Criteria and process

HR magazine's annual HR Most Influential list was launched in 2006 to recognise the HR practitioners and academics/thinkers that are pushing the field of human capital management forward.

HR Most Influential Practitioners

For the purposes of the HR Most Influential list, the definition of an HR practitioner is either a practising HR director or another director who has come through via an HR role. The Most Influential Practitioner list is UK-based.

The criteria for shortlisting is that the person is credible, HR director-level seniority, part of a successful business/organisation, a role model for HR and is advancing the cause of HR. It is about influence in HR – not the best operational HR director. So criteria include external impact as well as internal, membership of business focused groups, NED positions or influence globally if relevant.

In 2016 Ashridge Business School undertook research around the concept of influence. HR magazine also consulted with leading HR directors to understand how they define influence in our sector.

On the back of this work the following criteria were identified as comprising influence in HR:

  • Significant outcomes in their own business – has their own business been successful? Have they introduced a successful HR strategy?
  • Track record of successful outcomes – have they worked in other successful businesses/had an impact in other businesses before their current role?
  • Internal board involvement – are they an active member of the board or ExCo/RemCo? Where do they sit in the company hierarchy?
  • External board involvement – do they have any NED positions in listed, private or public bodies? Are they a charity trustee?
  • External influence – do they sit on sector specific boards (eg government department bodies; Engage for Success, national skills commissioners etc)
  • Influencing the wider profession – do they share their knowledge with the profession via blogs and social media? Have they spoken at any significant events over the last year? Do they sit on any HR steering groups?
  • Developing others in the function – do they give back to more junior HR professionals, such as via mentoring? Have they spoken at any events for more junior talent?
  • Depth and breadth of experience – do they have responsibility for any other areas outside of HR?


Ashridge Business School undertook desk research measuring the FTSE100 HR directors against the above criteria, using corporate websites, LinkedIn and other web searches. A panel of specialist executive HR head-hunters representing the private and public sectors met to add their expertise into the mix and to discuss influential practitioners from outside the FTSE100. These names were also provided to Ashridge for desk research.

The top practitioners in each industry form the HR Most Influential Sector lists. From these list the overall Top 40 HR Practitioners were chosen based on scores against each criteria.

Those practitioners who have recently moved role or stepped up into a bigger role are on our Ones to Watch list.

HR Most Influential Thinkers

HR directors and practitioners were approached to define what makes an academic or author influential. The following criteria were identified:

  • Practical Relevance – do they understand the issues facing HR/business today and suggest ideas that can be utilised in practice
  • Commercial/service impact – does their thinking have a positive impact on the business
  • Visibility and sharing information – do they share their ideas widely, engaging with the HR community and not just publishing a paper/book
  • Works published/Influential in the past year – have they said anything of significance in the past year
  • Originality/challenge – are they making HR directors sit up and take notice?
  • Personal influence – do they command respect among HR practitioners and within their own community


HR magazine asked for nominations from the profession. A panel of HR directors met to debate the names and weight them. HR magazine sense-checked the results and the Top 30 ranking was created.