Star Interview
Star Interview

Anne Kiely,
HR Director for EMEA,Twitter

Anne Kiely, HR Director for EMEA at Twitter, spoke exclusively to myGrapevine magazine about her role in the social media giant’s commitment to developing new leaders...

Words by Liam Soutar

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From recruitment to retention, getting the right talent is currently a huge problem for employers. And while much has been made of employers’ struggles to recruit for the general workforce, there’s also a shortage of senior figures. Separate data from McKinsey found that the demand for experienced managers and C-Suite positions is expected to rise by 20% by the year 2030. It’s therefore becoming increasingly important for companies to start looking inwards for their future leaders.

At Twitter, bosses are future-proofing their talent pipeline in a variety of ways, such as via leadership development programmes, and are focussing on fostering a company culture that makes talented employees stay with them for the long run.

Anne Kiely, HR Director for EMEA at Twitter, is leading the company’s charge in these areas. Initially working as a banker for eight years, Kiely retrained in HR and has quickly risen through the people function ranks, first joining Twitter in 2017 and taking up her current role in January 2021 – a rapid climb up the ladder which gives her a strong perspective on what makes a good leader.

Below, Kiely spoke exclusively to myGrapevine magazine about the social media giant’s commitment to developing new leaders, how Twitter is doing so, and how empathy, kindness and transparency underpin her approach to HR...

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CV of Anne Kiely


HR Director, EMEA
Jan 2021 – present 
EMEA Lead HR Business Partner
Sep 2018 – Jan 2020
Senior HR Business Partner
May 2017 – Sep 2018 
The HR Partnership
2008 – Jun 2018 
Permanent tsb
HR Business Partner
Sep 2014 – Mar 2017
Aramark Workplace Solutions
HR Shared Services Manager
Sep 2012 – Sep 2014
Anne Kiely
Why do you think it is important to develop current and future leaders?

Healthy, happy, high-performing teams mean we can do our best work and we understand the impact our leaders can have on these teams. Our leaders shape our impact and coveted Twitter culture –that’s why we’re committed to developing the very best programmes to nurture, strengthen, and retain our current and future leaders.

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"I get to play an important role in facilitating people having a successful career"

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What leadership development or development programmes are you currently working on?

We continuously deliver, review and update personalised leadership development programmes. Our focus is always on meeting leaders where they are and sharing the practices that empower them to drive impact at Twitter. Some of our current programmes include:

• Leading: Our five-day programme that gives our leaders worldwide the mindset, tools, and behaviours to lead others more effectively. It helps leaders understand how they can inspire action, lead collaboratively, and build accountability.

• Leadership speaker series: Partner with top business schools to offer bite-sized leadership modules with industry experts. This series covers topics like motivating others, leveraging virtual teams, and the neurobiology of leadership.

• Targeted programmes: Bespoke range of equitable, targeted development programmes to help support our underrepresented leaders at every step in their careers at Twitter.

• Short, self-paced programmes: We’ve partnered with the world’s top business schools, to offer one-to three-week, self-paced courses that help tackle specific challenges such as building strategy, and preventing burnout.

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A bit about Anne

How did you get into HR?

I completed a general business degree 20 years ago, a Bachelor of Commerce, with final year specialisms in Finance and Human Resources. I worked initially as a banker for eight years before realising I really wanted a career in HR. So, I went back to college to study for a Masters in Organisational Psychology, and started my HR career 12 years after leaving school!

I initially built out my HR skills by purposely gaining experience in different specialisms – Learning & Development, HR Project Management, HR Operations, HR Outsourcing – before moving into a generalist HRBP role. I have spent the last six years honing those generalist skills, and truly love the journey I have travelled to get to this point in my career.

What is your guiding philosophy?

Treat people as you would want them to treat you – with empathy, kindness and transparency. Human resources is all about finding, attracting, onboarding, motivating and elevating people at work – so our people should be directly included in the setup and ongoing success of those very programmes that impact them doing their best work. Our HR programmes should set up employees to be as successful as they can for the time that they spend in any workplace, therefore by design, they need to have regular input from employees to validate them.

What is your proudest moment at Twitter? 

At Twitter, we say that we want you to bring your whole self to work. My proudest moment was leading a Twitter Dublin event around two of my passions – women and sport. Between 2018 and 2020 there was a national initiative to increase visibility to, participation in and attendance, at women's sporting events called 20x20.

In May 2019 in the Twitter Dublin office, a group including the CEO of the national broadcaster and female sports stars from soccer, rugby and Gaelic football, debated how to increase participation in women's sport in Ireland by 20%, how to increase media coverage of national and international women's sport by 20%, and increase attendance at women’s events by 20%, and all by 2020. The positive impact of this national #CantSeeItCantBeIt campaign is still visible across the country.

What is your favourite thing about working in HR? 

I get to play an important role in facilitating people having a successful career. Whether you live to work or you work to live, our work and our workplaces take a significant chunk of our time and our lives. Working in HR, I have the privilege of finding people great jobs, partnering with them to maximise their impact, and helping them find a new role within or outside the company when that time comes. Oh, and I get the opportunity to try to bring in some fun too!

With Twitter adopting a hybrid working structure, how is Twitter committed to carving out development opportunities that will help leaders be successful?

We have always been cognizant of ensuring that our leaders are thoughtful and measured in assessing performance, in particular, checking for biases in their assessment. We will continue to help our managers build this muscle to remain objective when assessing for performance, for hiring and for promotion, irrespective of whether they regularly see their team members in real life, sometimes see them, or never see them in person. We will also focus on supporting our managers to build healthy and high-performing teams, whether their team is working from the office, working from home or working from both.


"We continuously deliver, review and update personalised leadership development programmes"

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What is ‘Levelling the Playing Field’ at Twitter – and what does it hope to achieve?

A big priority for us this year is how we can effectively operate as a distributed company and ensure there’s no disparity between those who come into the office and those who choose to work remotely –to ensure everyone is equally set up to be successful at Twitter. This is what we call ‘Levelling The Playing Field’. Our focus has been on building workplace practices that mean no matter where people are, our employees have the same access to career opportunities, to build connections, and to share our purpose and culture regardless of how, when or where they work.

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"Our leaders shape our impact and coveted Twitter culture..."

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What is one example of a workplace practice that helps to level the playing field?

Twitter Async-First is just one example. Async-first embraces communication and collaboration practices that don’t require others to be available at the same time or place. This is put into practice when we collaborate on project documents prior to a face-to-face meeting so that we can use the meeting time to discuss pertinent issues only or make decisions.

What is your biggest priority for the next 12 months?

Creating or recreating a company’s culture to be successful in the new world of work we all find ourselves in 2022. At Twitter we allow our ‘Tweeps’ (Twitter employees) to work when and from where they do their best work, and we build the tools and elevate the behaviours that facilitate being successful in their work in that brave new world. Everything from an HR perspective should be aligned with the company's culture.

Culture at its heart is simply ‘this is how we really do things around here’ and engagement is when employees simply are bought into it. The companies that clearly and consistently create a culture that their employees want to engage in will win the current ‘war for talent’. A recent HBR article described how the ‘war for talent’ is over, and that talent has won – this sums up the challenge for employers. Companies need to build something with a clear purpose that employees want to truly engage in – and when the company builds it, the people will come!

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