Last night HR magazine unveiled the 2016 HR Most Influential rankings at an exclusive networking event in Claridge's.
The HR Most Influential rankings, which are supported by SD Worx and Open University Business School, recognise the HR practitioners and thinkers pushing the field of people strategy forward. HR Most Influential is now in its 11th year.
Standard Life chief people officer Sandy Begbie took the top spot this year. As well as being responsible for people he has also run operations, IT procurement, and comms, alongside Asia and emerging markets.
Accepting his award, Begbie said: "It means a huge amount to be recognised by others in the profession. I think all HRDs try and do the right thing by their people; that's what I've always tried to do. That's been possible because of the people I've worked with. So this is in recognition of what they've done as much as what I've done."
Talking on HR's role, he added: "I know it's a cliche that HR needs to be more influential within business but that's more relevant now than ever. UK businesses are more global than they've ever been. I think there's a real role for HR; I think individuals need to grasp that opportunity and realise they're equal to all other business partners."
At number two was someone who, despite working in a high-profile and complex organisation, manages to find the time to give back to the profession via speaking, mentoring and networking. Valerie Hughes D’Aeth, HR director of the BBC, was praised for being unafraid of a challenge and admired by her peers.
Jacky Simmonds, group director of people at Easyjet, came in third place, scoring highly for her contribution to boards beyond her own organisation. She is a non-executive director at FTSE 100 company Wolseley.
Rob Briner, professor of organisational psychology at the University of Bath’s School of Management topped the Most Influential Thinkers list. One HRD on the judging panel said: “That Rob is committing himself and his time to helping the HR profession to be better is a contribution I think we should be truly grateful for.”
Referring to his tireless work advocating evidence-based practice, while accepting the award Briner quipped that he questioned the rigour of the judging process last year when he came second, but this year he was convinced of its integrity. "But can I believe in this award?" he joked.
Of the importance of evidence-based practice, he added: "I hope I've suggested that this can be useful in any profession...and HR needs it. They have tonnes of answers but what they don't have is very good questions, or always think about whether what HR does works or not."
Stephen Bevan, head of HR research development at the Institute for Employment Studies, came second. He was rated highly for his contribution to the profession on the subject of health and wellbeing.
The third spot was taken by Herminia Ibarra, Cora Chaired professor of leadership and learning, and professor of organisational behaviour at INSEAD, and author of Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader.