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34 visionary leaders of people and change

34 visionary leaders of people and change

Written by:
Georgia Hobbs
Date created
February 23, 2023
Last updated:
June 20, 2024
|
5 min read
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Key takeaways
  • Lepaya’s State of Skills Report 2024 indicates that businesses are increasingly recognizing the importance of targeted upskilling and career mobility to navigate economic disruptions and retain talent in volatile markets.
  • Forward-thinking leaders prioritize change and embrace AI-powered learning technologies to align individual career pathways with organizational growth objectives.
  • Addressing stagnant career mobility remains a challenge, highlighting the need for continuous talent engagement and alignment of career growth with relevant skills.
  • In this article, we’re celebrating 34 leaders of people and change who are setting an example for strong business strategy.

The most important asset for any business is its leader. Truly visionary leaders not only implement innovation to enhance business revenue; they also know how to harness their most valuable business asset — people — to drive sustainable growth and change.

Navigating people strategies through change

In Lepaya’s State of Skills Report 2024, one trend is clear: while every business grapples with economic disruption, targeted upskilling that leverages new learning technology and supports career mobility will be the key to developing and retaining talent in volatile markets.  

As organizations contend with the best way to address skills gaps and embrace technological transformation, each business is taking a different approach.

For some, financial resources are invested in automation, such as risk forecasting to determine their long-term strategy. But when automation is flawed, people are often the first to feel the harsh consequences as business leaders scramble to protect revenue. This is exemplified by mass layoffs in the technology industry as market growth predictions undermined over-hiring initiatives.  

The pressure is piling on businesses to trigger sustainable change that generates fresh growth and profits in a tight market — meaning that harnessing the power of transformation and people-centric leaders who can achieve this are key.

What do top leaders prioritize to transform a business into an agile, responsive, and successful organization? They focus on combining two things.

Number One: Change

Change remains a top priority for forward-thinking business leaders, especially as organizations navigate the complexity of connecting individual career pathways with enterprise growth needs. In this context, AI-powered learning technology emerges as a vital tool, increasingly recognized for its potential to address this challenge and drive organizational goals forward. 

Leaders who leverage AI in learning and development (L&D)  see how it can help teams upskill more effectively. During a recent AI panel discussion, almost 50% of L&D leaders said adding AI mentors for continuous professional guidance brings the most value to upskilling. Just like human coaches, AI mentors can provide personalized feedback and customize learning paths based on individual goals, preferences, and learning styles.

Leaders must recognize AI's significance in supporting career mobility and talent optimization, ensuring that workforce upskilling efforts align with AI adoption. As people teams navigate this technological evolution, top leaders spearhead discussions on personalized career development and continuous guidance, leveraging AI mentors as transformative tools for individual and organizational impact.

Number Two: People

As organizations navigate the shift toward intentional learning, leaders play a pivotal role in aligning upskilling strategies with business strategy. They must foster a culture that encourages continuous learning and development and ensure this learning supports the evolving needs of the organization. 

Intentional learning — the act of taking learning into your own hands to consciously develop your career — emerges as the new resilience, prompting companies to proactively train their workforce to identify and develop skills essential for navigating technological advancements and market developments.

By encouraging this kind of targeted learning, leaders can stabilize retention rates and bolster internal mobility efforts, reducing reliance on external hiring, and enhancing job satisfaction among employees. A recent study by Deloitte found that half of workers surveyed were more likely to stay with a company that gives them more opportunities to grow and apply their skills in their jobs.

However, as retention rates rise, stagnant career mobility poses a new challenge, underscoring the need for learning teams to continuously evolve talent engagement solutions and align people's career growth with relevant skills to ensure long-term organizational success.

34 leaders guiding people and driving change 

We’re celebrating 34 leaders of people and change who are setting an example for strong business strategy. No matter the continent or industry, each leader we’ve identified harnesses the capabilities of technology and people to catalyze transformation and new business growth. From Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives to utilizing innovation to boost talent performance, they accelerate business impact to create lasting change.

With more than 20 years of experience at Relx as a senior HR figure, Sjoerd specializes in the impact of hybrid working on talent, including career growth, talent retention, and engagement. He promotes the increasingly important role of the people manager in a hybrid environment and how to properly support talent with technology and learning. 

  • Teemu Lilija, Group Learning Culture & Community Lead at Telia 

Teemu specializes in talent and leadership development within sales to connect learning to business impact. Teemu strategically maps the challenges of the business and talent performance with digital tools to develop change initiatives in cross-functional teams.

Michele helps global entrepreneurs from disadvantaged social and ethnic backgrounds grow their businesses. Her company has invested over $3.2B in more than 7,000 different companies across 10 countries. She has also backed 25 times more women than the venture capital industry average, including founders in all 50 states of America by using AI to make investment decisions. 

  • Nikki Isaac, Global Head of Learning & Development at ASOS 

Nikki is a leadership, learning, and talent specialist. She has played a key role in talent development, engagement, and diversity in Asia as the former head of Avast. During this time, Nikki helped the world’s fastest-growing economy in China partner business goals with retaining and developing talent.  

Caroline invests in the resilience and potential of people to trigger organizational growth and versatility. She is passionate about helping organizations translate strategy and complex business issues into practical solutions through organizational design, process optimization, behavioral change, talent identification, and leadership development.

Joanny is a people-oriented leader with a strong passion for digital innovation to impact both consumers and colleagues. With 15+ years of experience in building and innovating brands and workplaces, Joanny is the current lead of HR and digital transformation at Unilever, tasked with driving their growth strategy in the Benelux markets. 

  • Simona Vidova , CEE Learning Innovations Senior Consultant at PwC Czech Republic 

Simona applies the latest learning technologies to design L&D frameworks, including artificial intelligence, metaverse, microlearning, and coding. Her digital and learner-centered solutions have had a transformative impact on the CEE (Central Eastern Europe) learning community. 

Theodora sparks innovation for the benefit of forgotten demographics to create a more inclusive society. She is the founder of Unconventional Ventures, which focuses on growing an ecosystem of financial institutions, corporations, startups, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists to benefit underrepresented founders.

With 20+ years of experience in the EMEA, APAC, and US region as a changemaker,  Diederik successfully positioned global businesses and leadership profiles across different sectors. As an example, at ING, he played a key role in positioning the bank globally as an innovation and technology frontrunner.

Jan has transformed corporate academies, implemented digital learning strategies, and shaped talent management in more than 47 countries. Now Jan co-facilitates the global master’s program Learning & Development Leadership: the first global fully-hybrid development program for the next generation of talent leaders.

Sam specializes in designing learning and talent development programs that create inclusive and engaging environments to solve business challenges. Her strengths lie in aligning learning investments with business strategy and working with stakeholders to deliver sustainable changes in talent behavior.

  • Simon Gibson , Global Head of Learning & Development at Marks and Spencers

Simon delivers meaningful commercial solutions to transform businesses via learning and development initiatives. Simon has executed these learning solutions in different sectors and economic climates, from start-ups to multinational corporations in fields such as Finance, I.T., Sales, SaS, Solar Energy, Media & Digital, and Retail.

  • Claire Thomas , Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at Hitachi Vantara 

Claire implements strategies for diversity, equity, and inclusion across Hitachi Vantara. Calire’s global leadership role operates across all business functions to understand the current DEI landscape. After two maternity leaves, Claire is passionate about supporting working parents to have a fulfilling career alongside their parenting journey.

Over the past decade, Lavinia has worked with startups and scaleups to engage, retain, and help employees perform better. She has specialized in recruitment, leadership development, and career development initiatives. Now, as the co-founder of Offbeat, she is acquiring new learning technologies and looking closely at measuring learning and development impact. 

Anne is a rarity in the banking industry. As a female CEO, her personal story is inspiring to many women looking to change expectations in male-dominated industries.  Anne launched Starling Bank to offer people a fairer, smarter, and more human alternative to banking with world-class technology.

Anna Ott is responsible for diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives at HV Capital, one of the leading venture capital funds in Europe backing technology and internet companies. She has more than two decades of experience in HR and has dedicated her people expertise to helping European startups. 

Marc is revolutionizing the HR industry through communities, technology, and AI. Marc creates dynamic event experiences to form people connections, valuable partnerships, and lifelong learning. With his unique blend of human insight and event expertise, Marc's ambition is to shape the future of work for the greater good.

  • Doreen Cooper , International Trainer for Communication & Self-Development

Voted as HR influencer of the year and as the most influential Filipina woman on Linkedin in 2022, Doreen has built a successful career in L&D. Doreen is highly skilled in communication skills, training delivery, employee training, talent recruitment, and project coordination to help global businesses in Southeast Asia. 

Ross is a business leader with a focus on how people and culture enable companies to achieve their mission. Ross has accumulated 20+ years of experience in the delivery of highly commercial and impactful people strategies — skills and leadership development and workforce planning — that add value to global organizations. 

Charlotte has implemented HR solutions internationally in sectors such as banking, FMCG, and technology to drive change and transformation. Now at Personio, she supports the CEO and senior leadership team, ensuring that employees are engaged in their work and grow their careers. 

Allbirds recognizes that diversity makes more competitive, innovative, and successful teams, and therefore, appointed Jodie to lead their commercial strategy in Europe. Jodie has a strong track record of achieving brand transformation and growth at Canterbury and Mitre, having led her teams through change to deliver breakthrough results.

  • Carola Boer, Director of People & Organization Development at Bol.com

Carola is committed to bringing the best out of people to support organizations’ growth. Carola leverages talent job satisfaction, engagement, and development to help organizations attract and retain talent. Developing people in her eyes is as important as any other tool a company has to realize a strategy for sustainable success.

Juan has two decades of experience in leading HR and organizations’ teams in different countries and industries.  Recognized as one of the top CHROs in Mexico, Juan’s work is motivated to help the welfare and dignity of people at organizations. He believes that by putting people at the center of corporate development, businesses achieve sustainable growth.

Wendy is dedicated to developing people and technology to build high-performance cultures at companies. Wendy’s business, VIE People, is the HR partner for innovative companies with the ambition to grow. Their people technology leverages businesses’ organizational design and talent attraction. 

Guido is an expert in management design, leadership development, and organizational structures. He helps businesses  tackle sustainable change in small and targeted steps to prepare for the future. Guido uses his expertise in digitization and workforce agility to execute transformation topics and improve talent performance. 

  • Brigette Hyacinth, Keynote Speaker on Leadership, HR, Artificial Intelligence and Digital Transformation

Brigette is an internationally recognized influencer, having shared her expertise in North America, South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia. For over 15 years, she has been advising global CEOs, entrepreneurs, governments, and leaders on how to build innovative organizations, unlock creative potential, and increase productivity.

Maggie is a Senior HR Leader in the management and consulting industry. Maggie brings cutting-edge advantages to businesses in leadership development, workforce planning, and change management in the USA and Asia. Her HR initiatives across these regions are a source of innovation and change for businesses and their people.

Stephane advocates that the next stage for supply chain managers is sustainability, continuing profitability, and ensuring human working rights are upheld throughout the value chain. Stephane helps clients create enduring change by reimagining tomorrow’s supply networks to positively impact business, society, and the planet. 

Ellyn Shook is responsible for fueling Accenture’s purpose: to deliver on the promise of technology and human ingenuity. Her global team of HR leaders is re-imagining leadership and talent practices to lead large-scale talent and culture change for clients. 

Donald is an influential writer and researcher in adult learning, skills, and technology as seen with the annual production of the L&D Global Sentiment Survey since 2014. Donald has chaired the Learning Technologies Conference since 2000 and focuses on bringing together people and ideas to network at learning events.

2024 latest discoveries: leaders that put skills into strategy

Maarten Vaags oversees the development of senior leaders managing nine business units and 72 energy storage facilities worldwide. He focuses on personalized career development, succession planning, and upskilling initiatives to anticipate job vacancies, navigate industry changes, and sustain global growth.

Marlene is an author, startup mentor, and public speaker with over 10 years of experience in HR technology. She collaborates with global clients to bridge the gap between technology and business strategy, empowering organizations to transform their culture and performance through data-driven insights.

Alex Rylance is a champion for inclusivity and leverages his industry knowledge along with input from employees to implement change. He collaborates closely with executive teams, emphasizing the role of technology in fostering fulfilling job experiences. He believes in the workplace as a space for skill development, professional and personal growth, and overall enjoyment.

  • Laura van Hal, Organizational Development Manager at Viterra Chartering

Laura Van Hal prioritizes leadership and collaboration training to ensure teams can adapt to disruptions in global supply chains. With over a decade of experience at Viterra Chartering, she emphasizes continuous development in both hard and soft skills to navigate the dynamic logistics and shipping industry's ever-changing landscape.

Leading the race for new growth and revenue    

Businesses that have leaders who drive sustainable change using people and technology will be the industry leaders. 

These 34 leaders source new growth and revenue streams for their organizations. For each chosen leader, we see the meaningful change that their capabilities bring to organizations and people. Their vision supports global companies to adapt to new economic and technological realities, driving strategies that are concentrated on digital and people transformation.  

These strategies treat technology and people not as isolated subjects but as a unified approach to build competitive businesses and talent. These leaders have the vision to switch business strategy from innovation-dependent to people-oriented to yield optimal business results.  Follow their work as sources of inspiration and guidance for your organization’s people and transformation strategies 

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Lepaya is a provider of Power Skills training that combines online and offline learning. Founded by René Janssen and Peter Kuperus in 2018 with the perspective that the right training, at the right time, focused on the right skill, makes organizations more productive. Lepaya has trained thousands of employees.

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