30 Under 30: Alionna Gardner

Meet the Millennials who are leading HR into the future.

Christina Folz By Christina Folz November 23, 2016

Alionna GardnerIt’s hard enough to be an HR department of one for one organization. Imagine being the solo show for seven of them! That’s what multitasker extraordinaire Alionna Gardner, 29, does every day as an HR generalist/consultant for the Kiwi Partners Inc. in New York City. With about 50 employees, Kiwi provides both project-based HR assistance—such as creating employee handbooks or conducting audits—as well as ongoing services for employers with no formal human resources function. 

None of the seven nonprofits Gardner works with had ever had an HR person before she engaged with them nearly two years ago. Her previous job prepared her well for juggling multiple clients: She performed HR functions for a real estate management firm that oversaw the staff and operations for 60 luxury buildings in Manhattan. “I really enjoyed working with different clients,” she says. “Each building had its own policies and rules, which keeps things new and different and exciting.” 

At Kiwi, she works mainly with nonprofits with around 100 employees, as well as a few startups that she helped grow from 10-15 employees to 50-100. 

She helped one organization bounce back after the CEO passed away from cancer shortly after being diagnosed, leaving employees devastated and without a clear succession plan. She coached the interim CEO, who later took the role permanently, and established new processes to improve morale, including revamping benefits and instituting six weeks of paid parental leave. “[The leaders] are now recruiting senior team members to restructure how the organization should go forward,” she says. “They are on track to be great and continue growing; they just needed the tools and skills to do it.”

Key ingredients of a great workplace

“Employee relations and workplace culture. If those things aren’t functioning right, so much can go wrong.”

Top trends to watch

“Unlimited time off and paid parental time off. They can bring a reward much greater than the risk. Small companies think they can’t do [these things] but don’t realize how productive and efficient they can become.” 

What’s next

“I’m working on going to law school next year. I want to focus on employment law and be an HR consultant who also provides legal counsel.”

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