Governing Body Spotlight

Governing Body Member of the UK & Ireland CHRO Community

Alastair Procter

SVP, Strategic HR Operations

Interpublic Group (IPG)

Alastair Procter works at the corporate level of Interpublic (IPG), one of the world's largest advertising/marketing communications holding companies with circa 58,000 employees globally. He leads enterprise-wide, people-related projects and activities which include global grading and job architecture, pay equity review, diversity reporting, employee mobility and tax compliance, etc.

IPG is a relatively decentralised business, and therefore he also plays a linking, HR champion role, connecting the corporate centre and the many agency networks that comprise their global footprint.

Learn more about the UK & Ireland CHRO community here.

Give us a brief overview of the path that led to your current role.

With degrees in French and Spanish, I started my career in the hotel business, seeing it as an easy way to travel, work and live abroad, but I quickly developed an interest in HR, largely as a result of the many people-related challenges facing that industry at the time. I learnt the nuts and bolts of HR at the coal-face - a hard grind in some ways, but equally working in an industry full of real characters!

After a number of generalist and L&D roles within that industry, and wishing to avoid being pigeon-holed to one sector, I moved to PolyGram International, which enabled me to learn how to operate in a very different cultural setting, and work through the integration that came with the merger of PolyGram with Universal Music Group, whilst flipping between L&D and latterly generalist roles at their international headquarters. 

In 2004, I was offered an opportunity to try something new again, initially managing a major restructure of the UK retail banking network of Barclays, subsequently transitioning into a Head of HR role for Barclays' UK general insurance, home finance and direct channels (contact centres/online banking) business groups. I learnt a lot more sophisticated HR at Barclays, and when I moved to Mediabrands (the media division of IPG) as their EMEA HR Director, subsequently becoming their Global CHRO in 2010, I took that with me and had to work hard to find ways to apply it within the advertising business. 

I did just over 10 years in that role, and no year was ever the same. We saw amazing growth and change in that business, but the most important thing I ever did was structure and build an amazing team. I made some mistakes and it took me much of my time there to get it 100% right, but I could not be more proud of them, and what we achieved together.  I was offered a move into a newly created (and my current) role at IPG Corporate about two years ago, and am loving the change of pace and skills that it is demanding of me to be successful.

What is one of your guiding leadership principles?

Whatever the circumstance, always strive to maintain the dignity of others and those around you.

With disruption being a key theme of the past few years, where do you see your role as a CHRO going in the next 1-2 years?

As the organisation evolves and responds to the challenges it faces, I think that I am likely to be heavily involved in bringing greater alignment and consistency to a number of areas which include our data foundations, technology solutions and operating processes. I would like to think that we will also be moving in the direction of becoming a more skills-based organisation, which will also require me to work hand in hand with my colleagues within our agencies and networks.

What advice would you give to someone just starting out in the role as a CHRO?

  1. Get the right team (structure and people).
  2. Don't be afraid to speak up and challenge leaders constructively, especially the CEO - that is where you add most value.
  3. Relationships, relationships, relationships…

Tell us 3 fun facts about yourself.

  1. I was born and grew up in Newcastle, but you would never know it (except maybe after one too many sherries). 
  2. I can't relax by doing nothing - I always have to be doing something. 
  3. I have done just about every job there is to do in a hotel, and my top tip is never to drink from the glass in a bathroom without first thoroughly washing it!

What is the value of joining an Evanta community?

Learning from others who have had to deal with similar challenges, bouncing thoughts and ideas off peers who 'get it', and new ideas and perspectives.

Evanta Governing Body members share their insights and leadership perspectives to shape the agendas and topics that address the top priorities impacting business leaders today.

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