Dave Ulrich believes that human resources (HR) leaders are the real architects of culture in an organisation. Not chief executive officers.
Ulrich, the Rensis Likert Professor at the Ross School of Business, University of Michigan, and a man voted as the No. 1 management educator and guru by Business Week, has long championed the idea that HR can play a bigger role in directly influencing business results.
One of the ways is through providing a framework for culture within the company. Culture is said to be one of the key enablers of thought leadership, which in turns forms the base of Ulrich’s Leadership Capital Index, a pyramid that he says is topped off with financial performance.
In a recent interview with The Leaderonomics Show, the author of The Leadership Capital Index: Realizing the Market Value of Leadership points out that HR professionals have great opportunities to influence business success as they are the designers for the blueprint of corporate culture.
Ulrich says: “HR is more than just being the policy, the police and the administrators when it comes to people. HR leaders can determine outcomes. Their tools provide solutions that allow organisations to have the right talent, the right leaders and the right capabilities for the business to win in the marketplace.”
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But before HR professionals can be taken seriously by senior business leaders, there are a few things that need to be addressed. According to Ulrich, here are three areas that HR practitioners can improve on before they design the blueprint for culture:
1. Get to know the business
Business depends a lot on having good talent. But in order to hire and develop people so that they become more valuable to the organisation, HR leaders should clearly understand the strategic cycles of other divisions and be clear of what they can offer.
In the old days, HR would want to get to the “table”, where business decisions are made. Now that they have been invited to join, the challenge is knowing what to contribute to stay!
2. Be a credible activist
In the old days, many believed that HR’s primary role was to keep the organisation compliant with laws and regulations. It still is, but the modern reality is that good HR leaders help the organisation make good business decisions that match the risk tolerance (or appetite!) of the organisation.
Ulrich insists that HR people need to work on “personal proficiency” more than anything else – a dimension of leadership that includes character and integrity in addition to physical, social, emotional and intellectual skills.
He adds that those in HR should work on being trusted, being accurate and having a point of view.
3. Navigate paradoxes with aplomb
Every business has tension, be it long-term or short-term, top-down, bottom-up, inside or outside. Good HR leaders learn to navigate those tensions and still exercise a talent on focusing on key outcomes. “When you do that, you end up helping the business to be successful,” assures Ulrich.
The HR of today understands and solves people-related problems in organisations, while making tough people choices to assure business results. The role of HR is expanding and evolving; in a world of increased volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (or what we know it as VUCA), senior leaders will need to rely on HR to provide stability by designing the blueprint to manage its organisational culture well.
HR’s measure of success used to come from delivering the practices related to managing people. Today, they are the ones delivering business results, one effective employee at a time.
Watch the full video interview of Dave Ulrich on The Leaderonomics Show here.
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