Top job: Martin Percival, HR director, EMEA, StepStone

Where were you working before and what were your duties?

I was the HR director for EMEA at Progress Software, leading a small team in a rapidly growing business. We supported 1,700 employees across 16 countries, which presented a lot of diverse challenges.

What qualifications do you hold?

I studied for an MA in European Human Resource Management, and I’m CIPD qualified.

What are the duties in your new role? Who do you report to?

Half of my role is being the lead HR person for employees across StepStone’s international operations. The other half is the commercial side – assisting the sales teams and providing a sounding board when dealing with change, such as acquisitions. I report to StepStone’s chief executive, Colin Tenwick.

What are the main challenges HR faces in the next five years?

Recruiting, developing and retaining high-quality, commercially driven – yet grounded – people in an ever-tightening labour market. If people don’t feel their contribution is valued, they’ll leave, and there are plenty of competitors who will try to make it worth their while.

What is the essential tool in your job?

A high-quality and top-performing team. Everything you achieve as a manager is effectively through your team.

And the most over-rated?

E-mail. It’s hard to avoid this communication tool, and on an international level it can lead to misunderstandings.

What is the strangest situation you have been in at work?

Very early in my career, at Yellow Pages, I interviewed someone for a telesales role and I’m convinced the candidate was drunk. I really wasn’t expecting it and needless to say he didn’t get the job.

What is the worst thing about HR?

Managing dramatic changes, including new structures and the elimination of jobs. It’s especially difficult if you have worked for a number of years and close colleagues are affected. I have had to do it a few times now, but it never gets any easier.

Who is your ultimate hero?

Dave Thomas, a Queens Park Rangers FC player between 1972 and 1977. He was an extremely fast left winger with superb skill – totally underrated.

What is the most annoying piece of management jargon?

Value-added – it’s over used and doesn’t mean anything.

How do you fill your spare time?

Spending time with my friends and family, watching football and seeing live bands.

What three words would you use to describe yourself?

Open, approachable, passionate.

What is your most popular web page?

What is the greatest risk you have ever taken?

Moving to The Netherlands with It was a risky move and The Netherlands operation closed nine months later, but working outside the UK was an invaluable experience.

What three items would you take with you to a desert island?

Digital radio, plenty of water and sun block.

Who would play you in the film of your life and why?

Ewan McGregor, as I’m half Scottish.

Percival’s CV

  • Feb 2007-present HR director, EMEA, StepStone
  • June 2001-Feb 2007 HR director, EMEA, Progress Software
  • April 2000-May 2001 Head of HR for The Netherlands,
  • Aug 1999-March 2000 European recruitment manager,

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