HR Most Influential 2010

For the fifth anniversary of the HR Most Influential ranking, HR magazine has tied up with Ashridge Business School to define influence and create a definitive list of those in the sector who have it, as HR editor Sian Harrington explains.

The best are described as inspirational leaders, successful in showing how HR can add real value to the business and with strong vision. They are effective, progressive and transformational, commanding the respect of their peers, the organisation and key stakeholders.

But research for HR magazine’s 2010 ranking of the practitioners and thinkers who have had the greatest influence in the field of people strategy shows the external perception of HR is of a sector comprising two tiers: a small group of influential HR directors at the top of the pyramid and a much larger, less impressive group at the base.

For the fifth anniversary of the HR Most Influential list, in association with outsourcing services provider Ceridian, HR magazine tied up with Ashridge Business School to create a definitive list of the top influencers in the sector as well as to develop a deeper understanding of what defines influence in HR.

Ashridge interviewed chief executives, the media and City analysts to discover whether the external perception of HR has moved from the unfair but deep-rooted view of HR as ‘human remains’ or ‘human restraint’ to better reflect the growing influence of HR practitioners on business strategy. The good news is that those HR directors at the top of the pyramid are described as doing an excellent, first-class job. They work closely with their CEO and understand how HR can best deliver what the business needs.

One interviewee says HR is “definitely there, playing with the big boys and being a strategic partner to the business” while a CEO speaks about totally trusting and working “hand in glove” with the HR director, noting: “We meet every day and I have complete respect and trust in their judgment. I rely upon them to be my ‘eyes and ears’ in the organisation.”

However, there appears to be a wider image problem, with one interviewee going as far as to say HR is “weak, hesitant, inconsistent, ineffectual and at worst unprincipled”. Another adds: “HR needs to get on with doing a better job. People will notice and respect competent people doing a good and valuable job.”

HR Most Influential ranking uses qualitative as well as quantitative methodology and it is clear from the remarks of those in the HR community that they believe the people at the top are delivering measurable business benefits, working close with the board and challenging notions of HR. Doug Sawers, managing director of Ceridian, believes fiscal pressures on organisations have helped HR to raise its game. “Every part of every organisation is being tested, and of course the HR profession is right in the middle of this challenge – how to keep the balance between the value of people and the cost of people.

“Successful organisations will be those that achieve the correct balance, and it is the HR profession that has potentially the most important role to play in identifying that optimal positioning. The strongest and fastest HR leaders, so many of whom are recognised in this year’s listing, have an unprecedented opportunity to help their organisations succeed, and in doing so position the profession in a fresher, more progressive light.”

Top 30 Most Influential HR Practitioners
2010 2009 Name, title and company
1 (1) David Fairhurst, senior vice president/chief people officer, McDonald’s Restaurants Northern Europe
2 (2) Clare Chapman, director general, workforce, NHS
3 (20) Tanith Dodge, HR director, Marks & Spencer
4 (3) Martin Tiplady, director of human resources, Metropolitan Police Service
5 new Tony McCarthy, director people and organisational effectiveness, British Airways
6 (6) Liane Hornsey, vice president, people operations – sales & business development, Google
7 (5) Angela O’Connor, chief people officer, National Policing Improvement Agency
8 (13) Stephen Dando, executive vice president & chief human resources officer, Thomson Reuters
9 (9) Therese Procter, HR director, Tesco Stores
10 (8) Caroline Waters, director of people and policy, BT
11 (19) John Ainley Group, HR director, Aviva
12 new Neil Roden, head of HR, Royal Bank of Scotland
13 (7) Vance Kearney, vice president HR (EMEA), Oracle
14 (23) Graham White, director of HR, Westminster City Council
15 (18) Rachel Campbell, head of people management, KPMG
16 new Daniel Kasmir, group HR director, Xchanging
17 new Stephen Battalia, head of team HR, Nestlé UK and Ireland
18 (12) Helen Giles, HR director, Broadway
19 (11) Catherine Glickman, personnel director, Tesco
20 new Mary Canavan, HR director, British Library
21 (17) Gillian Hibberd,strategic director (resources and business transformation), Buckinghamshire County Council
22 (16) Dave Gartenberg, HR director, Microsoft
23 new Sara Edwards, HR director, Orient Express
24 (14) Stephen Moir, corporate director: people, policy and law, Cambridgeshire County Council
25 new Alex Wilson Group HR director, BT
26 (21) Gareth Williams, HR director, Diageo
27 (27) Stephen Kelly, chief people officer, Logica
28 new Beryl Cook, chief HR officer, EVP, News America (News Corporation)
29 new Jean Tomlin, HR director, London 2012
30 (15) Ann Almeida Group, head of human resources, HSBC