HR Most Influential 2021: who were our top practitioners and thinkers?

Last night HR magazine unveiled its 2021 HR Most Influential (HRMI) rankings at St Paul's Cathedral.

Now in its 15th year, HR Most Influential, in partnership with HireRight, recognises the HR practitioners and thinkers who go above and beyond the day job to advance the HR profession and share best practice with the wider HR community. 

Everyone on the shortlist is nominated by their peers, with ranking completed by HR magazine and Hult Ashridge Executive Education.

Reflecting the seismic change the industry, and the UK has undergone over the past two years, for 2021 HR magazine decided to cast the net wider and ask a wider range of individuals from across the public, private and third sectors to nominate their top HR practitioners and thinkers. 

By doing this, we have created the most diverse and inclusive list in the event’s history. 

Shereen Daniels, managing director of HR Rewired, ranked #1 on the HRMI thinker list.

Daniels is passionate about racial equity and specialises her consultancy in helping organisations to be actively anti-racist.

Speaking at the event last night she said: "One of the things I'm asked often is what gives me the energy to keep being so tenacious and so unflinchingly honest with what needs to change within the workplace to ensure black colleagues have equitable and equal opportunities and it's because I believe in black liberation."

The humanity of black people, Daniels added, transcends business cases, and she believes HR has the opportunity to lead the charge not only where race is concerned but in other areas of change.

"HR has an amazing opportunity with the way the world is changing, whether it's because of stakeholder capitalism whether it's mitigating the impact on the environment, thinking about how we engage with communities differently, how we hold ourselves to account within a corporate governance capacity," she said.

For HR to take the lead, Daniels added that it requires professionals to do the work internally too. She said they have to ask themselves - what are you most afraid of?

"If you're frustrated sometimes with a lack of pace of change that's going on in your companies, or the companies that you support. What are you most afraid of that stops you from using your voice to effect change?" Daniels said.

The Most Influential practitioner of the year was Eugenio Pirri, chief people and culture officer at Dorchester Collection.

He said: "To say that I am shocked and humbled would truly be an understatement.

"I am very very honoured to have been on the HR most influential list for many years but to have achieved this status is really something that I couldn't could never have imagined."

Thanking HR magazine and the people that nominated him for the honour, Pirri added: "Everyone has been amazingly influential, especially over these past two years, and I think we work in the most amazing profession.

"Let's keep making it strong and let's keep doing the right thing by our people, by our companies, and stay true to who we are."

Read on below for the top 10 rankings of HRMI Practitioners and Thinkers for 2021.

The full shortlist will be available on a special area of the HR magazine website soon, along with announcement of this year's inductions into the HR Hall of Fame.


HR Most Influential Practitioners

Eugenio Pirri Chief People and Culture Officer The Dorchester Collection
2 Sharon Benson HR Director

Sunrise Senior Living UK 

3 Andy Dodman Chief HR Officer

Leeds City Council

4 Claire Gore Director of HR and OD 

London North West Healthcare

5 Stuart Branch Chief People Digital Officer


6 Corina Forman  HR Director

APC Overnight

7 Danny Harmer Chief People Officer


8 Neil Morrison Group HR Director

Severn Trent 

9 Grace Mansah-Owusu Talent Consultant

British Heart Foundation

10 Siobhan Sheridan  Chief People Officer

Financial Conduct Authority



HR Most Influential Thinkers 

Shereen Daniels Managing Director HR Rewired
2 Perry Timms Founder PTHR
3 John Amaechi Founder APS Intelligence
4 Simon Fanshawe Partner Diversity by Design
5 Verena Hefti CEO and Founder  Leaders Plus
6 Stephen Bevan Head of HR Research and Development  Institute for Employment Studies
7 Juliette Alban-Metcalfe Chief Executive Real World Group
8 Wayne Clarke Founder Global Growth Institute
9 Frank Douglas  CEO Caerus Executive
10 Jane Parry Head of Research for Department of Organisational Behaviour and HRM University of Southhampton