Past Client Experiences

Michael Watson

Former Senior Vice President
Human Resources and Diversity
Girl Scouts of the USA

It is with great joy that I recommend Karen Key for your consideration.  As chair of the Human Resources Council for the National Human Services Assembly, where Karen served as Vice President and the EVP & COO, I worked closely with Karen on a number of initiatives and witnessed her strategic thinking, passion for human capital issues, and focus on customer service and execution.  The following examples demonstrate how Karen worked with others and me. 

Karen worked closely with me and the HR Council to identify and engage speakers on succession planning, talent management, employee engagement and retention as part of our overall learning strategy for HR executives at national nonprofit human services organizations.  Karen partnered with me and the Diversity and Inclusion Council chair to coordinate the learning content and session designs of our respective councils.  She helped us ensure that our respective agendas were complementary, which optimized the value for the participants, many of whom attended both meetings.  Karen was always a full partner in discussion of which speakers would work best for our council members, and on the design of the meeting.

Karen managed the agendas for 11 peer networks (professional councils), but she noticed that talent was a common theme that had emerged across the groups.  She help make talent one of the four strategic pillars of National Human Services Assembly work, and led the process of identifying a common agenda and speakers that participants ranging from Organizational Development and Human Resources, to Chief Operating Officers and Chief Financial Officers could appreciate and learn from.  Karen had an extensive knowledge of the nonprofit sector, major trends, and which organizations were involved in which initiatives.  This added to her ability to help develop cross-functional sessions that worked for all.   

Karen played a key role in discussions between the Diversity and Inclusion Chair, me and others to identify a strategic research project to work on with New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service.  Once we identified the research question - how NHSA member organizations were approaching the issue of increasing the ethnic and racial diversity of senior management — Karen worked as co-manager of the project, which entailed outreach to CEOs, communications, coordination with the graduate student team from New York University School of Public Service, reviewing questions that would be sent to CEOs and top HR leaders, and distributing the final product -Developing Senior Management Diversity to the other peer groups, the National Human Services Assembly Board, and other audiences.  This product was the first of its kind for the National Assembly and it would not have been possible without her help. 

Karen had a natural knack for succession planning within the Councils.  She made sure that when one of the chairs or co-chairs was about to vacate their positon, she worked with us in advance to make sure there was a backup who had adequate time to prepare for the role.  Karen possessed excellent instincts regarding who had the potential to step into roles of leadership.  She was also very open to new ideas, including joint recruiting events, pro-bono volunteers, and a host of other experiments to maximize our productivity while decreasing our costs. 

As a member of the National Human Services Assembly board, I witnessed how Karen presented on strategic initiatives and was able to answer the questions from a demanding group of mostly CEOs.  Karen carefully blended an effective mix of superior delivery of ongoing work, introduction of new initiatives, and long-term vision.  She was one of the few who effectively managed short and long-term concerns, resulting in high satisfaction from her clients.  Karen provided this support while juggling many other priorities that her role entailed.  The peer groups were a main area of satisfaction for the National Human Services Assembly’s 85 members and Karen was a major factor in that success. 

In addition to being a highly skilled and productive professional, Karen was also very insightful and thoughtful.  She always treated others respect, whether they were executives, nonexempt employees or interns.  In addition, Karen is flexible, creative and cares about the impact of the work on others.  I have had the chance to work with incredible individuals from GE, IBM, and Time Warner Inc., but working with Karen was one of the best collaborative experiences I have ever had.  Karen will be successful in any endeavor she chooses, and I give her the highest recommendation.