Hiring HR Directors

According to the IBM Global C-Suite study, 37% of CEOs perceive the HR function as being an ineffective strategic partner. Often considered as overhead rather than value add to the business the function has been at the front of cuts to headcount. But with shortages in the talent pipeline under the spotlight, compensation pressures from stakeholders and the need to retain top performers, HR is back in vogue.

But the stakes have increased, to earn your place on the Executive Committee, a higher degree of business acumen and breadth of experience is now a necessity. Expertise in a single domestic area is often no longer enough, multinational businesses require their functional leaders to have international experience to match. Group HRDs are no exception, with top companies seeking those who have worked across different products in different countries and continents. James Martin, Consultant, Egon Zehnder explains: “With increasingly few major UK-only plcs, the Group HRD positions require candidates who are truly multinational in their experience and outlook. CEOs are particularly attracted by candidates who have previously spent time living in other countries and ideally continents. That experience is much more sought-after but is something only a small pool of candidates have.”

For certain sectors, experience in specialist areas of HR for example reward, is essential. In Financial Services, for example, with new rules restricting remuneration coming through in the EU, a proven track record in Compensation & Benefits will be highly desirable.

There has also been an increase in their appointments as Non-Executive Directors according to Martin; “HRDs have seen one noticeable change in the two to three years - they are now seen as having a relevant background to be strong Non- Executive Director candidates. A few years ago they were very unlikely to be selected for those roles. They are now certainly sought-after to help companies focus on compensation, succession planning and to bring a stronger people focus to the Board.

“They are often brought in to Chair the Remuneration Committee. In summary, the role of the HRD, while always important, has increased in prominence and the demands placed upon individuals in those roles have become more intense. This is leading to a higher bar in terms of the calibre of suitable candidates.” However, this hasn’t translated to an increase in the number of HR Directors on Management Boards. Most of those who have joined this year have been simply replacing an outgoing HR Director. For example John Lewis appointed Harriet Hounsell as Personnel Director and a member of the Management Board, however the vacated place had been left by her predecessor Laura Whyte.

There have also been cases where outgoing HRDs have seen their place on the Board passed away from the HR function. After Lucy Adams’ departure from the BBC her spot on the Board was taken over by Tim Burke, Chief Executive of BBC Worldwide and Director, Global rather than her replacement Valerie Hughes-D’Aeth.

HRD industry consultant listings


Lisa Gerhardt

Egon Zehnder

James Martin

Heidrick & Struggles

Chris Long

Hogget Bowers

Paul Mewis

Korn Ferry

Anna Penfold

Odgers Berndtson

Aine Hurley

Saxton Bampfylde

Sarah Orwin

Spencer Stuart & Associates

Simon Russell


HR Appointments

Steven Scheers
Chief People Officer

Sheers had been the company’s Global HR Director before the announcement of a complete Board reshuffle. The company launched a new initiative called Outlook, bringing Scheers in to guide the people strategy at a Board-level in the hope of improving growth, reliability and productivity, as well as organisation to improve accountability.

Valerie D’Aeth, HR Director

D’Aeth’s predecessor Lucy Adam’s faced a tough time at the BBC. High remuneration for BBC executives was thrown into the limelight and Adams found herself giving evidence to a parliamentary committee. Most recently working as Group HR and Communications Director at Amey, D’Aeth has held several specialist roles at various companies, including European Compensation and Benefits Manager at EDS - experience that will no doubt be vital in the new role.

Penguin Random House
Neil Morrison, HR Director

Morrison had held the position of Group HR Director at Random House Group before the company’s merger completion in July 2013. As a member of the board he had successfully restructured the company to help it navigate the economic downturn successfully. His executive experience and deep understanding of HR within publishing look set to help him continue to guide the merged companies’ people strategy.

Mark Green, CHRO

After arriving late to the digital revolution Kodak were forced to file for bankruptcy in 2012. They emerged in 2013 announcing they had returned as a technology company focused on imaging for business. Green’s previous experience with Applied Materials, a Silicon Valley-based provider of equipment, services and software for technology industries will come in handy as the firm focuses on its digital strategy.

Emily Lawson, Group HR Director

In its 2013/14 annual report, the company revealed its intentions to build its online presence and increases its multichannel capabilities. Lawson’s previous roles with consultancy firm McKinsey & Company, where she was a Partner and headed up the Human Capital Practice, and Avitech Diagnostics, where she was Technology and Business Development Manager, put her in good stead to lead the people agenda through this shift.

Thomas Cook
Sandra Campopiano
Chief People Officer

In the summer of 2012 Harriet Green was given the role of CEO at Thomas Cook, a job she secured after cold calling Chairman Frank Meysman. Campopiano had worked for Green in her previous role as CEO of technology company Premier Farnell. Campopiano will be expected to use her multichannel experience to support the company improve its offering, a key objective of Thomas Cook’s strategy.

Chris Van Steenberg, CHRO

Van Steenberg joined Heineken from Royal DSM, the Dutch multinational Life Sciences firm but he also has strong experience in the food and drinks industry – his previous positions have been with Cadbury and Quick Restaurants SA. The company consider its people its main competitive advantage and have so far trained over 6,000 in the Heineken Leadership competencies.

Irene McDermott Brown
Group HR Director

McDermott Brown initially took on the role on an interim basis in 2012 having joined as HR Director of Functions in 2011. She had spent six years with BP as part of the company’s HR transformation programme. As with all banks, Barclay’s has many change goals in terms of how they operate which will continue over the next few years. The bank will hope McDermot Brown’s experience at BP will help her support these objectives.