Far from standing still, Ewan McCulloch, HR director at stationery giant Staples, believes HR has a central role in driving business success. Karen Dempsey met him.
It's not often you meet an HR director who skateboards in his spare time, and is part of a group of 40-somethings who call themselves the 'middle-aged shredders'. But the irony of this skateboarding term is not lost on Ewan McCulloch, who also deals with the less exhilarating kind of shredder in his job as UK HR director at the office supplies company, Staples.
His new role may not put him at risk of the kind of bruises and broken bones that come from "doing mad things on a little plank of wood with wheels", but he still has a mighty challenge ahead of him.
McCulloch was headhunted to Staples UK Retail at the beginning of the year to help lay the foundations for the organisation's ambitious growth plans. With major brands such as Nationwide and Comet on his CV, McCulloch's first reaction when he got the call was: "I'm not sure that Post-Its and pens will really do it for me." But the scale of the task ahead tempted him to "have a crack at it".
Staples has been through a couple of years of "planned turmoil" following the £32.5m acquisition of rival office goods retailer Office World - a purchase that gave the UK arm of the $16bn US business 137 stores and 3,600 employees.
McCulloch's job is to bring stability to the newly merged business, to rev up its customer service drive, and help the organisation double in size in three years.
This would be no mean feat when you consider that the retail sector suffers such high staff turnover - the churn at Staples is 26% - and achieving those growth targets will depend on being able to attract and retain the right quality and quantity of talented people.
But, as someone used to doing axle-grinds up steep curves of concrete, McCulloch takes this in his stride.
During an hour's conversation, McCulloch - who is a member of the board at Staples, and reports to the managing director Dick Neff - talks more about building a profitable business than he does about what it means to be head of HR.
"I know a lot of people who are in business to make money and who happen to head up the discipline called HR, but who could easily step into the managing director's shoes," he explains.
McCulloch is scathing about HR practitioners who ensconce themselves in their silos, and who