Four of the top five biggest CEO challenges relate to People1. As one of the world’s leading HR practitioners, David Fairhurst offers a unique and thought-provoking perspective on how organizations can rise to meet these challenges.
His most recent role – Executive Vice President, Global Chief People Officer at McDonald’s Corporation – is one of the world’s largest HR and Training positions with oversight of almost 2-million employees in over 120 countries. David is credited as one of the key leaders in delivering the company’s historic business turnaround, which saw the firm’s market capitalization rise from $93bn to $147bn in just 4 years. In doing so, he is one of very few HR leaders to have had the opportunity to deliver a truly global Cultural Transformation program at pace and at scale.
A proven ‘disrupter’, David combines hard data and personal intuition to challenge established thinking and ways of working.
In 2014, he shared his prediction in the Financial Times, that within a decade, major global economies would be facing labour shortages on a scale which would impact business growth – a ‘workforce cliff’. This insight allowed many in industry to prepare for the challenges ahead. He has also identified new and innovative solutions to drive greater people value, including challenging the traditional approaches to Performance and Talent Management.
‘David is just one of the best HR people I’ve run into.
He has great insight into the business and great instincts on what HR can do to help.”’ Dave Ulrich, Rensis Likert Professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business
Prior to joining McDonald’s, David was Group Manager for Organisation Development at H J Heinz; European Director of Recruitment and Leadership Planning at SmithKline Beecham (GSK); and Corporate HR Director at Tesco’s UK and International businesses where he also led the Global Talent function.
For four consecutive years David was voted ‘Most Influential Practitioner’ by HR Magazine, receiving their lifetime achievement award in 2012. He was also the first HR professional to be named ‘Business Communicator of the Year’ by the Institute of Internal Communications – a title previously awarded to leading business figures such as Body Shop founder Anita Roddick, and Virgin founder Richard Branson.
‘Business Matters. Business Success Matters. But above all, it’s a matter of people.’
David Fairhurst, from his 2009 book ‘Words for the “Whys”’
David earned his bachelor’s degree at Lancaster University and his master’s degree at Manchester Metropolitan University Business School which has recognised his ongoing contribution as a Visiting Professor with an honorary Doctorate in Business Administration. He also holds an honorary Doctorate from Middlesex University.
In 2011, David was appointed by the UK government to act as a Commissioner for the Commission for Employment and Skills – a role he held until the change of government in May 2015. Previously he had served as a Fellow of the Sunningdale Institute; a virtual academy of leading academics and thought leaders created to advise and advance public service. He has also advised officials and politicians at both the European Commission and the European Parliament.
David is a Chartered Companion of the UK’s Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development where he served for four years as its Vice President of Learning, Training and Development. He is also a Fellow of the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) whose mission to ‘create the conditions for the enlightened thinking and collaborative action needed to address today's most pressing social challenges’.
Born in 1968 in Wigan – an industrial town in the North of England – David grew up as part of a family of retailers, and amongst his earliest memories are ‘helping out’ in his grandfather’s grocery store. To this day, he remains pragmatic, business oriented, innovative and witty in his speaking work. Many in the wider management community will know of David through his regular TV and radio appearances, his lectures and his presentations at conferences ranging from small gatherings to large audiences of 20,000 people.