationally. That was recently set up. One of the things weve founddaunting, but I understood the vision and it useful is to move existing employees from How should employers adapt to takewas clear that my role would be to help lay other locations, where they’ve been working advantage of social networking, say forfoundations of good HR practice across with Linkedin, to help set up new offices, such example in recruiting? Recruitment ismultiple countries, to ensure our values and as in the UAE. In this situation, these changing, sure enough, and social media isculture was maintained with the planned employees don’t have much experience in the bringing opportunities to people who are notgrowth and find ways to make employees local market but they do know Linkedin, and actively looking to change jobs. This affectsmore productive and successful as we grew these advocates are really key to helping to every company in every sector, no matter howso quickly. I found it’s crucial to set very clear develop new offices and embedding our culture big or how small. As recruiting leaders weshort and long term goals, communicate and business procedures. need to be able to shift gears and ensure ourfrequently with stakeholders and also to really organisations are changing with the industry.utilise your key experiences when applying What do you think are the next significant A key part of recruitment is to understandthem to a company in build mode. The main challenges for the business? We’re really still people’s motivations, both long and short-one was to bring an international perspective growing and maturing and, of all the elements term. Why they may want to join a companyto the people strategy that was mostly derived necessary for growth, talent is our number now or down the line? I feel we in HR need tofrom US practices. I was able to engage one priority. We’ve seen time and again hiring also adapt to change, to think about how wequickly both with US colleagues and those in and developing strong talent is paramount to engage with employees from a very earlyEurope and Asia-Pacific. While it was a pretty delivery and success in times of high growth. stage of the process throughout.blank sheet of paper, within two and a half The brand, as you might expect, does a lot ofyears we’ve gone from six offices outside the the work for us in attracting talent, but you So you think there will be more migration inUS to 25 worldwide - that’s pretty high growth can’t be complacent, this is a massively the future, and do you think this will causeand not short of challenges. What I’m most competitive arena to hire. So it’s about brain drain in some territories? Only around10
  5. 5. www.thehrdirector.com20 percent of people who hold the right skills why that is crucial and, more importantly, think There is a lot of talk about the so-calledyou need are actively looking for jobs. about your employees and their experience change in the employee/employerTraditional recruitment methods overlook the with your company. relationship, how impactful do you thinkother 80 percent. As HR professionals, I think that has been? I would say the relationshipwe need to think about developing a people Is there really, to coin a much-used phrase, has changed quite significantly and HR hasstrategy to accommodate business needs, but a talent drought? I’m always impressed had a hand in that, particularly in the areasalso think strategically about connecting by the talent we come into contact with, and of employee engagement, perceptions andopportunity to the right candidates, no matter I’m constantly astounded by the skill and expectations. That relationship is also aboutwhere they are located. It’s about developing knowhow of our colleagues here. That being understanding that a company’s culture isa people strategy to meet business needs, by said, complacency is a killer as there are driven by the employees. I think fostering andreaching out to candidates who may be in other constantly new opportunities for people with nurturing the employee/employer relationshipregions and possess the exact skills you are high-demand skills and roles that need to be is a work-in-progress, and something welooking for. In today’s environment, HR and filled with those specialised skills. The reality should always be mindful of. Ultimately, as anrecruiting professionals need to search for the is there’s competition for talent so we have employer, we need to ensure we value peoplebest talent, even when it may not be somebody to be agile and keep ahead of the curve by and recognise achievement, and that’s notin the same town or indeed country. While we actively recruiting top talent and thinking just about money.see a global diversification of opportunity, I also about developing our existing talent whilethink Europe has a high level of opportunity ensuring that the employee experience keeps In years to come, what would you like totoo. Business is transforming and employers people motivated and rewarded. be remembered most for in terms of yourshould consider recruitment costs differently, input at Linkedin? Knowing I was the firstsuch as budgeting for relocations, as both Do you see a difference in attitudes towards HR person hired outside the US and helpinginternal mobility and talent movement careers in this sector? I think the world is further the expansion of the business, whileincreases on a global scale. changing especially around how people think providing value as a partner, has been about their careers. It’s not just about what incredibly rewarding. And I’d like to feel that IWhat would you say are the obvious you get paid, but also the professional stayed true to my roots of being verybusiness challenges going forward, and opportunities companies can give to their entrepreneurial. Linkedin has been a placewhat are HR’s priorities? For us, the employees. I think when it comes to where I have grown, continued to learn andchallenges continues to be scale and growth, opportunity, people want to feel like they make develop my skills as an HR leader, whilstensuring we make intelligent decisions quickly a difference in the company they work for, they fostering my desire to innovate. My passionand effectively, so that’s where we look to want a career, and a career is about evolving for HR comes down to people: what motivatesinvest. As I mentioned, talent is our number your skills, and learning and developing as you them, what inspires them, what makes themone priority and we invest heavily in developing do meaningful work. But, as with everything, want to try new things. I’m compelled byour people, at the same time as hiring in new it’s about balance. I think HR plays an human behaviour, and how with thought andemployees. I think HR remains a critical important role advising and encouraging innovation, you can help people fulfil and evencomponent to any organisation as we bring people to think about their development, what succeed expectations and outcomes.expertise to help our managers and employees the opportunities are and to think carefullyreach their full potential. We have to be about their next career step. At the same time,conscious of what might hinder HR, including as HR professionals, we need to ensure ourstereotyping and bureaucracy, so we don’t fall companies really look at the reward strategyinto that trap. I think as HR professionals we on a more holistic level, asking ourselves HRDneed to keep the objectives clear with clear “what is it we want our employees to feelcommunication. Do I get frustrated with about the company and what rewards willbureaucracy or administrative requirement? encourage certain behaviours that are in line For further information:Of course. But you need to have a balance of with what the company wants to achieve”? 11