Who’s your HR hero? | 7 experts reveal who inspires them, and what they’ve learnt from them

Jess Fuhl
Published on 27th February 2019
4 min read

When we’re swept up in the day-to-day, it’s easy to forget who the people are who have made a difference in our careers.

Maybe they acted as a role model when we were just starting out – showing us how we’d like to work and be thought as.

Perhaps they’ve given us valuable advice at vital moments.

Or, they could be a close friend and confidant, acting as a soundboard for challenges in our careers.

Whichever it is, we thought we’d take a bit of time to celebrate those unsung heroes in HR, and what they’ve taught others.

1. “Time is our most valuable resource” | Dr N.S. Rajan, formerly CHRO of IDFC Bank, has been nominated by Aadil Bandukwala, Chief Evangelist at Belong

“Dr. Rajan has worn multiple hats over his illustrious career. He’s been in marketing, consulting, HR, strategy, communications and leadership. He’s someone that the entire Indian business community looks up to as a leader – not just me.

“Despite reaching the pinnacle of success, Dr. Rajan has always been extremely humble, kind and approachable. His tweets are anecdotes of wisdom that a lot of us religiously follow. I’ve learnt a lot from him over the years, both meeting him offline and interacting with him online.

“My biggest learning from Dr. Rajan has been that time is our most valuable resource. The impact that one can create in this world is directly proportional to how he or she treats time.”

2. “Forgive generously” | Siobhan Sheridan, Civilian HR Director at the UK Ministry of Defence, has been nominated by Perry Timms at People and Transformational HR

“Siobhan Sheridan is the most accomplished, interesting and genuine professional that I have the pleasure to call a friend and mentor.

“She is someone who upholds all the virtues of a strong, capable and influential HR leader whilst maintaining interest, approachability and openness to everyone she comes across.  It’s important to be effective and warm, and it’s also important to be humble and confident. Siobhan is those in an unprecedented way.

“Siobhan inspires me to be the best version of myself that I can be at all times and has taught me to forgive generously.”

3. “Plan your work and work your plan” | Holly Metz, Owner of Key Staffing Solutions, has been nominated by Shannon Smedstad, Engagement Director at exaqueo

“In 1999, I was a recent liberal arts graduate who moved from a rural area of Pennsylvania to the bustling Washington DC metro area. Holly took me under her wing and taught me how to be a recruiter. She taught me how to cold call potential clients, how to market our jobs and company, how to source and find candidates, how to interview… basically how to manage the end-to-end recruitment process.

“Holly also had a motto: ‘Plan your work and work your plan’. To this day, I have a sign in my office with this on it. This motto guides the work that I do now.

“Twenty years later, Holly continues to be a mentor and friend to me, talking shop and brainstorming ideas for recruitment. I truly don’t believe I’d be where I am today if Holly had not seen the potential in me so long ago.”

4. “Everything you do sends a message” | Inji Duducu, People Director at Morrisons Supermarkets, has been nominated by David D’Souza, Membership Director at CIPD

“I worked with Inji Duducu through some of my formative years in the profession. I’m still learning now, but my years working for her were key to helping me think about HR and its impact. I learnt the importance of your decision-making always being informed by clear principles and beliefs. Everything that you do sends a message and you can never forget that.

“Throughout my career I’ve always been able to reflect on what Inji would have done – because her thinking and beliefs were always so transparent and openly offered. It doesn’t mean that I’ll always do what she would have chosen to do; but it’s a tribute to her directness and transparency that her advice is available consistently. I try and work as openly with my teams as she did with me.”

5. “Be comfortable in your own skin” | Leena Nair, Head of Global HR at Unilever, has been nominated by Dr Tanvi Gautam, Founder of Leadershift Inc

“Leena Nair is authentic, bold and true to her roots. When I saw her tweets on dancing on stage and inspiring everyone to join in, I thought to myself, ‘here is a leader who’s comfortable in her own skin!’

“Her stories of childhood where she overcame stereotypes to become the first female, first Asian, youngest ever Chief Human Resource Officer of Unilever and member of the Unilever executive leadership team, are inspiring to many.”

6. “Understand the business” | Tomako Deaner, Chief HR Officer at OrthoVirginia, has been nominated by Jon Thurmond, HR Manager at Team Fishel

“I was fortunate to work with and for Tommie for well over a decade.  She promoted me into my first leadership role, gave me the opportunity to make mistakes, learn from them, and demonstrated what ‘servant leadership’ truly means.  Tommie is my ‘Yoda’ – I still seek out her guidance and insight.

“Tommie taught me the importance of understanding the business.  She’s able to see the big picture, looks to improve processes and people, and knows how to apply what we do to the bottom line.  I apply what I learned from her every day.”

7. “Developing people must be a priority” | Christine Beldner, HR Manager at Little River Systems has been nominated by Ben Eubanks at Lighthouse Research and Advisory

“My HR hero was my very first leader in the HR field. Christine always knew the pulse of the organization: who was in trouble and who was succeeding. She was phenomenal about developing her staff, and she helped to grow me from a relative newbie in the HR space to a capable, confident leader over time.

“The thing I learned best from her is that developing your people must always be a priority. She was great about finding ways to help leverage the strengths and interests of each of her team members so they could bring their best self to work.”

Who’s your HR hero? Let us know by tweeting us @SagePeople.


Browse more topics from this article

Industry Insight