21 to watch

fast-track executives have battled their way up the HR career ladder while
still young. They are exemplars of the changing face of HR – visionary, strategic
and highly influential. They all recognise the importance of making full use of
available technology. And we predict their careers will be even more brilliant
and prosperous. Profiles by Phil Boucher, Jane Lewis and Sue Weekes

Chief executive officer, PSL

Alberg set up the psychometric test development company PSL 10 years ago when
he was only 26. Today it is the fastest-growing company in its sector and
counts Boots, Vodafone, Whitbread, The Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest among
its clients. Alberg’s foresight has fuelled PSL’s remarkable expansion through
his recognition of the power of HR strategies to gain competitive advantage. He
has personally spearheaded the company’s drive into Web-delivered assessment
tools. Its flagship product jobsift.com was adopted by the online recruitment
company StepStone last year in a landmark deal for the sector. With PSL
committing millions of pounds to software development, there’s likely to be
plenty more of where that came from.


Head of HR and recruitment,

Alcorn is head of HR at the most high-profile dotcom start-up of them all –
Lastminute.com, which went to IPO within the space of one year It was also the
start-up that went from new media darling to the company – in true British
fashion – that everyone likes to take a verbal swipe at.

27, joined in October 1999 as a consultant from Robert Walters to set up the HR
and recruitment function. This marked the beginning of the company’s massive
expansion and the position quickly turned into a permanent job as the workforce
grew from less than 100 to more than 700 in just two years, operating in nine

of her key strengths is being responsive to an incredibly young and ambitious workforce.
She believes company development isn’t just about strategic recruitment but
also about personal development of existing staff (one in four staff are
currently enrolled on a language course). There can’t be too many other
companies which have experienced such extremes in its short history which must
leave Alcorn prepared for anything.

Manager of Ford
International Service Centre

Anteoneou’s 10 productive years at Ford have encompassed eight different jobs
since she joined as an HR graduate-trainee. During that time Anteoneou, 32, has
gained a reputation outside the company as a dynamic and valuable sharer of
ideas on issues surrounding employee relocation and for her innovative approach
to solving different problems.

heading up expatriate assignment in International Service, she cut her teeth at
Ford handling employee relations at Dagenham, before working across different
functions, including research and engineering, IT and finance. More recently,
her contribution to the CBI Employee Relocation Council has been described as

claims external networking is critical for HR. “You can become very insular in
your own organisation. Idea sharing is useful,” she says. But that doesn’t
alter her staying power at Ford. “There’s still a lot of scope here for the
next move.”


Associate director, Institute of Employment Studies

41, Stephen Bevan has established a formidable reputation as an HR opinion
former with a wide range of influence, extending into the public and private
sectors and the Cabinet Office. Previously a researcher at Ashridge Management
College, Bevan perceives his essential remit as advising businesses on how to
link HR to business strategy and he has been instrumental in establishing the
institute as a major force in non-profit making consultancy. “I see myself as
looking in from the outside: being a sensible, critical friend to HR,” he says.

cites his main current preoccupations as e-HR (particularly e-learning and
e-recruitment) and boosting creativity and innovation. “If we want innovation,
we have to take risks,” he says.

HR manager, Electronics Arts

champion of e-HR and HR technology, 28 year-old Victoria Bird was a finalist in
the IPD’s interactive media awards in 2000. Described as being able to balance
business advantage activity with a passion for helping people develop their
potential, she has been instrumental in creating EA’s European job website,
employee intranet and employee self-service system.

recently Victoria has been involved in the creation of Electronic Arts online
gaming division (EA.com) in Silicon Valley. She has also project managed the
design and implementation of an EA performance management system throughout Europe.
She is assertive and firmly believes that HR must move from the “safety first”
role of organisational statesman and push for change and improvement within an

Group HR director, Tesco

40, Clare Chapman already qualifies as an international big-hitter and is a
seasoned operator in US Fortune’s 1,000 companies. Described by colleagues as a
role model leader, she is renowned for setting high standards, effective
collaboration, and for developing people. Her aim at Tesco is to nurture “world
class talent”.

began her retail career at Harrods, before joining Quaker Oats and gravitating
to the US head office in Chicago, where her talent for building capabilities to
handle change was recognised. She worked closely with GE, Motorola, Allied
Signals and MacDonald’s in defining employee learning programmes – this
culminated in an appointment as Dean of Quaker University.

by Pepsi as HR vice-president of European operations, she was subsequently
hand-picked by Tesco CEO Terry Leahy to drive forward the programme of change
at Tesco as the retailer expands into new product sectors and territories. Her
main priorities now are to ensure the company’s values of diversity and
meritocracy are central to the decision-making process, to “liberate frontline
staff”, and wipe out bureaucracy. Currently rolling out an e-learning programme.

Head of HR, EasyJet

internal consultant than HR manager, 35-year-old Connolly recently helped
integrate Swiss and Dutch airlines into the EasyJet stable. A high achiever
with a laid back attitude, he has vast experience of international employment
law and HR responsibility in eight separate countries.

firm believer in democracy at work, Connolly has introduced flexible working, a
paperless office and driven the company towards achieving IPO recognition. A
company culture committee, regular staff surveys, internal newsletters and an
employee intranet have also been created to sustain informality and openness.
In the face of intense growth and a 200 per cent rise in profits, these
initiatives have kept turnover to just 3 per cent among its 850 staff.

HR director, HMV Europe

rising star in retail, 33-year-old Donnelly was promoted to head of HR for HMV
Europe in January this year and sits on the company board. Described as a
careerist HR man, he went straight into general HR management after university,
working first at the AA, and then at Kingfisher – but has also held down
specialist roles in training and development. He attributes much of his success
to working for good companies.

maintains the key to good HR management is simplicity. Having identified the
quality of in-store service and product knowledge as critical to HMV’s
continuing success, he is focusing heavily on training and development and
communication. An intranet forms an important part of this strategy. Although
committed to the fast-moving pace of HMV, he believes a move into general
management is inevitable at some point.

HR manager, Capital One Recruitment

Royal Marine Laurie Hibbs, 29, has already shown himself to be a man in a
hurry. Since assuming responsibility for management recruitment at Capital One
in February 2000, he has introduced a new recruitment process, project managed
a new HR system, and assumed joint responsibility for the vacant position of HR

at Siemens (HR manager sales and marketing) and Lucent (UK resourcing manager),
Hibbs has an easy-going style which belies hidden steel. His philosophy is that
“HR is about creating an environment which enables people to succeed. But the
challenge is in doing, not in theorising.” No doubt he can take his share of
the credit for the fact that Capital One was recently cited as the third best
UK company to work for in a Sunday Times survey.

Director international benefits GlaxosmithKline

as a champion of ‘family friendly’ policies, Richard Higginson, 37, has established
a reputation for an innovative approach to compensation and benefits, while his
forthright and convincing speaking style has earned him plaudits as “a good
ambassador for people management”.

to have fallen into comps and bens by accident while working at the
international investment bank CDC “and just loved it”. After a stint as head of
international assignments and policy at BAT, where he led the integration of
expatriate employees following the merger with Rothmans, he joined SmithKline
Beecham in 1999. The main objective now is to get people focused and
enthusiastic again following the protracted merger with Glaxo.

confirmed globe-trotter, Higginson’s long-term aim is “to get out of the UK”
and return to his roots in a more generalist HR role.

Head employee relations, CBI

28 Dominic Johnson is already one of the CBI’s most doughty and influential
lobbyists – a policy whizz-kid in an area dominated by “wrinklies”, with a
reputation for good judgement, sharp wit and as a scourge of red tape.

graduate of left-of-centre Wadham College, Oxford, Johnson cut his teeth as a
political researcher for Donald Dewar when he was Shadow Social Security
Secretary, and combined this with a masters in social policy at the LSE.

a baptism of fire when made head of eEmployee relations at the CBI by plunging
straight into the Fairness at Work debate and emerging with credit. Strong
opposition to the EU National Information and Consultation draft directive
marked him out as a tough opponent, but his approach to employee relations is
decidedly non-confrontational. Believes the CBI’s primary role is to act as a
conduit between policy and the practicalities of company life.

jokes he has stopped telling people there’s no such thing as a job for life –
he has been at the CBI so long. But he wouldn’t rule out a future hands-on HR
job. CBI insiders say the organisation will fight hard to keep him.

Knowledge management manager, One2One

Keilloh, 42, is credited for his pioneering work in integrating the two
functions of HR and knowledge management at One2One – and for his skill in
conveying best practice to others on the speaking circuit.

an IT manager in the oil and gas sector (British Borneo, Chevron and
Occidental), he claims to be more interested in “information” than
“technology”: his stated aim is to ensure that staff at call centres around the
country are as clued up about what’s going on “as if they were sitting next to
the CEO”. Current projects include assessing how knowledge management can be
used a means of staff retention, as well as a way of capturing knowledge from
individuals before they leave the company.

has pioneered use of the company’s intranet as an important means of communication
that actually gets used. To date, the One2One site has registered some 1.5
million hits from its 8,000 employees.

Director of people management at Metrius, a KPMG consulting company

29, Amira Kohler has made a successful transition from old to new economy and
developed training initiatives which have helped Metrius develop from a
fledgling digital consultancy to one that names Motorola, Warner Bros, Mercata
and Macromedia among its list of clients.

as an HR director who reflects the company ethos from a people development
perspective, Kohler uses cutting-edge technology on a daily basis and has
developed e-programmes in people development, performance evaluation and
knowledge management. Her main preoccupation is concentrating on developing the
talent which Metrius considers to be its most important asset, through
training, support and communication initiatives.

Head of HR, London Borough of Brent

as one of the most able exponents of HR in the public sector, Francesca Okosi,
35, this year becomes vice-president of Socpo, and will gravitate to president
next year – the first black woman to hold the post.

head of HR at Merton and Havering, Okosi joined Brent two years ago. Describes
her main remit as to equip staff with skills to cope with the massive change
agenda inherent in public service modernisation. The aim for Socpo is to
continue to raise the profile of HR in local, central and European government,
“We want our foot in the door,” she says. Her drive, strong debating skills,
and ability to hold her own in any circle make this a likelihood.

Director, Maverick & Strong

has said it before but we make no excuse for repeating his wake-up call to HR:
“Get vital, get involved and up to date.” Shooting from the lip has gained the
31-year-old consultant a great deal of recognition. His innovations have
included the copyrighted 4P model (people in line with marketing proposition,
operational processes and technology platforms). His latest project – Unshrink
the People – reveals the link between happy employees, satisfied customers,
profitable companies, growing economies and healthy societies. McKeown is an
innovator who works to employ people more productively and meaningfully and
he’s used this approach to aid such big name corporates as AIT, CMG, C3 and
First Direct.

HR manager, TheFirstResort

an HR team of one, Annabel Roaf, 27, has overseen the dual-site workforce at
online travel company TheFirstResort grow from 34 to 140 and helped the company
expand and develop in a year which has seen several of its competitors fall by
the now strewn dotcom wayside. In the make-it-up-as-you-go-along world of
e-business, Roaf stands out by combining solid HR processes and procedures such
as induction courses and performance management with a broad, flexible approach
to recruitment and people management which sees roles moulded around
individuals. Five years working in financial recruitment (spells at Hays
Accountancy Personnel, Accountancy Additions and Martin Ward Anderson) has
given her a good head for general business issues, which is vital in a growing
e-business where HR has to be thoroughly integrated with the company. Roaf has
already impacted at the highest level, albeit in a young company, but she’s
well placed to be one of the strategic new breed – sooner rather than later.

Compensation and benefits officer, group personnel, BT

content with earning plaudits for her strength as a policy advisor at the CBI
and the IPD, Oonagh Ryden, 33, moved to BT in search of some raw experience at
a large private sector organisation in a rapidly developing industry.

for her considerable flair in navigating the murky world of comps and bens – an
influential report on broadbanding was singled out for particular attention –
she is praised for wearing her ability lightly. Moreover, her background in
lobbying has given her excellent political antennae, diplomacy and tact. She
shows wisdom and judgement as well as intellectual ability and with the passage
of time she’ll have the gravitas to do a heavy-duty HR job.

Co-founder and director of consultancy services and operations,

seven years in the profession, Sinclair has shown she can bring about change
wherever she goes. She reduced cost per hire at fast food chain Wendy’s and
clothes chain Gap to under £3,000 per management candidate; she re-engineered
the recruitment process at Gap during its rapid UK expansion; and as HR
director at ill-fated online clothes store boo.com, she implemented performance
management and a stock option programme in six countries.

Boo job was never going to be easy (on arrival, she had to make around 60
redundancies) but for Sinclair, 30, it provided the perfect springboard for
thehrpeople.com, co-founded last June with former colleague Robin Derrett. The
consultancy offers HR services to start-ups, venture capatalists, incubator
companies and e-divisions and clients include Shell Internet Works and
e-Kingfisher. The dotcom world could be accused of undervaluing HR – if
Sinclair has her way, that’s all about to change.

Vice-president HR Projects, Citibank

as a strong candidate for future senior roles, Emma Spencer, 32, has already
proved her calibre as a fast-track change agent at Citibank – where projects
have included managing the merger with Schroders – and is renowned for personal
qualities of resilience and self-assurance.

begun her career in generalist HR at Nestlé in Switzerland, she returned to the
UK and mucked in at factories in Manchester and Newcastle. On joining Citibank
in 1997, she was plunged straight into the lion’s den of the bank’s front
office and earned praise for her effective management of a notoriously high
maintenance client group.

about her role as business partner rather than as a provider of tea and
sympathy, Spencer is now managing the roll-out of the bank’s latest HR system,
but would ultimately seek to return to a more generalist role. Colleagues claim
that her unusual combination of business and banking experience, when added to
her gutsy qualities, stand her in good stead.

Vice-president human resources, Getty Images

the first VP-level HR professional at Getty Images, Ralph Tribe leads a global
HR team which in nine months built a single company culture to replace the many
legacy cultures from Getty’s multiple acquisitions. Tribe spearheaded the first
transformation phase (integrating 23 companies into four divisions) and is
jointly leading the second: to turn the four divisions into one company,
serviced by a single global HR function. He is adept at making HR support a
company’s business strategy and so impact the bottom line. Prior to Getty,
32-year-old Tribe was head of HR at the European division of DA Consulting
where he led its restructuring – the division went from loss-maker to most
profitable in the group in 18 months. Getty’s phase two must go from concept to
execution in 180 days if the company is to achieve its 30 percent organic
revenue growth this year.

Recruitment manager, Freeserve

manager for Freeserve, the UK’s biggest Internet Service Provider is a big job
for a 27-year-old. But so far Rebecca Ulanowsky shows every sign of rising to
the task. She’s recruited 150 people at Freeserve since last June, has reduced
the cost per head to recruit by £2,000 and this week launches the company’s
recruitment Website.

isn’t new to large-scale recruitment – she joined British Airways Recruitment
as recruitment consultant in 1996 and in her first six months had to recruit
200 customer service staff. She moved on to engineering recruitment, developing
the Professional Engineer Programme, a scheme for A-level leavers, which is
still running. Staffing up BA’s e-commerce division followed and she then moved
to graduate recruitment where she worked with line managers to re-engineer the
graduate programme and selection process. Now playing her part in the
communications and media revolution at Freeserve, she could be naming her price
before she’s 30.

Comments are closed.