Alum of the year 2016

Alum of the year 2016 is Thomas Hedegaard Rasmussen, who completed his Master’s degree in 2002 and his PhD in 2007 at the Department of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences. Today he is Vice-president of HR Data and Analytics at Royal Dutch Shell in the Hague.

Alum of the year 2016 is Thomas Hedegaard Rasmussen. Photo: AU Foto

Thomas Hedegaard Rasmussen receives the award because he has fast become an agenda-setting voice within the field of HR in both Danish and international companies.  Part of the reason for his success can be attributed to his books, but also to his ability to build bridges between academia and practice.

We had a talk with Thomas Hedegaard Rasmussen about the time he spent at university and about how you unite business and social sciences in practice. 

What do you remember most clearly about your time at university?
A very nice combination of something social and something academic. Because I vividly remember being surrounded by people who were passionate about their academic areas. But I also remember a lot of great parties. We had a fun time time together at university. It was just the way it should be.

What is the most important thing you learned as a student? 
There are two things in particular. One is the purely academic aspect. That is, the field of psychology. How do people function, how do teams and managements work? The other is a meta-ability which I think that everyone who has studied social sciences will be able to recognise. More specifically, this is an ability to evaluate existing scientific knowledge and generate new knowledge from this. An ability to explore vast amounts of data and draw conclusions that are short and precise and thus more applicable in practice.  

In what way do the mechanisms of traditional psychology interact with the agenda of a company? What are the challenges? 
An HR department is a good example of cross-disciplinarity at its best. We have psychologists, who know the workings of a human being.  We have lawyers, who are experts in, say, dismissals. We have economists, who know everything about profitability. And we have people with a background in political science, who know about the power structure in the countries where we operate.

However, the challenge of cross-disciplinarity is that it only works if people are strong in their discipline. Or as I usually say, cross-disciplinarity requires strong disciplines - otherwise it’s just cross. With this I mean that I need a skilled lawyer, a skilled psychologist, a skilled communicator, etc. In this way, the disciplines complement each other. But if you don’t master your core discipline, you become a generalist, and unfortunately, my experience is that generalists don’t have the necessary depth in their knowledge.

You have already achieved a great deal in your career. What is your next goal? 
To be honest, I don’t really think about it. I focus on delivering results on a daily basis and just seeing what happens. I don’t think you can plan or predict these kind of things.

What is the best advice you can give to students?
Don’t think too much about this “career-thing”. To have a succesful career you need to deliver results. You should let the result speak for itself. You should have fun and make a difference. So actually, my advice is: Stop worrying so much about your career.


Vice President, HR Data & Analytics, Royal Dutch Shell (2013-)

Senior General Manager, Organizational Development, A.P. Møller - Maersk (2011-2013)

 Senior General Manager, Group Talent Management, A.P.

Møller - Maersk (2010-2011)General Manager/ HR Consultant, Group HR, A.P. Møller - Maersk (2007-2010)


PhD in Psychology (2007), MSc in Psychology (2002), BSc in Psychology (2000), Aarhus BSS.

Latest publications:

How HR Analytics avoids being a management fad. Organizational Dynamics, 2015, 44 (3), co-authored with Prof. Dave Ulrich:

“Målbar HR - en praktisk guide til datadrevet HR-ledelse.” Dansk Psykologisk Forlag, 2013.

Criteria for receiving the award

Alumni who may be considered for the award must meet one or more of the following criteria. He or she must:

  • Be respected in society
  • Have had an influence on and affected society in a positive direction
  • Have a particularly distinguished career
  • Have done something special for Aarhus BSS
  • Have made a special contribution in other ways

 See an overview of all the award recipients.

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