Top 40 power players 2005

40 (new entry)

Linda Holbeche
Director of research and strategy,
Roffey Park

Her third book, The High Performance Organisation, puts human capital at the heart of the UK’s productivity problems, and Holbeche back in the top 40. Hailed as “excellent” by Duncan Brown of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, expect similar plaudits for the organisational guru’s next book, Understanding Change: Theory, Implementation & Success, when it is released in the autumn.

39 (new entry)

Debbie Hewitt
Managing director,
RAC Roadside Services

Former group HR director, Hewitt’s new entry reflects her position in a select but growing group who demonstrate they can run companies successfully. Hewitt instituted a ‘people profit and loss account’ which measures staff costs, and has realised enough savings to retain the company pension scheme and launch a share-incentive plan. The share price has risen from £3 in 2003 to more than £9.

38 (down from 15)

Lynda Gratton
Associate professor of management practice, London Business School

Europe’s leading management thinker is increasingly being singled out as the world’s number one HR academic, and not simply because fellow guru Dave Ulrich has been off the scene. A huge hit with HR, her book Living Strategy has been translated into 10 languages, and is regarded as a ‘classic’. The Democratic Enterprise, published last year, looks set to go the same way. Gratton also puts her theories into action and spends considerable time on high-level consulting in the US.

37( down from 19)

Will Hutton
Chief executive,
The Work Foundation

How to ratchet up levels of performance is a fixation in most boardrooms, and The Work Foundation’s latest manifesto, Agenda for Work, sets out a vision of ‘good work’, which aims to tackle this problem head on. As Hutton himself affirms: “The nation’s prosperity and the creation of more high-performance workplaces depends on this model being applied in practice.”

36 (down from 32)

Personnel Today

In today’s business climate, where every initiative is required to have a line of sight to the profit and loss account, the importance of soft skills can be overlooked. Guru once again justifies his position by having these in abundance. As well as being velvety smooth, he is an accomplished storyteller, funny and, above all, shallow. This comes in handy when clients don’t like his values, as he always keeps a spare set in the closet.

35 (down from 25)

Trevor Phillips
Commission for Racial Equality (CRE)

Having been placed in charge of a 400,000 year-long equalities review, Phillips’ race relations clout will continue to be felt by employers as his findings will be used to update discrimination law. Under threat from the 2007 launch of the Commission for Equality Human Rights super-quango, the CRE has, perhaps significantly, been granted a stay of execution until 2009.

34 (new entry)

Cary Cooper
Professor of organisational psychology, Lancaster University, and founder, Robertson Cooper Consultancy

Cooper is not only the world’s leading expert on stress, he is also the media’s first choice for comment on workplace issues. Cooper, who has conducted extensive research into the effects of long hours, breaks new ground with a new report that identifies a new malaise threatening UK productivity and ruining family lives: the ‘binge worker’.

33 (new entry)

Mary Chapman
Chief executive,
Chartered Management Institute

New entry Chapman is included here as the head of a body that sets out to raise leadership and management standards. She is a vocal supporter of the assertion that HR’s mission should be to provide clear evidence of how management learning affects the bottom line. And following a merger with the Institute of Management Consultancy last year, her message will now extend to a wider audience.

32 (down from 12)

Ann Gillies, Lyn Pearson and Vikki England
HR team, WL Gore Associates

The absence of hierarchical structure, so that each employee can influence the pay and position of their colleagues, has earned the Gore-Tex manufacturer another top spot in the Sunday Times’ 100 Best Companies to Work For – the first organisation to win it for two consecutive years. In keeping with the company philosophy, we have included a picture of the entire team.

31 (down from 10)

Mike Cutt
HR director, B&Q

Profits have fallen for the first time in two years at the UK’s number one DIY company. Multiple award-winner Cutt, who wrote about experiencing his own HR policies first-hand while recovering from an accident, will need to use the insight he gleaned to re-invigorate the firm’s people strategy and restore B&Q to its foremost position. Staff are incensed that the annual bonus has been axed, and morale is said to be at an all-time low.


Paul Kearns

A leading authority on HR evaluation, Kearns upset the BBC after describing its £35m leadership programme as a “misuse of the licence fee”, with “no link to performance objectives”. His forthright views can make for uneasy listening for the profession, but he notches up his first entry in the power players list as his input is highly sought-after by many major corporations.

29 (up from 36)

Ruth Spellman
Chief executive, Investors in People (IIP)

A new version of the IIP standard, introduced after a year-long consultation, has been simultaneously praised and criticised. Whatever your viewpoint, the organisation was right to focus on the manager’s role in training and development, and to make the link to IND productivity. Sadly, 2005 will also be remembered as the year IIP was named among the nine most “useless” quangos by the Efficiency in Government Unit.

28 (down from 7)

Julie Mellor
Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC)

Mellor has arguably enjoyed a higher profile than her discrimination watchdog counterparts at the Commission for Racial Equality and the Disability Rights Commission in the past year, thanks to the EOC’s ground-breaking research into pregnancy and its effect on productivity. Her position has dropped this year as she will relinquish the chair to take up a consultancy role in July.

27 (down from 14)

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

Although he has handed the Society of Personnel Officers in Government Services baton to Jan Parkinson, Warner makes the list for the second year running as he remains a beacon of outsourcing best practice in the public sector. The council’s award-winning, fully-integrated recruitment service – the first of its kind in the public sector – is expected to save 3m.

26 (new entry)

Paul Pagliari
Senior director, HR
Immigration and Nationality Directorate

All eyes are on Pagliari to work a similar kind of magic at the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) as he did at Scottish Water, where he committed HR to cutting its operating costs year on year to achieve a 45% reduction by 2006. His work at the IND presents him with a different set of challenges, with HR-related problems blamed for the backlog of 63,700 asylum applications.

25 (new entry)

Angela O’Connor
HR director,
Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)

In three years, O’Connor has transformed the CPS from an institutionally racist organisation to a model of best practice – so says the Commission for Racial Equality. The CPS cannot compete on salaries, so it has to work hard to recruit and retain staff. Among O’Connor’s most successful initiatives is the law scholarship scheme, where some staff who started out in administration have now qualified as prosecutors.

24 (down from 20)

European Union

No single other body has the ability to cause as much disruption to HR as the EU – even if it is with the best of intentions. Case in point for 2005: information and consultation legislation. While giving HR a chance to facilitate a more transparent workforce relationship, companies that breach the rules face fines of up to 75,000. Even though the constitution is in ruins, it won’t stop the directives from coming.

23 (new entry)

Dave Prentis
General secretary,

As head of the UK’s largest union, with 1.3 million members, Prentis is a force to be reckoned with. He enters the list for the first time on the strength of the potential sway he holds over both employers and the government. Unison, along with the Public and Commercial Services Union, was instrumental in forcing the government climbdown over proposed pension reforms earlier this year.

22 (new entry)

David Frost
Director general,
British Chambers of Commerce

Fronting an organisation that represents more than 100,000 firms employing more than five million people, Frost is undeniably the voice of corporate Britain. A prolific campaigner, he is also a thorn in the government’s side. Currently, he is pressing for a reduction in red tape and tax reforms, which include the transfer of payroll obligations, such as tax credits and maternity pay to the state.

21 (new entry)

Stephen Dando
Director, BBC People

Testing times lie ahead for the BBC’s HR chief, as budget cuts could see 25% of staff made redundant, outsourced or privatised. BBC People – which includes training, health and safety and HR specialists – was singled out as having too many staff, and is now at the centre of a major overhaul. With the UK’s highest-profile public sector organisation recently hit by strikes, the rest of HR will be taking a keen interest in whether he emerges with his reputation intact.

20 (new entry)

William Gibbon
HR director,
Barclays South Africa

The winner of Personnel Today’s 2004 HR Director of the Year Award, Gibbon is testimony to what a focused approach to managing your career can achieve. So what advice does he have for any aspiring HR practitioners?

“You have to stand on your own two feet and say: ‘Where can I add value the most? What’s best for me?’,” Gibbon says. “You’ve got to own your own career – that is so important.”

19 (down from 16)

Rita Donaghy
Chair, Advisory Conciliation and Arbitration Service

Following a major rebranding exercise initiated by Donaghy last year, the organisation has continued to make serious inroads with its mission to foster better employment relations. Its policy of devoting considerable resources to preventive measures, such as its much-in-demand helpline and online good practice guides, has helped thousands of employers to avoid employment tribunals.

18 (non-mover)

Vance Kearney
Vice-president HR EMEA,

Software to run big businesses is big business, and it doesn’t come much bigger than Oracle’s £5.5bn takeover of rival PeopleSoft. The move, which keeps Kearney in the top half of the power-player chart, also presents tough new challenges, such as how to assimilate PeopleSoft staff, and how to ensure that everyone sticks around in the current buoyant IT market.

17 (new entry)

Jan Parkinson
President, Society of Chief Personnel Officers (Socpo)

A louder, prouder, more vocal Socpo is promised by Parkinson. The new president wants it to be heard in debates on all areas of public policy. Still battered by the chancellor’s plans to slash tens of thousands of civil servants’ jobs, Socpo members desperately need a boost. “People are ashamed to say they are proud to be in the public sector, when we should be celebrating it,” Parkinson says.

16 (new entry)

Ruth Kelly
Secretary of state, Department for Education and Skills

Education and skills are said to be the top priorities for the government, but Kelly’s rejection of Mike Tomlinson’s plans to replace A-levels with a European-style diploma was hugely disappointing. Lauded for juggling office work and family life, Kelly has made little progress six months into the job. As a result, she fails to make it in to the top 10.

15 (new entry)

Tony McCarthy and Kevin Green
Respectively HR director and director of people and organisational development, Royal Mail

Brought in by chairman Allan Leighton to ‘sort’ HR as part of an organisational overhaul, new entrants McCarthy and Green have shown courage by cutting HR spend by £57m, while improving HR-to-employee ratios from 1:130 to 1:75, and closely aligning the function with the business. The recovery plan is working: annual profits are expected to be at a record high, and postal workers will share a £200m windfall.

14 (down from 4)

Steve Harvey
Chief operating officer, Goldsmiths

Former Microsoft HR supremo Harvey reportedly left the software giant after losing out on the UK managing director’s job. At Goldsmiths, he has day-to-day control of the high-street jeweller, where his responsibilities include HR and training. He will have plenty of opportunity to show his mettle – the chain wants to increase the number of outlets from 165 to 200, as well as take the brand into Europe.

13 (down from 11)

Brendan Barber
General secretary, TUC

Barber’s declaration of 25 February as ‘Work Your Proper Hours Day’ should have received more publicity. TUC analysis showed that UK employees worked the equivalent of 23bn worth of unpaid overtime in 2004 – a scandal by anyone’s standards. The UK’s long-hours culture is just one of the issues Barber has to tackle as he navigates a course between making the union movement relevant while delivering for employers.

12 (new entry)

Paul Turner
General manager (people),
West Bromwich Building Society

The holy grail of HR is undoubtedly translating business priorities into compelling people management strategies. New entry Turner earns his place for ably demonstrating his ability to do this by scooping the top prize in Personnel Today’s 2004 awards for Best HR Strategy in line with Business. And it’s no fluke – he was a shortlisted finalist for the same award in 2003.

11 (new entry)

David Blunkett
Secretary of state,
Department for Work and Pensions

Blunkett may be delighted to find himself back in the Cabinet just six months after resigning as home secretary, but he has also landed himself one of the toughest tasks in government – sorting out the pensions crisis. It’s a tall order, but given enough time, Blunkett’s considerable ability could see him rise to the challenge.

10 (down from 9)

Geoff Armstrong
Director general, Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD)

In addition to his day job, Armstrong has taken over the presidency of the World Federation of Personnel Management Associations, which gives him an international platform to persuade people of the value of good HR. Meanwhile, back at the CIPD’s swanky new Wimbledon HQ, membership stands at an all-time high of 120,000, having increased every year since Armstrong took over.

9 (up from 21)

Mark Serwotka
General secretary, Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS)

The threat of massive civil service job cuts, combined with Serwotka’s winning leadership style, has seen the PCS union’s membership swell by nearly a quarter since he took over in 2001. A deft media and political operator, he moves up for his unswerving ability to put employers on the back foot.

8 (non-mover)

Martin Tiplady
HR director,
Metropolitan Police

Ethnic recruitment quotas may have proved a target too far, but with recruitment still at an all-time high, the man with one of the toughest jobs in HR is switching his focus to people development. Tiplady has launched a four-year strategy – Enabling People – which aims to release potential and develop leaders for the future, as well as improve the Met’s employer brand.

7 (up from 34)

Alan Johnson
Secretary of state,
Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)

The former work and pensions secretary took charge at the trendily renamed Department for Productivity, Energy and Industry, and promptly restored its original name of the DTI. A rising star and tipped as a potential future prime minister, Johnson is likely to come under intense pressure to reduce the regulatory burden and reverse the long-term decline of British manufacturing.

6 (non-mover)

Duncan Brown
Assistant director-general,
Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD)

Brown responded to criticism that the CIPD was not engaging with senior HR personnel by opening his diary to the profession. A list of high-level meetings, forums, conferences and seminar engagements should have convinced most of the effort he puts in to meet the profession’s heavyweights, and rubber-stamps his high position in this year’s list.

5 (down from 3)

David Smith
People director, Asda

Smith is the driving force behind workplace initiatives that are so impressive – 90% of employees say they are proud to work for Asda – the chain’s US owner Wal-Mart was compelled to dispatch a crack team to discover more. As a result, Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, plans to introduce the methods for motivating staff and boosting performance used at the UK’s number two retailer in all its stores in the US.

4 (new entry)

Digby Jones
Confederation of British Industry (CBI)

Jones is spearheading the ongoing campaign to preserve the UK’s opt-out clause in the Working Time Directive. Despite opposition from Brussels, the CBI’s high-profile director-general is unlikely to keep quiet on this issue. Doubtless he will also be channelling his spare energies into his pre-election pledge to fiercely fight any new taxes on business.

3 (up from 17)

Andrew Foster
HR director, NHS

Foster has enjoyed quiet success with the roll-out of the Agenda for Change – the biggest pay reform programme in the world. Recruitment and retention remains a major preoccupation for the HR director, and when working for the world’s third-largest employer, you cannot expect an easy ride on this issue. Foster needs to recruit twice as many nurses over the next 10 years to maintain staffing levels.

2 (non-mover)

Clare Chapman
Group HR director,

Record-breaking profits at the world’s third-biggest retailer passed the £2bn mark, and no-one denies the importance of Chapman’s innovative people strategies to the supermarket’s success. She recently said HR professionals had to have an “emotional toughness” to succeed. Whatever it is she has, there are plenty of HR directors who wish it could be bottled.

1 (up from 5)

Neil Roden
Group HR director, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS)

The world’s fifth-largest financial institution makes profits of £257 per second. At the heart of this huge money-spinning, blue-chip operation sits a ruthlessly efficient HR machine, where everything that can be measured, is measured.

For the past three years, RBS has had an established human capital strategy, but it has been linking HR to business performance for much longer. While many espouse the theory of linking human capital strategies to business performance, few achieve it on the level that Roden has.

EP-First and the Saratoga Institute, specialists in performance metrics and analysis, claim that “RBS is among the best-performing HR functions in the world”. Roden and his team have also previously picked up Personnel Today awards for innovation in measuring human capital, and overall HR excellence.

For the seventh year running, RBS has allowed profits to filter down to the workforce, with more than 100,000 staff gaining a profit share of 10% of their annual salary (an average of £2,100 per employee). The group’s pension fund also benefited to the tune of an extra £1,100m in 2004.

Equipping the group’s 1,000 HR staff with an online ‘human capital toolkit’ to help identify issues within the organisation is just one more HR initiative designed to bring the group a step closer towards its stated aim of becoming the “most admired bank”.

What do you think?

Are we spot on, or have we missed anyone out? Tell us who and why. E-mail your comments and suggestions to

Last year’s top 40
(New entrant = NE)

  1. Patricia Hewitt (1)
  2. Clare Chapman (6)
  3. David Smith (5)
  4. Steve Harvey (2)
  5. Neil Roden (19)
  6. Duncan Brown (8)
  7. Julie Mellor (14)
  8. Martin Tiplady (18)
  9. Geoff Armstrong (20)
  10. Mike Cutt (21)
  11. Brendan Barber (23)
  12. WL Gore (NE)
  13. Denise Kingsmill (3)
  14. Alan Warner (NE)
  15. Lynda Gratton (NE)
  16. Rita Donaghy (38)
  17. Andrew Foster (NE)
  18. Colin Povey (16)
  19. Will Hutton (12)
  20. The EU (NE)
  21. Mark Serwotka (NE)
  22. Allan Leighton (30)
  23. Beverley Shears (NE)
  24. Vance Kearney (22)
  25. Trevor Phillips (31)
  26. Chris Stone (NE)
  27. Bob Crow (26)
  28. Bruce Robertson (NE)
  29. Elaine Way (17)
  30. Jean Tomlin (25)
  31. Andrew Smith (10)
  32. Guru (39)
  33. Susan Anderson (36)
  34. Alan Johnson (11)
  35. Gareth Llewellyn (NE)
  36. Ruth Spellman (27)
  37. Derek Higgs (15)
  38. John Connolly (32)
  39. Jack Gratton (NE)
  40. Raymond Jeffers (NE)

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