Top job: Jacqui Macdonald, HR business partner, AstraZeneca

Jacqui Macdonald has joined global pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca as HR business partner. She joins from GlaxoSmithKline where she was UK and US corporate recruitment director.

What will be the duties in your new role?
My priorities will be to implement the people strategy and to use performance management to drive business performance.

What do you hope to achieve in your new role?
The development of leadership capabilities, talent management and succession planning.

What are the challenges facing HR in the next five years?
A number of challenges will remain the same – finding, developing and retaining talent. Lifestyles are changing and people will increasingly want different things from their work. The challenge will be for HR people to promote these ways of working to managers who feel that they will not be conducive to running an efficient, profitable company.

What is the worst thing about HR?
Managing the reality of not always having measurable outcomes to your work. Also, having to explain to people what HR is.

What are the most essential tools in your job?
My palm pilot, time to think and tapping into the skills and expertise of my other HR colleagues.

What advice would you give to people starting out in HR?
Get a realistic view of what HR is. I have met so many people who leave the profession as it was not what they thought it would be. Learn to talk and act like a business person but develop good HR behaviours at the same time. Distinguish yourself from the rest of the crowd early on – if you do what everyone else does, you are only average.

Who would you most dislike to work with?
Anyone who says one thing and does another. HR people who don’t exhibit the required behaviours and the HR bosses that allow them to get away with it.

What is the strangest situation you have been in at work?
I once interviewed a candidate who refused to tell me anything about his previous job or experience. He answered every question by saying that his contract of employment would not allow him to divulge any information to a third party. Four days later he phoned for feedback on why he did not get the job.

Who is your ultimate guru?
Nelson Mandela, followed closely by Dame Stella Rimmington, the first female director of MI5. They are both inspirational and courageous people, leaders who make change happen.

What is the most annoying piece of management jargon?
When managers constantly compare workplace scenarios to sporting analogies as you automatically exclude people who don’t follow sport or who find it boring.

What is the greatest risk you have ever taken?
Employing someone who had been in prison for 10 years and found it difficult to get a job. My decision was met with a lot of controversy at the time, but I’m pleased to say that he still works for the same company and is regarded as a high performer.

How do you fill your spare time?
I have just bought myself a new sports motorbike, so I am riding at every opportunity I get.

What was the last book you read?
Malcolm X’s biography – it really made me change my view of events that happened during his time.

What would be your dream job?
A product tester for chocolate, cakes or new motorbikes.

What is the worst office party you’ve ever attended?
The one where I thought the boss’s wife was the local lady of the night.

Who would you most like to be stuck in a lift with?
Wrestling star The Rock.


  • 2005 HR business partner, AstraZeneca
  • 2003 Director of UK & US corporate recruitment, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)
  • 2001 Head of UK e-recruitment, GSK
  • 1999 HR manager, GSK
  • 1996 HR manager, Spelthorne Housing Association

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