· 1 min read · Features

Paula Watch: Should Paula Jones have been fired from The Apprentice?


On Wednesday night HR manager Paula Jones was fired from the BBC's The Apprentice by Sir Alan Sugar over a costing error, but should this have happened or did HR's own apprentice have more to give? We put the question to some industry experts.

Matthew Chester, director at HR recruitment consultancy Digby Morgan, says: "Oh dear, it's all gone wrong for Paula in the numbers game. Today's progressive HR professional should now be an accomplished business person with a specialism in HR - not merely an HR professional who is good with people. HR business leaders need to be commercial and can't be seen to compromise on the business acumen piece.

"With commercial nous comes a need to be analytical, be good with numbers, thinking on your feet and having the ability to make quick, incisive decisions. All too often today HR professionals are falling down on the numbers bit which, in our increasingly commercial world, doesn't stand up against other business functions that might naturally have more daily exposure to analytical competencies and mental arithmetic."

A survey from YouGov has shown 67% of HR professionals would like to have a go at winning The Apprentice, but will their 'soft skills' hold them back?

Simon Law, partner at specialist public-sector recruitment consultancy Morgan Law, has offered some thoughts. He adds: "Bearing in mind she works in a non-commercial organisation in HR, Paula showed excellent broader commercial skills around creating a desirable product that was in demand and was packaged, presented and marketed well. Ultimately, aside from one (albeit fatal) error, she would have won the task. Maybe this shows that it is wrong to stereotype public-sector people as lacking in commercial acumen and HR people as only having soft skills, with limited strategic ability.

"Surely it would not have been wrong for her to delegate the costing aspect of the task to more specialist people despite having ultimate responsibility as team leader. Her crime was more that she was not able to defend herself in the boardroom when faced with the cocksure, confrontational and aggressive Ben Clarke. If she had been working in a commercial or financial services environment she may well have been more experienced and therefore better equipped to have survived the onslaught of her two commercially experienced adversaries."