Employees Talking In The Office

International HR Day 2024: A day in the life of a Chief People Officer

PUBLISHED: 20 May 2024 | LAST UPDATED: 5 June 2024

Sam O'Donovan, Chief People Officer

Sam O' Donovan

Chief People Officer at AXA - Global Healthcare. 

How do you go about recruiting, managing and developing talented employees across a vast global workforce? To mark this International HR Day, we invite you  to take a peek into a day in the life of Sam O’Donovan, AXA - Global Healthcare’s Chief People Officer. 

Sam takes us for a quick tour through the ins and outs of a career in human resources; what it is that makes the career so rewarding, what challenges she and her peers face in the modern workplace, and what she wants to celebrate this International HR Day. 

What does a typical day look like in your profession?  

“A typical day in a strategic HR function involves a range of activities focused on aligning HR initiatives with the organisation's overall business objectives. This includes collaborating with senior leadership to understand the company's strategic direction and identify HR priorities, developing and implementing talent management strategies, analysing workforce data to inform decision-making, supporting organisational change efforts, and ensuring compliance with employment laws and regulations.” 

“Additionally, HR professionals may be involved in designing and delivering training programs, managing employee relations, communication and fostering a positive organisational culture. Each day can bring new challenges and opportunities for HR professionals to contribute strategically to the success of the organization.” 

What do you find most satisfying or rewarding about your career? 

“The ability to influence organisational strategy and culture, develop and implement impactful talent management initiatives, foster positive employee experiences, and contribute to creating an inclusive and supportive work environment. Additionally, the opportunity to address complex people-related challenges, such as organizational change, employee development, and conflict resolution, can be fulfilling for HR professionals who are passionate about making a difference in the workplace.”

“The most satisfying aspect is the ability to add value and see tangible results from things such as improved employee engagement, talent retention, and organisational performance.” 

What would you say is the biggest challenge for HR, personally or as an industry? 

“The need to navigate a rapidly evolving workplace landscape. This includes addressing the impact of technology on work and the workforce, managing a multigenerational workforce with diverse needs and expectations, adapting to remote and flexible work arrangements, and fostering a culture of inclusivity and belonging.”

“Additionally, we are increasingly tasked with addressing mental health and well-being in the workplace, managing the complexities of global and remote teams, and leveraging data and analytics to inform HR strategies. The ongoing challenge of attracting, retaining, and developing talent in a competitive environment also remains a top priority. Balancing these multifaceted challenges while staying agile and responsive to change is a significant undertaking for HR professionals today.” 

What is an aspect of HR that you think would surprise people not in the career? 

“One aspect of HR that might come as a surprise to people not in the career is the strategic and analytical nature of modern HR functions. While HR has traditionally been associated with administrative tasks and employee relations, today's HR professionals are increasingly involved in analysing workforce data, utilizing technology and predictive analytics for talent management, contributing to organisational strategy, and have a seat at the Leadership table. This strategic role requires a deep understanding of business operations, finance, and organisational behaviour, as well as the ability to align HR initiatives with broader business objectives. The extent to which HR has evolved into a data-driven, strategic function may come as a surprise to those unfamiliar with the field.” 

What message do you have to share with your HR colleagues this International HR Day? 

“On this International HR Day, I would like to extend a message of appreciation to my HR colleagues around the world. The dedication to fostering an inclusive workplace, supporting employee well-being, and driving organisational success is truly commendable. In the face of unprecedented challenges, your resilience, empathy, and strategic thinking have been instrumental in guiding organisations through transformative times.” 

“As we celebrate International HR Day, let's reaffirm our commitment to championing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace. Let's continue to leverage our expertise to create environments where all employees feel valued, supported, and empowered to thrive. Our role in shaping organisational culture and driving positive change is more vital than ever.” 

“I encourage everyone to take pride in the impact we have on people's lives and the contributions we make to the organisations we support. The dedication to fostering a healthy, productive, and inclusive work environment is truly invaluable. Thank you for your unwavering commitment to the HR profession and the betterment of workplaces worldwide.” 

Sam O’Donovan - Chief People Officer, AXA - Global Healthcare 

The information in this article is correct at the time of publishing.