The past 12 months have seen dramatic changes in the profession and the next
12 are likely to be just as eventful.
This year’s profiles of HR’s most powerful players reflects these changes,
with the pioneers of outsourcing and its potential impact on the profession
influencing the line-up chosen by the Personnel Today team.
Once again we do not expect you to agree with all our choices but let us
know what you think.
Who would be in your top ten? Fax 020-8652 8805 or e-mail:
Secretary of State for Trade and Industry
Stephen Byers is without doubt one of Labour’s high-fliers and among its
most business-friendly modernisers, but his poor performance in the past 12
months means that we only begrugdingly keep him in the top slot. His
inconsistent approach, coupled with reverses in policy, has made the lives of
many HR professionals hell. The confusion over the position on Working Time
with amendments and guidance apparently pulling in different directions is an
There has also been disquiet over the lack of time given to consultation
over workplace legislation, and the scope of the consultation carried out.
Controversial parts of the union recognition proposals were given less than six
weeks of consultation.
Byers’ position is further weakened by the recent Rover debacle and the enormity
of his brief without a strong enough deputy. But as a Labour high-flier he
could soon be moved on to keep his reputation intact.
Chairman, CEO and president of Exult
Madden shoots straight in at two as a true pioneering spirit, having transformed
the market for human resources outsourced services in the past year. Having
seen the potential for technologically-based HR services long before most in
the industry, Madden secured a five-year contract to operate the bulk of
personnel services for the oil giant BP Amoco.
His audacious ambition of supplying all the Fortune 500 companies secured
him the backing from General Atlantic Partners, the world’s largest venture
capital firm for the IT sector. His philosophy is based on long-term partnership,
and he argues that outsourcing can add value and not simply be a cost-cutting
Agree or disagree, outsourcing is the biggest issue currently sweeping
through the profession.
Group HR director, BP Amoco
As the head of human resources for Britain’s largest company, Starrit
qualifies as another rocket entry due to the decision last year to outsource
the bulk of the oil giant’s personnel administration which, coupled with
Exult’s position to be to able deliver the service, has set the outsourcing
agenda for the rest of the profession.
A close colleague of the hugely admired chief executive Sir John Browne,
Starritt is likely to become an even more influential player. And what BPAmoco
does usually gets copied.
Group resources director, Xerox Europe
Cronin merits his place as the resources director in a company that
understands how far personnel management has to be integrated in the general
matter of running a business. It is for this reason, and not simply to cut
costs, that he plans to outsource administrative parts of the personnel
function. "I will be happier when 60, 70, 80 or 90 per cent of HR staff’s
time is given over to things that really increase productivity," he says.
Again, another pioneering company which others follow.
TUC general secretary
John Monks has had a mixed year following what is generally regarded as a
defeat on Working Time law, and the Government’s limited interpretations of
European parental leave entitlements and rights for part-timers. His strident
opposition, threatening legal action at every turn, has seemed a little over
The potential disruption for HRprofessionals which will be created by union
recognition means his profile will remain high over the coming 12 months though.
Cherie Booth QC
Leading employment barrister; wife of Prime Minister
Two unexpected developments have put Cherie Booth 13 places higher this
year. She dared to defy her husband by drafting the TUC’s legal response to the
UK interpretation of parental leave law, arguing that it was in breach of
European minimum standards. The likelihood is that her argument will prevail
that the Government restricted the leave too far by limiting it to parents of
children born after 15 December 1999.
The other significant aspect is that from sometime this month she and Tony
Blair will once again be working parents with a baby. Expect to see more
generous family-friendly measures next year.
Director general, IPD
As the head of the organisation that guides the HR profession, Geoff
Armstrong has had a good year after successfully securing chartered status for
the Institute of Personnel and Development. This is a major boost for the
status of the profession and means Armstrong just manages to take a higher
place in the top 40 this year. Some would argue he should rank higher but his
low public profile means he does not rival politicians for the top spots.
Director of HR policy, CBI
Cridland still merits a place in the top 10 for his influence in bringing
about changes to Working Time law last year, which lightened the bureaucracy
for employers. But the tide is running more towards trade union rights, now
that the Government wishes to shore up its traditional support, and this
accounts for his fall from third place. Cridland has led the opposition to
compulsory consultation of employees – a European Commission proposal. This
opposition is likely to crumble during the French presidency later this year.
Academic and author
The writer of Britain Towards 2010: the Changing Business Environment wields
influence out of proportion to the typical low profile of the academic. His
seminal study argues that social trends and new technology sound the death
knell for top-down corporations which fail to trust their staff. Success will
come from highly skilled, empowered teams of employees.
The work gives authority to the practice of more enlightened managers.
The influence of this argument has become more apparent in the past year. In
numerous speeches Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Stephen Byers have described
these changes as being as profound as those of the Industrial Revolution.
Social Affairs Commissioner, European Commission
This young Greek politician was a surprise appointment last year and has a
lower rank in the league table than her predecessor Padraig Flynn, solely by
virtue of being new. Early indications are that she is sharper than Flynn, and
is learning the brief quickly.
As the commissioner for employee relations she has almost as much influence
over UK employment law as the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry.
Look out for the long-delayed proposal on compulsory employee consultation
to emerge during the French presidency later this year. Expect her to have a
higher placing in 2001.
Professor of human resource management, London Business School
Gratton’s new entry reflects her position in a group of three highly
influential academics who, as the trend towards outsourcing grows, are in a
position to deliver the new skills and competencies HR will need to manage
these providers and to contribute strategically to business.
The London Business School also entered the Financial Times top 10 for
providers of MBAs this year – by far the highest placed UK management school –
in part due to its research.
Gratton’s long-term leading-edge study of eight multinationals has begun to
demonstrate graphically that good management of people adds considerably to
business performance. Moreover, it shows that this is true at all levels of the
organisation, and that the "soft" issues of trust and integrity seem
to count for more than the latest management systems.
Author and conference speaker
The charismatic Ulrich retains the claim to the tag of most popular speaker
for human resources conferences. Ulrich calls for a comprehensive understanding
of the role of personnel professionals in which knowledge of the business,
commitment to development of employees, strategic awareness and administrative
expertise all have equal status. He can cite detailed examples from business to
back up his case.
His witty, "US-preacher" style still packs them in but he will
have to stay up to date with practices in the emerging high-tech companies to
keep his speeches relevant.
Director of research, Roffey Park Management Institute
Over the past 12 months, Holbeche’s name has become synonymous with the
growing drive for personnel practitioners to develop a strategic approach. She
merits her entry to the top 40 in large part to her second book, Aligning HR
and Business Strategy, published last year. It defines the modern world for
personnel managers where they have to earn their place by being at the core of
the business, hence her pivotal role in the outsourcing debate.
Also influential is Roffey Park’s Management Agenda, an annual snapshot of
the work and well-being of managers. In the next 12 months, Holbeche will be
publishing the latest stages in ongoing research into the future of careers,
strategic alliances and mergers and acquisitions, as well as participating in
new research on managing creative teams.
Chief executive, Investors in People UK
Under Spellman’s tenure since 1998, Investors in People has increased in
stature as the premium standard for employers developing their staff. Her main
changes are to judge more by results than by ticking off lists of activities.
The revised standard, being phased in from April this year, will feature
reduced form-filling and jargon. "We have applied the ‘taxi test’ – giving
material to a couple of taxi drivers to see if they understand it," she
Along with chairman Tim Melville-Ross, Spellman has overseen an increase by
one-third in the number of organisations achieving the IIP badge, such that
eight million people are working for employers with the standard or working
She strongly defends the standard’s worth, by pointing out how inspectors
have always had unlimited access to employees as well as managers.
Personnel director, Peugeot
Judge moves up a slot as he continues to be the voice of personnel, striking
resonant chords within the profession.
His views never fail to court controversy: his comments that the term HR is
demeaning to working people stimulated a great deal of controversy and the
biggest response ever in Personnel Today’s letters page. His "school
report" of Tony Blair’s performance at last year’s HRForum is still talked
Plus, with shareholders and institutional investors increasingly demanding
fuller statements of HR practices, Peugeot continues to demonstrate that its
people are important by devoting two pages of its annual report to its staff.
Director of HR and development services, BT
In recognition of BT’s place as a progressive and influential employer, HR
director Bob Mason was at number 12 last year. This year the spotlight falls on
BT’s pioneering move to provide HR services to other blue-chip companies and to
the driving force behind it – Vaughan Young. Not only has Young made HR
services a profitable internal business at BT but spotted the potential to
increase its profitability by tapping into the mood for outsourcing – see BP Amoco
– and offering its services outside.
Director of HR, UK and Ireland, Procter & Gamble
Brocket earns his place as a key player in a multinational firm that has
placed human issues to the fore as it restructures along global lines. The consumer
giant ditched its regional structure last year, opting for global business
units broken down by product type.
Human resources responsibilities are split between strategy, which is at
corporate level, and administration, forming part of the Global Business
Services, with a European headquarters in Newcastle. The company considered
outsourcing the personnel administration but rejected the move. "We wanted
to get the unquantifiable quality gain from having our own people; not just the
lowest-cost system," he says.
Brocket has made sure that human resources policies are closely aligned to
business needs, for example by getting IT and personnel people to work closely
together. He champions diversity and flexible working, including working from
Director of personnel and corporate affairs, Marks & Spencer
Freeman holds her position because of her surprise high-profile appointment
as head of UK stores last autumn, showing the value that the troubled chain
places on HR skills in terms of restoring its fortune.
M&S’s first female executive director entrusted with the task of
"fixing" problems has also retained her other responsibilities in HR
and corporate affairs. Freeman is working on a range of initiatives including
Probe, a plan to get sales teams and buyers talking to each other about
customer preferences. Another project known as Clear View involves staff
addressing criticisms levelled at M&S.
Sir Michael Burton
Chairman of the Central Arbitration Committee
Sir Michael, a High Court judge with a track record in high-profile
industrial disputes, earns his place in the list as a result of the major new
role for the CAC. It will rule on union recognition claims when new legislation
comes into force later this year. The CAC has previously been restricted to
cases where staff claim they have not been informed of redundancy plans.
But the choice of Sir Michael, who acted for News International during the
Wapping dispute and for Nottinghamshire miners who refused to take part in the
1984 strike, is believed to be making some in the union movement uneasy.
Director and head of recruitment and outplacement, Capita Human Resource
Maggi Bell leaps 20 places, even though Capita failed to secure a major HR
outsourcing contract in 1999, to follow up the Westminster contract sealed in
1998. But Capita has hit the big time, reaching the FTSE 100, which will
unleash new resources for Bell in her bid for more deals. Also, it is strong in
the public sector, and the Best Value regime in local authorities, starting
this month, will be a spur to outsourcing.
And Capita is sure to appear on many shortlists. The group is developing an
Internet-based advice service, which could open up the HR outsourced market to
small and medium sized companies. Expect a higher position next year.
Chief executive officer, General Electric
The world’s most prominent, most copied businessman retains his place in the
top 40. In February this year General Electric, the enormous group he has run
for two decades, won the accolade of Fortune magazine’s most admired company for
the third year in a row. Welch has always put people at the centre of his
strategy, creating a sense of mission, but also aligning pay systems and the
needs of the business. "This year we will cash $1.6bn in employee gains in
stock options," he told Fortune recently. "$1.2bn of that will be
below any senior management level."
Last year he completed a conversion from technophobe to promoter of
e-commerce. GE Power Systems and the company’s plastics distribution business
now maximise technology to save costs and respond to customer needs.
Sir Ken Jackson
General secretary, AEEU
Sir Ken arguably has more sway in number 10 than John Monks. Without doubt,
the general secretary of engineers’ union the AEEU is Tony Blair’s favourite
union man, for his prophecy of partnership and fixes within the Labour party.
The AEEU is striking recognition agreements every month, is rapidly growing
and will see its influence grow with the planned merger with the MSF, hence his
leap six places up the list.
Principal Towers Perrin
If a big company has problems with its pay system, the chances are it will
turn to the quietly-spoken, cerebral Duncan Brown. He becomes a power player in
recognition of his co-authorship with Michael Armstrong of Pay for
Contribution, published last year, which persuaded companies that the manner in
which they harness the contribution of individuals is critical to achieving
He argues against mechanical benchmarking of reward systems, blaming the
failure of most schemes on general weaknesses in employee relations. Managers
must consider factors such as trust, communication with staff and training of
His major survey of European pay at the end of last year revealed that the
UK is no more sophisticated and flexible in its pay systems than the rest of
the Continent. Two more publications are expected later this year.
HR director, Scientific Generics
For the knowledge-based economy to succeed in the UK, there will have to be
many more human resources directors like Sparkes, who merits a place in the top
40 for exemplifying the dynamic role of working closely with strategists and
line managers. At the Cambridge-based research and intellectual property group,
the HR department’s work is so closely aligned to the business that it is
impossible to disentangle the two.
Sparkes has to find, retain and motivate highly intelligent people who can
combine academic brilliance with commercial acumen. But as well as achieving
this, he helps people set up their own companies if they have a strong idea,
helping the development of high-tech firms and providing extra incentive to
work for Scientific Generics. The firm has seen at least one spin-off company a
year for the past decade, now increasing to about two a year.
Drucker moves up two places at the grand age of 91 years old, striking a
blow against ageism. His forward-thinking and well received Management
Challenges in the 21st Century appeared last May and heralds the new age of management
by arguing that knowledge workers must be seen as capital assets, not as costs.
For the message to come from the most respected management thinker of the past
century lends great weight to the argument of personnel professionals.
The inventor of modern management teaches that companies must have a clear
strategy with rational choices, not try to please everyone, and that staff must
believe in the mission and be treated well. His teaching was influential in the
success of General Electric under John Welch.
Professor of occupational psychology, University of Manchester Institute
of Science and Technology
The media’s favourite human resources academic, Cary Cooper brought together
John Monks and John Cridland of the TUC and CBI for a major report on the
extent of bullying at work. He increasingly does advice work with top
board-rooms based on the annual Quality of Life survey carried out for the
Institute of Management. Every year, two out of three respondents report a
major reorganisation, downsizing or outsourcing; they also say these processes
harm loyalty, morale and productivity. "I am saying to the boards ‘Wake up
to it!’," he says. Intriguingly, he says he receives a more favourable
reaction in British board rooms than in the US.
President of the Society of Chief Personnel Officers
More political and outspoken than many leaders of the local authority
personnel managers’ group, this year’s president Terry Gorman can already claim
some influence on government policy. He and outgoing president Rita Sammons
persuaded ministers to consult with personnel managers on Best Value, the
scheme for auditing council services and replacing them where they do not offer
value for money. He has warned that Best Value could cause the break-up of
local government if cost of services becomes the dominant factor.
As the most influential voice in a sector employing about a quarter of IPD
members, he is unquestionably a power player.
Professor of organisational psychology, Birkbeck College
Guest may lack the flamboyance of fellow academics Lynda Gratton and Dave
Ulrich, but he is beginning to wield similar influence in his quiet manner. His
research also yields strong evidence that good management of people is crucial
to commercial success, for example his analysis of the DTI’s Employment
Relations Survey which demonstrates the connection, particularly when there is
genuine partnership. He has begun a "Future of Work" piece of
research, which aims to identify causal links between employee relations in a
particular year with subsequent company performance. This will be published by
HR manager EasyJet
After a disastrous year at British Airways concluding with the resignation
of chief executive Bob Ayling, HR director Mervyn Walker has been elbowed out
of the Top 40 and is replaced by Nigel Connolly, HR manager of low-cost
Connolly is described by a former colleague as a high achiever with a laid-back
attitude – an appropriate mix for a successful company with annual sales of
£75m, and an atmosphere of informality and democracy. One of Connolly’s mottos
is: "recruit for personality, train for skill". With a turnover of 3
per cent among its 850 employees it seems to be paying off.
Managing director, SHL
Burnip holds her position this year as managing director of psychometric
tests provider SHL and their key role in the "war for talent".
Psychometric tests, having withstood a period of scepticism about their
validity, continue to grow in popularity. SHL has maintained its position as
market leader and is pioneering on-line psychometrics, with
PricewaterhouseCoopers as an impressive first client.
Burnip emphasises the need for testing a wide range of skills, including the
soft skills increasingly sought by recruiters. She also tries to ensure the
tests are free from cultural bias, which is also of growing importance.
Chairman of the Disability Rights Commission
Massie is yet another new player in the list and nudges in ahead of his
colleagues in the CRE and EOC because although the DRC was formed earlier this
year it has more legal clout.
Massie, who contracted polio when he was three months old, has been involved
with more than 30 disability organisations, most recently as director of the
Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation.
Massie is also an adviser to the Cabinet Secretary on the employment of
disabled people in the senior Civil Service.
While some see the merger of the equality commissions as inevitable.
Massie’s hard-line anti-merger stand – he believes the discrimination disabled
people face is different from race and gender – could prove increasingly hard
to defend and radically alter his position next year.
Equal opportunities department team leader, Littlewoods
The Government’s approach to promoting equal opportunities in the private
sector is by example, rather than new laws. This means that Surinder Sharma,
from the award-winning equal opportunities employer Littlewoods, carries more
influence than many in the equalities commissions and enters the Top 40.
Whenever a gong is handed out for excellence in equal opportunities, it
seems that Sharma steps up to receive it. An example of his initiative is the
experience of the Oldham Littlewoods store where a drive to recruit and retain
ethnic minority job candidates led to an extra £125,000 worth of business.
Sharma is also a member of the Department for Education and Employment advisory
committee on the work-life balance.
President of the Employment Appeal Tribunal, England and Wales
Together with Colin Milne, who covers Scotland, Prophet earns a place in the
Top 40 due to the increasing significance of tribunals because of the huge rise
in individual rights in the past year. The qualifying period was reduced to one
year and the maximum compensation increased to £50,000.
The Employment Appeal Tribunal sets precedents in employment law, and Judge
Prophet’s influence was exemplified by the landmark ruling on unfair dismissals
at the end of last year. He instructed tribunals that they had misapplied
earlier precedents and ordered them to ignore apparent parallels with other
cases and revert to a common sense verdict of whether an employer’s actions
were reasonable. This has tilted the balance of power back towards the
Dr John McMullen
National head of employment law, Pinsent Curtis
Ostensibly it has been a quiet year in terms of media profile for leading
employment lawyer McMullen, which accounts for his fall in this year’s list.
He has, however, been quietly beavering away on the Tupe conference circuit
and it is because he is a Tupe mastermind that he retains a place, as Tupe
still represents one of the profession’s biggest headaches. No one else comes
close to matching his expertise on the subject.
He has enjoyed a higher profile in Europe, though, and with changes to the
impending legislation the increasing demand for his services is likely to see
him return to the top 10 in 2001.
Chair of the Equal Opportunities Commission
Mellor drops position this year due to little progress despite a promising
start. In July 1999, equal opportunities minister Margaret Hodge responded to
the commission’s attempts to get the Government to update the Sex
Discrimination Act and simplify the way cases are dealt with under the Equal
Pay Act with a promise to "consult". No changes have yet been made.
Independent HR consultant
Clive Morton has spent much effort in recent months preparing projects that
are likely to come to fruition in the next year, so his slip down the league
table from last year’s 14th spot is likely to be temporary.
In June he will discover if the Linc consortium, of which he is a board
member, has won the contract to manage a part of the London Underground under
the Public/Private Partnership scheme.
The author of Becoming World Class and Beyond World Class is also planning a
third book on the links between relationships and success.
Newly appointed chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, who is
due to take up his post this month
Singh takes over from Sir Herman Ouseley who stepped down in January.
Currently chief executive of Haringey Council, he made his name as an
arch-moderniser and pioneer of controversial equal opportunities policies. He
abolished Haringey’s specialist equality units – despite fierce opposition –
because he believed they had become marginalised. The policy has been copied by
other local authorities.
Chief executive, The Industrial Society
Will Hutton, former editor of The Observer, joins the list having taken over
as chief executive of The Industrial Society. Just a few months into his tenure
as head of the organisation, Hutton has already stated his intention to make
the society a key source of information and opinion on workplace issues. A
recent Industrial Society seminar on the work-life balance threw up interesting
criticism of the US experience and Hutton has also called for companies to put
training centre stage to maximise shareholder value.
Hutton’s background at The Observer and before that at The Guardian has seen
him try to marry economics and social welfare. His most famous concept is the
stakeholder society, as espoused in his widely read political analysis of
Britain, The State We’re In. This book was viewed as offering much of the
intellectual underpinning of the New Labour project. But he is now seen as a
little out of step with the party’s hierarchy so don’t expect The Industrial
Society to develop into a research arm of the Labour party.
David Blunkett MP
Education and Employment Secretary
There was never any doubt that Blunkett’s reputation was going to take a
hammering in this year’s list with detractors queuing up to slam the Government
for its woeful training initiatives. One of the harshest critics is GMB general
secretary John Edmonds, who ridiculed the schemes earlier this year as "a
handful of measures no one has ever heard of".
The extent of this confusion was highlighted when Personnel Today
investigated the schemes and what they were intended to achieve, and found that
the DfEE does not even have a list of all its current initiatives. If it
doesn’t then what chance do businesses have of being aware of them?
Until the Government produces legislation requiring organisations to train
staff and financially penalising any who don’t, his position will continue to
Although Chapman slips down the list this year she just manages to maintain
a place in the Top 40 on the strength of her keenly awaited HR consultancy product.
It will be the first time a consultant will have had the confidence to promise
a quantified improvement in business performance through human resources
interventions and these are the kind of deals HR should be emulating.
Her pledge is a 16 per cent improvement to the bottom line, at a charge of
0.5 per cent of the pay bill, through an intervention lasting three to four
months. It will encourage clients to prioritise and look for highest standards
in the area of human resources activity that add most value to the
organisation, rather than trying to be expert in everything.
Chapman’s product is based on a library of best practice, built on the
growing research evidence that excellence in managing people is a key lever to
• Profiles were written by Scott Beagrie, Edward Dimbylow, Dominique
Hammond, Tom Powdrill Helen Rowe and Philip Whiteley