20 - 21 June, 2019 - Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Prerana Issar

Chief Human Resources Officer, United Nations World Food Programme

Prerana Issar

Chief Human Resources Officer, United Nations World Food Programme
Keynote Speaker


After 15 years in increasingly senior HR roles at consumer goods giant Unilever and her last role there as Vice President HR for the US$15bn global foods business, Prerana accepted the challenge to move as CHRO for the U.N. World Food Programme – the world’s largest and leading Humanitarian agency, which reaches US$ 6bn of food assistance to 100 million people across 80 countries every year.

For the last four years, Prerana has shaped and is leading the first organisation-wide transformation (people, performance, regulatory framework, culture) in the history of the U.N. World Food Programme. In addition to leading the HR function of 450 people across 80 countries, Prerana works with the governments who are members of WFP’s Executive Board to build support for WFP’s People Strategy and has been successful in fund raising for implementing the changes. Despite the highly centralised and rigid regulatory framework of the UN, transformational changes have been made at WFP. For instance, the staff survey shows a positive increase in 68 of the 72 items, percentage of women hired and in leadership positions has risen for the first time in 20 years and 600 leaders have gone through a tailored Humanitarian leadership development programme in 24 months. 

Prerana leads from a strong understanding of the levers of the business and operations, her truly global outlook formed from living and working in 5 countries across 3 continents, as well as deep insights into organisational and individual behaviour informed by her training as a psychologist.

As a leader, Prerana believes in the Power of Purpose to align individual effort with the organisation’s goals, thereby unleashing discretionary effort amongst employees and enhancing meaning at work. Prerana has applied her insights in this area at the World Food Programme, where as she puts it, “Purpose is on tap, and yet taken for granted”, and created a compelling platform for the transformation program, with a particular focus on strengthening performance management.

Prerana’s work at the World Food programme has been focused on creating solutions for beneficiaries by increasing the capacity and capability in the organisation. She works closely with field based operational leaders, currently leading the structure and staffing of the emergency operation in Nigeria. Prerana has forged positive relationships with a variety of key stakeholders including key donors, other agencies, employee unions and the private sector.

Prerana has driven a fast, high quality and scaled transformation in a complex environment. She has put in place the associated infrastructure to enable this. This includes changing more than 20 UN policies in the last 3 years, which is 18 more than the previous 10 years, as well as building the UN’s first modern HR function.

Prerana has travelled extensively throughout her career, to connect with the beneficiary or consumer, operations, front line staff and managers. She gets tremendous energy and inspiration from these experiences, and brings insights from the “people who know” to bear on strategy and organisational change.