The unsung heroes of HR

The academics and practitioners who make up our HR Most Influential rankings, sponsored by Open University Business School, are leading the way in what could be uncertain times

HR Magazine | October 16, 2017

The HR Magazine article, “The unsung heroes of HR," quoted Russell Reynolds Associates Consultant Anna Penfold about the importance of flexibility, agility and preparedness in human resources today. The article is excerpted below.

It’s a whole year, incredibly, since the 11th HR Most Influential (HRMI) lists were unveiled. And what a year it has been.

With many still reeling from Brexit, then came the shock of president Trump. We’ve also seen a snap general election and a surprise hung parliament result.

But the uncertainty many are feeling goes far beyond unexpected events. People often say every year seems to pass faster than the last. But – in an age of ever-advancing AI and automation, rapidly evolving employment arrangements, and a still volatile business world – this now rings truer than ever.


“Flexibility and agility are amped up even more than before so you need to be prepared to go through version 1.0 and 2.0 of your plan at any given moment,” agrees Anna Penfold, consultant at Russell Reynolds. “That is very challenging for many because most fall into the bracket of being good at the longer-term stuff or good at delivering the short term. It’s hard to find someone who can oscillate between the two.”


Look a little closer at our top three and another trend emerges. Taking the very top spot this year is an HR director who, though recently taking on the role of civilian HR director at the Ministry of Defence (MoD), has also worked across the private and third sectors, most recently as director of people and OD at the NSPCC. Siobhan Sheridan “absolutely epitomises” why cross-sector experience can be so powerful, feels Penfold.


“There are few leadership roles in the UK that have such high standing, such high prestige and are so high risk,” comments Penfold. “And she’s steering the ship very adeptly through pretty choppy waters.”   

To read the full article​​, click here.

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The unsung heroes of HR