Top job: Michael Davis, director of strategy and performance, UK Commission for Employment and Skills

Where were you working before, and what were your responsibilities?

I was managing director of CFE, a national independent research and management company.

What qualifications do you hold?

A BA Hons in economics and a diploma in management.

What are the duties in your new role?

To support the role of the UK Commission for Employment and Skills in providing vigorous and independent challenge, advising government at the highest levels across the UK on employment and skills strategy.

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

Aligning ever-higher personal expectations of what people want from work with business goals. The days when wages passed as sufficient compensation for an employee’s time are long gone. People now want more than money from work. As consumers, we want unique and customised consumption experiences – in the same way, work needs to be able to offer an individual focus.

What is the most overrated tool in your job?

The photocopier. The bigger and faster it prints, the more junk gets printed and then binned.

And what work tool would you like to see invented?

A laptop with a never-ending battery.

What is the worst thing about HR?

When it loses its focus on its role in enabling an organisation to be successful and assumes its mere existence to be an end in itself. If no-one knows why a document is being completed other than “it’s for HR”, it’s lost.

How do you wind down after a bad day in the office?

Taking the motorbike the long way home.

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

Nothing yet. Maybe my new job will come up with something

What three words would you use to describe yourself?

Resolved, analytical and (hopefully) understated.

What was your lucky break?

Being appointed managing director of CFE. At the time I had very little by way of business leadership or people management, but the board who appointed me were prepared to take the risk.

What do you regret about your career?

Genuinely nothing. I’ve been very fortunate to have enjoyed it all.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

The cast of the classic 1980s series Yes, Minister – Humphrey Appleby, Bernard Woolley and Jim Hacker. Brilliantly funny.

What advice would you give someone starting out in HR?

Never forget that you are responsible for managing the most important asset that any organisation has.

What is the greatest risk you have ever taken?

It involved a motorbike and a corner.

Sum up your philosophy on life in one sentence.

At all times act with humility and fierce resolve.

Davis’ CV

  • Mar 2009-present – Director of strategy and performance, UK Commission for Employment and Skills (skills advisers to government)

  • July1999-Feb 2009 – Managing director, CFE (research and management)

  • Apr 2007-present  – Chairman of governors, Leicester College (further education)

  • Dec 2001-Mar 2007 – Governor, Leicester College (further education)

  • Apr 2006-present – Chairman, Lastolite (lighting)

  • Apr 2000-Mar 2006 – Non-executive director, Lastolite

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