Interview Dave Ulrich: This is a great time to be in HR!

Dave Ulrich is a university professor, author, speaker, management coach... and lecturer at this year's edition of HR Days conference organized by MojPosao!

In a short intervju, the 'father of modern HR', commented on the current trends in the HR world and revealed why is this a great time to be and work in HR?

I am honored to attend and participate in this conference. Business in this changing social, technological, political, economic, and demographic world requires new sources of competitiveness. Access to capital, creation of innovative products/services, and even technological advances increasingly rely on talent, leadership ,and organization to make them work. Competitors are more readily able to copy access to financial capital, strategic agendas, and operating systems; they are less able to copy the talent, leadership, and organization work that creates a unique ability to respond to business changes. HR becomes the primary architect (now owner) of talent, leadership, and organization factors that impact employee well being and strategy realization inside a company and customer, investor, and community outcomes outside the company. So, it is a GREAT time to be in HR to deliver real and sustainable value.

It's probably fair to say that the impact of the HR departments on company operations has never been so large and significant as it has been for the last few years. How would you describe the role of modern HR?

HR can include the HR department, practices, and professionals. HR departments become the organization unit that shapes how to govern for talent, leadership, and organization. An HR department’s effectiveness is not about efficiency, functional excellence, or even realizing strategic goals, but about creating sustained customer and investor results. HR practices are the tools in HR around people (e.g., staffing, training, careers), performance (appraisal and rewards), information (employee surveys, communication), and work (organization design, policies) that move from isolated processes to integrated solutions that deliver value to all stakeholders. HR professional are the individuals charged with insights that deliver real value, which requires new competencies for those working in HR. Collectively, HR departments, practices, and people offer unique insights that create value for all stakeholders.

Of course, there is always room for improvement. What do you think are the greatest challenges facing HR today, and how can HR bring new value to company’s business?

I see two major trends for HR to deliver value to all stakeholders. First is a more outside/in logic, where HR work focuses not only on inside the organization employees and strategies, but on customers, investors, and communities. It is not enough to be the employer of choice; one needs to be the employer of choice of employees customers would choose. It is not enough to describe a culture, but to have the ‘right’ culture that leads to increase customer and investor results. This same logic would apply to all HR agendas … hiring, training, compensation, leadership etc. An outside/in view of HR makes HR even a more valued contributor to business. Second, for decades HR has been associated with ‘talent’ (workforce, individual competence, flow of people). Our research shows that the ‘organization’ has 4 times the impact on business results and individual talent; so HR should not only deliver great people, but great organization capabilities, cultures, processes, and systems that go beyond the individual employee. Individuals may be champions, but teams win championships. Of course, there are a lot of HR innovations in technology, analytics, roles/responsibilities, etc. that drive these two major trends, but I see these as the macro trends.

How do you envision the future of HR in the years to come?

I am an optimist. I think that there are incredible opportunities for HR to step into the business value chain. And, I see incredible HR professionals doing so in leading companies. This is NOT about “HR for HR” but about HR for business results. The best thing HR can give an employee today is a company that wins in the marketplace. Without winning in the marketplace, many of the legacy (and good and noble) HR values (e.g., opportunities to learn, meaning, fairness, good teammates, etc.) won’t exist. This is a new agenda for HR, both challenging and opportunistic.