Humans of HR: The story behind the leading lights – their career, motivation and achievements.
For 25 years, Kim Sullivan has worked in the HR space for a wide variety of brands across the world.
21 August 2023
Simon Kent, Head of Content – The HR World
Kim Sullivan‘s work has taken her from pharmaceuticals to education to IT and has seen her launch a wide range of initiatives.
One consistent theme throughout this journey has been transformation. As a business professional and problem solver, Sullivan has always focused on enabling growth and innovation while looking for ways to address employees’ challenges.
Sullivan cites one example from her career prior to Sitecore when she was Global Chief People Officer at an IT company with 300,000 employees in 23 countries. “I joined just as the pandemic began and had to solve many challenges, including ensuring people were cared for in global offices with different guidance and regulation around Covid-19,” she explains. “I also had to define how to communicate with employees to ensure that our company was doing everything possible to prioritise their mental health, wellbeing, and safety while continuing our hyper-growth.”
As Chief Human Resources Officer at digital experience software company Sitecore she has seen and addressed many more challenges in recent years. Sitecore was created by five friends in 2001 and the business is aimed at delivering a content management system and digital experience platform, that empowers marketers to deliver memorable and personalised online experiences. From humble beginnings the business is now a worldwide concern with international offices across the world including Australia, Netherlands and Sweden, Japan, the Middle East, and India as well as the UK and USA.
Evolving HR practices
According to Sullivan, professional challenges such as that have given her a unique perspective on how to understand the needs of organisations and evolve their HR practices. “I embrace change and like to think of myself as a ‘CHRO of the Future’,” she says, “especially when keeping pace with the ever-changing innovation at Sitecore. In fact, I came here because I wanted to help build a business that would significantly impact its customers and users in a technological space that touches every aspect of our lives.”
While having her work recognised officially through industry awards, Sullivan still says seeing her mother’s pride and excitement about my achievements gives her the greatest joy. For example, last year, she attained the huge achievement of being awarded as one of the Most Influential Blacks in Corporate America by Savoy Magazine. The award itself was made all the more special as her proud mother shared the announcement with friends and family.
“In truth, though, awards reflect the amazing teams I’ve had the pleasure of working with,” says Sullivan. “People are the beating heart of every organisation, and I aim to continue creating a culture where employees can have fulfilling careers and grow. At the same time, diversity and inclusion is a significant priority that I work to nurture. This award reflects how organisations have embraced these values, and I’m proud to be recognised for my part in it.”
Sullivan was first introduced to HR by one of her teachers at college. The function came up under her Organisational Psychology class, which looked at the science behind human behaviour in the workplace. In addition to teaching, the tutor did HR consulting work, and invited Sullivan’s class to HR events, hosted by a national professional HR organisation. “Here I got a first taste of HR,” notes Sullivan. “Along the way, she mentored us on how we could add value to an organisation and the vital role HR plays in driving success in business.”
Sullivan has stayed in HR ever since.
“For me, people are at the centre of every business," says Sullivan.
“Being able to create a culture that supports them to thrive continues to motivate and inspire me.”
Sullivan’s motivation for staying in HR has been the satisfaction she gains from being able to solve big and challenging problems. “The key motivation for me is people – they are at the core of everything that we do, and inform the strategic priorities of our organisation.
“Bringing people together, putting their needs first and helping them develop through the right policies and initiatives sets the tone for a healthy company culture,” Sullivan adds. “When people are supported to be their best, then the business thrives and is more profitable. And creating that type of healthy productive culture is where I find the most satisfaction.”
Currently her top priority at Sitecore is to make it not just a great place to work but also a great place to thrive. One of our strategic priorities is to deliver a best-in-class employee experience where Sitecorians receive the highest level of care every day. In addition, the business plans to operationalise culture to ensure it’s evident in everything the business does, both internally and externally.
Naturally HR never stands still and according to Sullivan one of her main challenges at the moment is building and maintaining company culture, driving connections with employees who work from both home and in the office. “The way we work has been completely disrupted and changed,” she notes, “and organisations are now trying to calibrate based on what is most important to the company’s business strategy and culture. In this environment, HR professionals must determine how the company can solve new issues with employee engagement while ensuring they have the necessary support for working remotely.”
Helping the business leaders
For Sullivan, the key has been figuring out how to help executives and supervisors lead in new, more effective ways. As the world has changed and people have greater control over how and where they work, she feels it has been HR’s role to give managers the right tools to adjust their leadership styles to amplify the business’ values.
“A key success for me has been delivering a solution to address this challenge,” Sullivan admits. “This year, we’ve rolled out a comprehensive and actionable HR strategy and global leadership framework that puts people first. These initiatives will help create a culture that connects employees’ hearts and minds with Sitecore’s purpose, rewards that complement the company’s business strategy and culture, provide greater opportunities to grow with the company, and more.”
Sullivan will continue to work to ensure this policy works for everyone, while taking into account the goals of the organisation. As Sullivan concludes: “When our people are thriving, so is the business.”
Want to become a partner?
Please get in touch and let’s talk about how we can help you make an impact on the future of work.