the rise of hr: staying ahead of the game

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Many experts agree: the human resource industry is at a crossroads and there’s no slowing the pace of change. Seeking to understand further the trends and challenges HR is facing, University of Michigan professor and bestselling author Dave Ulrich, along with Bill Schiemann, Libby Sartain and the HR Certification Institute, posed the question to the HR world: What do HR professionals need to know or do to be effective in today’s and tomorrow’s business world?

From their crowdsourcing effort emerged 73 essays, with perspectives from a cross-section of global thought leaders. Dave Ulrich led our latest HRCI certified webinar to share the highlights of these essays and give insights on how to stay ahead.


What is the context HR is working through right now?  How do external conditions affect strategy?

Strategic leaders need to look at HR in relation to the entire corporate strategy, turning away from the usual viewpoint of strategy as a mirror to guide, but rather a window from which to view trends in social causes, technology advances, the economy, and politics. Ulrich encouraged leaders to look at HR from the outside in. “The real customers of HR are the customers of the business.”

How does this view affect our HR practices? Some examples shared included:

  • Staffing – Are we the employer of choice of employees our customers would choose?
  • Communication – Do our communication tools link employees and customers?
  • Leadership – Do we have a leadership brand connected to customer expectations?


What are the outcomes of HR? What do we bring to the table in a meeting of senior leaders?

Ulrich outlines three areas where HR leads the discussion:

  • The connection to talent—employee engagement and satisfaction
  • A workforce plan where HR leaders are the architects
  • The culture development process: The ability to shift from an event to a pattern and ultimately to an identity

In providing guidance on where to focus time among these three areas, Ulrich pointed out how time and again, from sports to high performing teams, talent wins about 15-20% of the time. Leadership and organization matter the most.


What are the insights HR needs to provide? How does HR provide these unique insights through analytics?

Data in HR is about more than survey results and attendance numbers. It’s about using data to make better decisions. Focus on the past through strong reporting, track the present through a comprehensive dashboard, and prepare for the future by forecasting and identifying trends.


How do we govern HR? How does the HR department reinvent itself? What is our HR brand?

Begin with a hard look at the workflows and structure of the HR department:

  • Separate the transactional from the strategic work
  • Match the HR organization to the logic and structure of the business organization
  • Once the structure matches, build effective relationships
    • Do we have a common purpose with other departments?
    • Do we respect differences?


How can professionals learn and grow and become better at what they do?

What are the competencies (that will drive results and have impact) of good HR professionals? Through decades of research and studies, Ulrich shared the strengths that make the most impact:

  • A strategic positioner
  • A credible activist…having a point-of-view
  • Build capability within the employee population
  • Manage change
  • Be an innovator and integrator
  • Technology / information proponent

To evaluate where you are on the continuum, ask yourself:

1 – What do I want? What are my strengths and values? What matters most to me?

2 – Who do I serve? Recognize relationships that matter most. Give back, foster appreciation. Build the next generation of leaders.

3 – How do I build? Create organizations that institutionalize our desires, through systems and cultures.

Ulrich’s final challenge? Create something that outlasts you. Focus on what HR can do to ensure a much better future.

For access to the remarkable, one-of-a-kind book, download The Rise of HR; you can also access the webinar recording here

By angie haugen
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