Robin Lykins’s Bottom-Up Approach to HR

Verifone’s Robin Lykins shares why leading with transparency, kindness, and care have been some of the most important tools in her playbook

Robin Lykins worked her way up and touched every specialty area in the human resources world along the way. She’s notched impressive accomplishments across the technology landscape, both for the organizations she’s worked for and for herself. But throughout that time, the single, overarching rule she’s learned is that there is no single, overarching rule.

On the contrary, it’s adaptability, growth, and truly learning about every single person that will lead to results. “Instead of having a single corporate-driven strategy, have leaders focused on what’s important in their business. Then, they’ll be able to move the meter more constructively for what makes sense for their individual needs,” Lykins explains. “Then, if big-picture patterns emerge, work to reinforce and drive those solutions with grace and complete transparency. The bottom-up approach works.”

Long before she became senior vice president and chief people officer of Verifone, a multinational corporation that provides technology for electronic payment transactions, and even before she worked in HR, Lykins was developing that people-first strategy. She grew up dreaming of becoming a fashion designer and first held roles as a retail sales manager and a buyer. She realized, however, that she was spending a majority of her time on the people aspects of her work instead of the fashion.

“The more I invested in the people, the better that my organization was performing,” Lykins says. Eventually, leadership noticed and asked her to officially move into the HR office to build training, development, and talent management programs. Now, her peers are also taking notice of Lykins’s approach.

Robin Lykins, Verifone

“We’ve been working with Robin to devise a solution to enhance and streamline Verifone’s recruitment process, compliance, governance, candidate, and hiring manager experience, all to draw top talent across forty-two countries and supporting ten different languages,” says Kristin Thomas, SVP, client services at Alexander Mann Solutions. “It’s been absolutely meaningful and fulfilling work because Robin puts people—specifically Verifone’s prospective talent—first and foremost in all she does. We’re a company that believes people are the foundation for our success and one that also understands that a successful partnership requires an authentic and respectful approach to managing change. It’s been great to be truly in sync with Robin’s entire ethos.”

While Lykins still indulges in her passion for creativity with hobbies such as jewelry-making and photography outside of the office, Lykins found that she gained just as much excitement out of her new focus as she had from fashion. A large part of that came from the opportunity that HR offers in getting to see across departments and interact with many individuals in a large, vibrant company.

“I get energy from being able to gather diverse thoughts and insights from different parts of the organization,” she says. “That really sparks my creative side for problem-solving.”

In addition to working with many different people, the HR field offers the ability to think strategically big-picture-wise in terms of projects. Her bachelor’s degree in organization behavior and master’s degree in organization development showed those possibilities, but Lykins gained further understanding of how wide that scope could be as she rose in the ranks in companies such as California Eastern Laboratories and RMS. Joining Verifone in 2015 allowed her to put her knowledge and experience to the test on a grand scale.

“I’m so proud of my opportunity to be able to think about the future and build scalable processes,” Lykins says. “I can be flexible enough to take Verifone into the future without having to redo HR infrastructure over and over again, which in turn frees up time to do more of the business-facing work.”

But having those myriad people and processes on her plate means that Lykins had to learn the importance of prioritization and structure. In order to help others move quickly and shift gears, Lykins has built out physical playbooks that map out Verifone processes for various projects such as mergers and acquisitions and restructuring. Beyond those physical tools, Lykins has relied on technology, as well.

“There’s so much power in using our HRS platform and engagement surveys, but you have to prioritize there as well,” she says. “It would be wonderful to implement everything available, but you have to know which components are going to be most helpful in actually running the business.”

Even when using tools such as engagement surveys across the entire company, Lykins emphasizes the need to adapt to the individuals being surveyed rather than holding everyone to a single standard. “Every executive sets their own score and sets a goal for improvement, and then they are held accountable for that,” she says. Not only does that more realistically take into account differences from department to department and leader to leader, but it also makes each department feel more ownership over engagement.

In order to customize solutions for each unit, Verifone leadership needs to have in-depth understanding of their talent. That is a place where Lykins thrives: looking at the big picture and making connections, while also empathizing with the needs and challenges of individuals.

“We’re pretty aggressive here in terms of doing talent reviews that speed many business decisions across the organization,” she says. “That’s one way we can both look for the talent that we need externally and also give people the opportunities to learn on the job.”

Leading with open lines of communication, kindness, and care helped Lykins make a substantial impact on Verifone’s success. “With every decision, I always keep in mind with what the business is trying to accomplish,” she says. “Sometimes that means bringing things to the table that some people don’t necessarily want to talk about. But by driving with transparency and striving for progress instead of perfection, you can actually make a change.”

Why Work/Life Balance Is Essential

While Robin Lykins puts an incredible amount of energy and effort into her work as senior vice president and chief people officer of Verifone, she’s also an outspoken advocate of the need for a proper work/life balance—as well as using that time outside of the office wisely.

“Having a couple of kids while finishing my master’s degree made me come to terms with the importance of that balance,” she says.

As a result, Lykins raised her kids with a focus on the importance of family time, as well. “No matter what we’re doing, we do it all together,” she says. That also includes teaching her kids that they need to have time to think creatively. “Sometimes we’ll go to a coffee shop, and we’ll just brainstorm ideas,” Lykins continues. “My fourteen-year-old gives me great work ideas, and then we’ll work together on his work. It’s possible to teach while being productive, always spending quality time together.”

At Alexander Mann Solutions, we’re passionate about talent acquisition blending the elegantly simple with a spark of innovation. Which is why we want to congratulate Robin Lykins. We know a talent strategy is only as good as the value it creates, as embodied by Robin’s leadership and collaboration with us.