Author: Lifesight

HRMI 2019: Rupert McNeil tops list of influential practitioners

This article was published via HR Magazine on 17 September 2019. A link to the original article can be found here.

HR magazine unveiled its 2019 Most Influential rankings at an exclusive event at Claridge’s last night

The HR Most Influential (HRMI) rankings, in partnership with LifeSight, recognise the HR practitioners and thinkers pushing people strategy forward. HR Most Influential is now in its 14th year.

In his speech as part of the presentation unveiling this year’s top three practitioners and thinkers, senior director at Willis Towers Watson (parent company of LifeSight) Milan Makhecha said: “As the UK faces increasing uncertainty there can be no doubt about the importance of the role that HR will play. We are proud to be working with HR magazine for HR Most Influential, which recognises outstanding contributions in the profession.”

Government chief people officer Rupert McNeil was revealed as this year’s most influential practitioner. McNeil was recognised for “exerting soft influence” while remaining “incredibly innovative” within the organisation, said HR magazine editor Jenny Roper, speaking at the event.

“[This is] an HRD who is undeniably, of all UK HR practitioners, the most at the centre of and affected by Brexit uncertainty, and who epitomises the need for HRDs to exert a steady stabilising influence through tough times,” she said.

“This person is a great example of an HR director exerting soft influence, achieving incredible amounts even though they don’t have a formal HR mandate over some parts of their organisation… Yet for all their calming influence this HRD is still being incredibly innovative – something no doubt enhanced by their cross-sector experience.”

Martin Tiplady, CEO of Chameleon People Solutions and one of the panellists helping to compile the practitioner rankings each year, accepted the award on McNeil’s behalf.

“What a great role model Rupert is in this sector – talking to whoever will listen, talking about all that is great in HR,” he said. “And from personal experience I know there is no more difficult climate than there is at the moment [in the Civil Service]… He undoubtedly holds the hottest seat in HR today, and he holds it with grace, with skill, and with aplomb in the way that he goes about his work. He is as good as it gets.”

In second place was Sally Austin, former HR director at Costain and now group HRD at Wincanton. Austin was commended as a brilliant role model for other women operating in male-dominated sectors, and for her impressive work elevating HR to a strategic level at her former business. “I think you can tell how surprised I am. As many of you know, I have left Costain after a wonderful 14 years; I’d like to thank everyone I have worked with. I am absolutely thrilled,” she said.

Group HR director at Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank Kate Guthrie was ranked as the third most influential practitioner, in recognition for her work supporting the successful acquisition of Virgin Money in October 2018 – one of most complex organisational changes in UK financial services in the past few years. “This isn’t for me, this is for all my team and for everyone I have worked with in my time at Clydesdale and Yorkshire Bank. Thank you,” Guthrie said.

Valerie Hughes-D’Aeth, outgoing group HRD at the BBC, joined the HR Most Influential Hall of Fame. Hughes-D’Aeth was praised for her achievements on cost saving, restructuring and gender pay despite facing intense media scrutiny over her five-year tenure, with this year a fitting time to be awarded the accolade following her announcement that she will leave the BBC at the end of 2019 to pursue a portfolio career.

Hughes D’Aeth said: “It’s been a fantastic experience, and I hope that it [the BBC] is in a better place than it was when I joined. It’s time that I spent a bit more time with my family. I’m sure I’ll still be up to a lot of different things, but for me the focus is now to have some more balance. It’s a real privilege and I’m thrilled.”

Here are the HR Most Influential 2019 top 40 practitioners:

1Rupert McNeilChief people officerGovernment
2Sally AustinGroup HR directorWincanton
3Kate GuthrieGroup HR directorClydesdale and Yorkshire Bank
4Ann PickeringHR directorO2 (Telefónica UK)
5Leena NairChief HR officerUnilever
6Eugenio PirriChief people and culture officerDorchester Collection
7Mandy CoalterFormer director of peopleUnited Learning
8Simon LinaresHR directorDirect Line
9Jabbar SardarHR directorBBC Studios
10Siobhán SheridanChief people directorMinistry of Defence
11Baljinder KangExecutive director of people servicesMidland Heart
12Andrew DodmanChief officer of HRLeeds City Council
13Danny HarmerChief people officerMetro Bank
14Neil MorrisonDirector of HRSevern Trent
15Natalie BickfordGroup HR directorMerlin Entertainments Group
16Rachel BraceHR directorFootball Association
17Emma RoseHR directorKerry Foods
18Jane StormChief people officerSaga Group
19Ella BennettGroup people directorEasyjet
20Karen SheppersonDirector of people and operationsOfsted
21Kathryn AustinChief people and marketing directorPizza Hut Restaurants
22Danny MortimerChief executiveNHS Employers
23Debbie AlderDirector general, people and capabilityDepartment for Work and Pensions
24Louise SmalleyGroup HR directorWhitbread
25Shokat LalAssistant chief executiveRotherham Council
26Kathryn PritchardChief HR officerNord Anglia Education
27Annette AndrewsChief people officerLloyd’s of London
28Carol KavanaghGroup HR directorTravis Perkins Group
29Claire GoreDirector of HR and ODLondon North West University Healthcare NHS Trust
30Des PullenGroup HR directorAssociated British Foods
31Harvey FrancisExecutive vice presidentSkanska UK
32David FrostGroup organisational development directorTotal Produce
33Paula JordanGroup HR directorMcCarthy & Stone
34Jon DawsonDirector of HRMandarin Oriental Hyde Park London & One Hyde Park Residences
35Helen WebbChief people and services officerCo-op
36Alison RumseyChief HR officerAssociated British Ports
37Tim JonesGroup head of HRLondon Stock Exchange
38Deborah LeeGroup engagement directorCompass Group
39Geoff TranfieldGroup HR directorIMI
40Will SerleChief people officerCapita

Visit the HR Most Influential website for all our listed individuals and their profiles.