CIPD makes surprise appointment of PepsiCo chief personnel officer Jackie Orme to be its new chief executive

The appointment of a relatively “unknown” figure to lead the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has caused surprise and concern across the human resources (HR) profession.

Jackie Orme, chief personnel officer at the UK and Ireland division of food and drinks firm PepsiCo, will take up the £300,000 chief executive post next April.

Succeeding Geoff Armstrong, who retires in June, Orme is the first woman to land the top job at the HR body – something many leading figures have welcomed (see box below).

But several senior HR figures have warned that her low profile and lack of wider business experience may prevent Orme from becoming the influential voice that the role demands. She has worked in HR for 20 years, including 12 at PepsiCo.

David Evans, head of HR at power supplier EDF Energy, told Personnel Today: “The fact she’s an unknown player means you’ve got to question her credentials in terms of what she stands for.

“Is she really an authority in giving industry comment? She’s obviously going to be mixing with government, leading authorities and the CBI. If she’s not an industry authority with a track record, it will be difficult for her to establish a [high] profile.”

Another senior HR figure said: “The name hasn’t wowed the profession, and if it doesn’t wow HR, then what chance has she got in the City and with government? The fact not many have even heard of her speaks volumes. It appears to be a very low-key appointment.”

Others warned that Orme would not easily be recognised as representing HR, as many top directors are not CIPD members.

Paul Pagliari, director of change and corporate services at the Scottish Executive, said: “We were led to believe someone with broader business experience, perhaps someone who had operated as a chief executive, would be appointed.”

But Richard Neville, head of employee relations at utility firm Yorkshire Water, said Orme’s lack of HR fame was a “positive sign”.

He added: “It suggests to me she has been less concerned with building her profile and has quietly got on with the job of leading companies to achieve success.”

And Wendy Dean, HR director at delivery company FedEx UK, said Orme’s background was more than appropriate.

“It would appear from her work history that she has considerable experience in HR,” she said.

CV: Jackie Orme

2003-present Chief personnel officer and vice-president of HR, PepsiCo UK & Ireland
2000-2003 Vice-president of HR, Walkers Snack Foods
1999-2000 HR director, operations, Walkers
1998-1999 organisational development manager, Walkers
1995-1997 HR manager, Walkers
1991-1995 HR manager, ASW (formerly part of British Steel)

Why Jackie Orme got the CIPD job

A CIPD spokesman told Personnel Today: “Jackie demonstrated the managerial and leadership qualities we were looking for, alongside an extremely strong knowledge and understanding of global HR issues. She will lead the CIPD and the HR profession and will be doing that from a position of strength.”

Orme emerged as the “outstanding candidate” from 100 applications, the spokesman said.

Reaction from the profession

David Evans, head of HR, EDF Energy

“The fact that she’s an unknown player means you’ve got to question her credentials in terms of what she stands for.”

Deborah Clarke, joint director of HR, Tower Hamlets Council

“[Orme needs] to transform the CIPD so that it is a relevant organisation which represents the value HR functions add to an organisation.”

Cara Davani, corporate director, Genesis Housing

“She’s a woman, which is great. She is also a chief HR officer on the board of a significant company, so she has the right credentials. I hope she will carry out the much-needed modernisation of the institute.”

Gillian Hibberd, corporate director (people and policy), Buckinghamshire County Council

“Orme isn’t a high-profile HR person, but that doesn’t mean she won’t do a good job. She will need to work hard to raise her profile.”

Alan Warner, corporate director (people and property), Hertfordshire County Council

“Her experience in the private sector will help.”

Stephen Bubb, CEO, the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations and former HR director

“The CIPD is an institute for HR professionals and we have appointed one of our own. I see this as the institute growing up.”

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