Personal profile

Alan Pankhurst became personnel director of GNL in August 2000 to head up the renamed People Department (formerly RTD department) and was also appointed to the board. He has been a personnel professional for the past 30 years. He has worked in engineering and in printing and spent 15 years in television.

What is the most important lesson you have learnt in your career?

Know what you are trying to do, maintain a sense of humour and develop an infinite amount of patience.

What is the strangest situation you have had to deal with at work?

Meeting the national officers of ACTT and Bectu (television unions) in 1982 just before I joined Central TV to start redundancy discussions.

I opened the meeting by saying, "We are here to discuss the redundancy situation", at which point they walked out.

Imagine being stranded on a desert island with enough food for only two people. Who would you choose as your companion and why?

Assuming that I’m not allowed to choose my wife, Nelson Mandela. His combination of achievement and humility is awesome.

If you had three wishes to change the company, what would they be?

Increase the circulation of The Guardian to an average of 550,000 a day and The Observer to 700,000.

Enable everybody in the company to get their work done in normal working hours.

Have everybody tell me that they feel they are being paid enough for the job that they are doing.

What is the best thing about working in HR?

The variety of personality types.

What is the worst?

Trying to deal with people who refuse to recognise the realities of life.

If you could adopt the management style of an historical character, who would you choose and why?

Mahatma Gandhi. Major achievement by quiet and peaceful determination.

If you were to write a book, which subject would you choose?

Why Spurs can only improve.

What is your greatest strength?

Maintaining a sense of humour most of the time.

What is your least appealing characteristic?

Ask my PA.

You stumble across a time machine hidden in the vaults of your company building. What time period would you visit and why?

1914-1918 and the trench warfare. I have a fascination for the psychology of how people survived the horrors.

What is the greatest risk you ever took?

Accepting the job of personnel manager with responsibility for a department with a workforce

of circa 2000 at Triumph Engineering, aged 22, and having been working in personnel for about three months.


2000: Personnel director, Guardian Newspapers

1998: Group personnel director, Guardian Media Group

1997: Left to become a consultant

1994: Personnel director, Carlton

1982: Personnel director, Central TV

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