Interview with Thomas Humphris, head office HR and UK reward director at Informa


What attributes do you use in your role?

Creativity and enthusiasm. I love injecting enthusiasm into any task. I believe it rubs off on others.

Who is your role model?

I love [Virgin Group founder and chairman] Sir Richard Branson’s entrepreneurial approach to everything he does. He has established a fantastic brand for his products and services, and that branding and enthusiasm is carried through everything else on the employment side of the business as well. The marrying up of those two is fantastic. At Informa, I would really like to improve the employment brand with the level of enthusiasm that we have for our benefits.

What is your favourite benefit?

I think health cash plans are misunderstood. It is a fantastic benefit, not only for individuals who may not be able to afford private medical insurance (PMI), but also to complement PMI.

What are your hobbies?

I have just enrolled with a personal trainer, who is a semi-professional rugby trainer. He is hardcore. We are doing weights and boxing. A lot of people at work are intrigued with the boxing side, but it is a fantastic workout.

Curriculum Vitae: Thomas Humphris

• 2008-present head office HR and UK reward director, Informa
• 2005-2008 HR director of maritime and transport publications, Informa
• 2004-2005 head of HR, Snell and Wilcox
• 2002-2004 head of HR, MMS International (now part of Informa)
• 1995-2002 area HR manager, Boots

Thomas Humphris, head office HR and UK reward director at Informa, proves he is a time management master as he divides his time between getting fit and myriad professional challenges.

Thomas Humphris, head office HR and UK reward director at Informa, faces a number of challenges in 2012. On a personal level, he plans to get fit with the help of a personal trainer who will put him through a mix of weightlifting and boxing sessions three days a week. Meanwhile, in his professional role, he is tackling the myriad complexities of pensions auto-enrolment.

“It is an enormous task,” says Humphris. “It is not just establishing a qualifying scheme, it is also ensuring the systems are all working to support auto-enrolment, that the employee benefits platform is making the selection or opt-out process clear to understand. It sounds straightforward, but dealing with a multitude of data, it is not.”

Humphris heads up HR, benefits and reward for 3,200 UK-based staff, as well as overseeing head office HR, global information technology and global health and safety in 30 countries.

He joined the publishing firm in April 2005 as HR director for its maritime and transport publications. Before that, he was an area HR manager at Boots, where he was responsible for all airport and railway station stores, and head of HR at Snell and Wilcox and MMS International.

At MMS International, which Informa acquired from The McGraw-Hill Companies in January 2001, Humphris implemented benefits and payroll in 11 international offices. “That was probably my first exposure to benefits,” he says, “and I had to do it in my first four months there. Failure was not an option, because if we didn’t get that in place, people were not going to get paid.”

Acquisitive business

That project was good preparation for Humphris’ current role at Informa, which is an acquisitive business. “It is integrating new organisations very quickly into our existing infrastructure,” he says. “We have got to the stage where we can do that within the first month or two of acquisition. It is moving everyone onto our payroll and benefits, and communicating it all effectively.”

Informa’s acquisitiveness is one reason why Humphris has moved its auto-enrolment staging date forward six months, from June to January 2013. “We could easily slip into another banding category, which would potentially bring our dates forward anyway,” he says.

After completing Informa’s auto-enrolment project, Humphris plans to spend time educating overseas staff about the value of their benefits, particularly in the US, where employees receive a 401k [a retirement savings account] and private healthcare benefits. “In the US, these are regarded as such important benefits, so we need to ensure staff really understand them,” he says. “I would love to take on the US next and establish a really good benefits plan out there.”

Whatever his focus, Humphris is committed to retaining the broader HR element in his work. “I’ve got quite a unique role,” he says. “I would like to keep in with the reward element, purely from the view that employee benefits and employee relations are intertwined. It keeps you grounded as a reward professional.”

Humphris will be speaking at Employee Benefits Live on 25-26 September at National Hall, Olympia, London.

Read also the Employer profile: Informa focuses on workplace savings that suit its workforce

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