Last month, Danielle Kirgan joined Macy’s as our new chief human resources officer. Danielle has more than 20 years of HR experience and she has worked in all aspects of HR, giving her the opportunity to be a student of business, learn and make an impact. Most recently, Danielle served as senior vice president, people, at American Airlines. Prior to that, she was chief human resources officer at Darden Restaurants along with various HR leadership roles for ConAgra Foods, W.W. Grainger and TeleTech Holdings.
Danielle’s professional resume has lent itself to an impressive fun fact: She has lived in 10 different cities over the last 20 years. Wondering which city is her favorite? Orlando, Florida, due to the great weather and convenient distance to the beach.
For Danielle, family is the beginning and end to everything. Her husband and two sons, a fourth and an eighth grader, inspire her to do what she does every day. In fact, she lives by the same motto at work as she teaches her sons at home – to always put others first.
We sat down with Danielle to learn more about her career, values and what she aims to accomplish in her new role at Macy’s.
A few things; first Macy’s is an incredible brand, and the reach and reputation Macy’s has is among the top, so the opportunity to work on this team is incredibly exciting.
Also, when I’m considering taking on a new assignment, it has to be in an environment that I feel I can make an impact. When I think about Macy’s, I envision the awesome opportunity a brand like Macy’s carries, as well as the challenge it brings. We are in the middle of a transformation and the opportunity and challenge is what drew me here.
And finally, I’m incredibly excited for the chance to work with a leadership team that understands and is passionate about supporting our Associates, and meeting the needs of our customers. That combination of Associate and customer is extremely incredible and fulfilling work.
Both companies are long-standing and successful organizations. What I found during my time at each, is that most answers to the questions we have as leaders, are found in listening to our Associates that are in the action and on the front line of delivering our business. They have the best perspective.
The lesson that I learned from those experiences is to always find ways to reach those Associates on the front lines, listen to them and in turn, we can find the direction that we’re looking for and need.
First and foremost, I envision the impact of my leadership will be felt in how we take care of our Associates. If our work in HR isn’t connected to directly helping our Associates, then it should directly support someone who is helping our Associates, whether it’s through developing, mentoring, providing the environment to help them do their jobs, having rewarding pay and benefits programs that meet the diverse needs of our workforce, and the list goes on. My actions are small compared to those who are working directly with our Associates, but the impact will hopefully feel strong.
I stand for equality and creating an environment where everyone can be successful.
Being a female leader is something I take very seriously because women are such an important part of our workforce. I’ve had my fair share of challenges and successes, but what has helped me is having great mentorships and colleagues around me that I can trust.
The best advice that was given to me early on is, work hard and believe in people. I have found that this advice is evergreen; it’s translated over time and has always made sense in every phase of my career.
For me, working hard is always pushing to do more and do better. Easier said than done, but it’s so important.
The second half of that advice is what I love the most, which is, treat people like they will make a difference and they will. As a leader, part of that is providing support to people in all of their actions, and when you show someone you believe in them, it’s amazing what will happen as a result.
First is to acknowledge the fact that change is hard. Whether it’s personal or professional, fast or gradual, change carries a degree of difficulty for every one of us. Then, the guidance I would give to our Associates is to focus less on what you’re giving up, and set your sights on what you stand to gain.
Specifically for the change happening at Macy’s, we all need to be really stubborn about our goal to be focused on our customers and providing solutions.
Be stubborn about the goal, but be really flexible about the means – think about what’s a different way to solve the problem.
The companies who get it right and win have the same thing in common: A priority on how they treat their people. It starts first with taking care of our Associates, who in turn take care of our customers.