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How Did I Get Here? Andrew Mayo, London Business School

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Andrew Mayo, a frequent speaker and writer on HR issues, has a professorship in Human Capital Management and his roles have included Director of People Development for the ICL Group. Here he describes his HR career to date.


What's your current job role?
My current job role is Varied Portfolio Manager! I have five main strands to this. I have been a Programme Director at London Business School for the last 7 years, working on customised executive programmes. I manage a significant consultancy business called Mayo Learning International and have a professorship in Human Capital Management at Middlesex University where I work with Masters degree students. I do work also for the Euro-Arab Management School, and finally spend a fair bit of time writing and speaking on HR issues.

What did you do before this?
I spent 28 years in large corporations, in manufacturing, marketing and HR. My last job was Director of People Development for the ICL Group.

Describe your route into HR?
My route into HR was a combination of really enjoying that part of my MBA which was to do with people, and then working initially with Procter and Gamble. After 5 years in production jobs I was moved to Training Manager in line with their job rotation policy – and on this ticket I moved industries. I went in and out of HR, but finally chose it since – to be honest – it seemed easier to get to the top of an organisation that way than by others with more competition…

Did you always want to work in HR?
I didn’t always want to work in HR because I really didn’t know what it was until after a few years of work. Like most HR people, I went through periods of questioning whether this was a really worthwhile contribution to life – but I always enjoyed it.

What would you say has been the most significant event in your career to date?
I think the most significant event in my career was my move into marketing for 2 years. It gave me a new perspective on what HR does, but most importantly it helped me understand sales and customers. It gave me a business perspective that many HR people sadly lack. Added to this it was my first true international role and took me all over the world.

How do you think the role of HR has changed since you began your HR career?
Well, it continues to navel-gaze and look for every indicator that its role is important! I think it would help itself if it stopped looking at itself as a function and concentrated on the people in the organisation and how it supports them and their managers. In the best companies, the importance of people has always been there – and it's embedded into line management practices. Back in the 60s and 70s my first company, P&G, practiced many of the things that we still struggle to get established in other companies today.

HR has become absorbed by social agendas over the last 10 years, especially in the public sector. Nobody can say this is wrong in itself, but it is a big change.

There is no doubt that HR has a higher status and higher salaries than it used to have. In many companies it plays a bigger and bigger role, and this is probably even more true in the public sector. It may sound strange – but I think it has become less business orientated over the years – because it has become a profession, people are in it for life and do not get business experience, and it pursues an idealism about managers that is not reflected in reality. I was a true business partner in 1980 as a member of a management team, but I think many so called partners today are just advisers by another name.

But the future is bright IF HR can truly understand the importance of people as value-producing assets and how they can help management truly manage that.

What single thing would improve your working life?
My working life is fine actually – except for my common problem of over-commitment. Unfortunately this is an occupational hazard as independent people build their reputation and network and get asked to do more and more. So my main objective is to spend less time working…heard that one before?

What's your favourite part of the HR Zone site?
Very well designed and so easy to navigate. The Any Answers feature is great. I find the Document Centres very helpful and the Who’s Who area.

Have you made contact with any other members?
I have not yet made much contact with other members via HR Zone but am sure to do so. I replied to an Any Answers question on human capital accounting last week.

Do you have any advice for those looking to embark on a career in HR?
Please do an operational job and do not spend all your time in HR. Or at the very worst get a job which is firmly in “the front line” as early as you can. And get good business training and be good with numbers.

You can have many satisfying careers in HR – enjoying a professional niche, providing good service and help to people. But if you want to “get to the top” the future belongs to those who can truly be business partners. They combine professional HR expertise with a real caring for people with a sound sense of business reality – and since people always will be the most important asset, such HR Directors should be leaders in the organisation in their own right.


If you're willing to share your experiences of working in HR to date with other members, we'd like to hear from you – e-mail us to receive a copy of this questionnaire.

Previous 'Introducing…' features:
Jean-Bertrand de Lartigue, Chairman of HR2all
Karen Caddick, Head of HR, Channel Five
Madeleine Tate
Keith Luxon, HR Policy and Reward Director, The Laurel Pub Company
Jeremy Thorn, Chairman and Director of QED Consulting
Roger Pattison, HR – Training & Management Development Consultant
Verity McVarish, HR Manager for Sift Media
Rus Slater
David Kelly, Head of Development and Training for Aventis
Jenny Kevan, UK HR Manager for Abbott Laboratories
William Martin, HR Manager, Telewest Broadband
Craig Truter, HR Manager, The Body Shop
Martin Stockton, HR Transformation Leader, Towers Perrin
Nick Heap, Consultant, New Directions
Crispin Garden-Webster, HR Specialist, Asian Development Bank
Sandra Walsh, HR Delivers
Carole Leslie, Director, IT Learning Ltd
Shaun Dunphy, Project and Process Manager, EMEA HR Service Centre for MCI
Debra Artlett, HR Officer, NGJ
Dianne Miles, HR Manager, Rollalong Ltd
Jacqui Mann, HR Manager, Integra NeuroSciences
Isabella Montgomery, Human Resources Officer at The new Housing Association
Iain Young, Head of HR for Cofathec Heatsave

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