Karen Kocher

Karen Kocher

Chief Talent/Learning/HR Officer

HR experts say that to be truly effective, employees should already be doing the job they wish to be promoted to. Similarly, to be successful, employers should be already preparing for the workforce of the future which will drive organizational performance. Helping employees and employers imagine and prepare for the workforce of the future – specifically in a way that prioritizes learning, empathy, and trust in the workplace – is what motivates me during my waking hours.  

By training, I am a senior talent, learning, and HR executive. I have created and managed HR systems to achieve growth through harnessing talent, driving change, and spurring innovation. I have also developed expertise in navigating complex, diverse, and global operating environments. I have a high comfort level with all matters related to the workforce, whatever setting or wherever in the world.  

By expertise, I am vested in collaborating with employers concerning workforce strategy. I also find fulfillment in empowering employees and managers to step up and lead. In my experience, this happens best when people are freed from constraints so they can find their voices and forge their own paths toward a career, vocation, or calling.

I am also working outside the corporate setting by advising higher education institutions, small businesses, and nonprofits about employability issues. I am currently a board member of Excelsior University where I Chair the Strategic Planning Committee; an investor in Kweza, a female-owned craft brewery in Rwanda; and board member of Jobs for America's Graduates (JAG). These commitments represent causes important to me and subject matter in which I excel.

I’ve held senior human resources, healthcare, and sales leadership roles in insurance, information technology, consulting, and business outsourcing settings across the US, Europe, and Asia Pacific. One of the consistent themes through my experiences is the realization of revenue and organizational goals through talent strategy.

Some of my accomplishments include spearheading a social/collaborative global portal resulting in greater operating agility; redesign of a performance management model that increased growth and retention; and implementation of enterprise-wide initiatives linking business strategy with human resources planning. As a result, we built capabilities, enhanced organizational culture, and designed and deployed strong leadership development models.

Currently, I am Global General Manager of the Future of Work, Workforce of the Future and Talent & Learning Experiences for Microsoft where I help create a workplace experience to empower employees to produce their best work around the world. Before Microsoft, I was a Talent Executive and the Chief Learning Officer for Cigna Corporation where I led workforce development for 40,000 employees worldwide. I have also worked at IBM, IKON Office Solutions, and Aetna performing a variety of roles including product strategy, general management, risk management, sales, among others.

I have a B.A. in Political Strategy and Communications from DePaul University and am a strong believer in lifelong learning having completed leadership and management programs at Harvard Business School, and the University of Chicago’s Graduate School of Business, and Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business.

I am a member of six nonprofit boards, including Excelsior University Board of Trustees, Jobs for Americas Graduates (JAG), and Upskill America, where I focus on learning, talent, skills, and job readiness outside of the workplace. Exposure to humanity recharges me so I often invest my personal time traveling to interact with diverse cultures and peoples, enjoying nature, and appreciating art.

Over my career, I have managed several P&Ls and achieved consistent sales growth; successfully designed and launched products; and executed strategies that significantly improved my company’s Net Promoter Score. But the times I felt the most satisfied were when I helped nurture the leader inside of those around me. Not only does this translate into sustainable growth, but it is a legacy bigger than yourself. I am devoting the balance of my life to making this truth actionable for more people and more organizations.