HR Strategy

For this VP of people, HR runs in the family

Kassy Schimkaitis’s late grandfather inspired her to enter the field to create better workplaces.
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Kassy Schimkaitis

4 min read

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For Kassy Schimkaitis, HR runs in the family. Her late grandfather helped convince the now VP of people strategy at Colorado-based telecom company Commnet Broadband to pursue the function when she was a college student.

“[We] talked through what I was learning in school and what I wanted to focus on, what I was passionate about,” she said. “We started talking about HR, and the people being the heart of a business, and [that] what creates a good place to work is the culture.”

Schimkaitis’s grandfather worked in the “personnel department,” a term used to describe the function in the early 20th century. Her grandfather eventually became a lawyer, but the conversation about HR and employees stuck with Schimkaitis, especially the evolution of HR and its important place in business.

“He actually passed away a few weeks later, and so I was inspired to follow in his footsteps and ended up deciding I was going to major in HR,” she said.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What’s the best change you’ve made at work?

At Commnet Broadband, I spearheaded the development and integration of our company’s first core values, transforming our organizational culture. Collaborating with the executive team, we defined five aspirational values: foster trust, communicate effectively, customer-centric, own it, and win together. These values were woven into the very fabric of our HR strategy, shaping goals, performance management, rewards and recognition, employer branding, and the hiring process. By embedding these values into job descriptions and interview questions, we created a unified, values-driven culture that significantly enhanced employee engagement and aligned our team’s behaviors with our business objectives. This holistic approach, informed by employee survey results, ensured that our values resonated deeply and fostered a cohesive, high-performing organization.

What’s the biggest misconception people might have about your job?

Many people think HR is just about hiring and handling employee issues, but it’s far more strategic. My role involves shaping the company culture, driving organizational effectiveness, and aligning people strategy with business goals. It’s about creating an environment where employees are motivated, engaged, and able to perform at their best, which directly impacts the company’s success. My job requires a deep understanding of the business, strong leadership, and the ability to manage complex change initiatives.

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What’s the most fulfilling aspect of your job?

The most fulfilling aspect of my job is seeing the positive impact of a great people strategy on both the employees and the business. It’s incredibly rewarding to be part of a team where people feel valued, engaged, and motivated to perform at their best. Watching teams thrive, grow, and achieve their goals because of the systems and values we’ve put in place gives me immense satisfaction. Knowing that my work helps individuals develop and succeed while driving the company’s success is truly gratifying.

What trend in HR are you most optimistic about? Why?

I’m most optimistic about the impact Gen Z is having on the workplace. They’re bringing a fresh perspective and challenging the traditional employer–employee relationship. Gen Z, following the groundwork laid by millennials, is demanding more authenticity, purpose, and intrinsic value from their work. They are not afraid to keep it real, prioritize well-being, and push for meaningful changes that foster a more transparent, inclusive, and engaging work environment. This shift is driving a deeper connection between employees and their work, ultimately benefiting both individuals and organizations.

What trend in HR are you least optimistic about? Why?

I’m least optimistic about the push for rigid return-to-office (RTO) policies. These trends ignore the benefits of flexibility, which is crucial for employee morale and [a] competitive advantage in the talent marketplace. HR professionals need to leverage data to drive conversations not just about employee satisfaction, but also about the tangible benefits of flexible work arrangements, including cost reductions in building footprint, energy use, and environmental impact. This is our moment to shine with data and advocate for modern, balanced work policies.

Quick-to-read HR news & insights

From recruiting and retention to company culture and the latest in HR tech, HR Brew delivers up-to-date industry news and tips to help HR pros stay nimble in today’s fast-changing business environment.