The Blueprint For Better HR

Since the millenium, HR has undergone several bouts of navel gazing, and its current introspective phase of demanding what it has to do to get in the boardroom is the latest phase. From the failed business partner model heralded by Ulrich to today's "Evidence-based HR", the profession has the right aims - but lacks the people and the skills to align itself fully to business strategy.

And HR is not lacking for value. Evidence-based HR allows human resources professionals to use metrics that show where they are adding value - and where they are not. It allows them to finally put a pounds and pence (or dollars and cents) figure on what they actually do, and the value they bring - and that's a long way from the pre-Ulrich days.
Ulrich's model called for HR professionals to become business partners, but equally called for HR professionals to break out from human resources itself and gain experience in the wider business. What Ulrich's model really needed was marketers, sales people, financial accountants, programmers and developers to become HR professionals - and it never happened. Instead, the model's proposed outsourcing of HR to Shared Service Centres drove value but provided a thin talent pipeline of individuals trained in transactional HR and little more.
Even Ulrich himself admitted that the business partner model has failed, although he correctly points out that it wasn't the model that was wrong - it was the people in place. Put simply - HR wasn't good enough for the new model.
This is where the CEO comes in. HR has come a long way but it needs your help - it has the people data, it has the business metrics that really inform you, and it should have the skills to really partner with people around the business and start driving talent management strategies and true value-add activities. But it doesn't have the people.
If the Ulrich model is to work, and if Evidence-based HR is ever to come to something, then CEOs need to take HR by the scruff of the collar and insist on wholesale changes. One leading outsourcer appointed its former Head of Corporate Sales to the post of Chief People Officer in the UK. Why? Because they needed someone with a commercial viewpoint to head up the department. What appeared to be one of the more leftfield appointments turned out to be one of the most commercially sensible moves in human resources for many years.
HR needs to reinvent itself - and it is more than capable of doing so, but needs some marketing glamour. It needs solid commercial grounding, so a proactive CEO will recognise the value it can bring, and bend HR to his or her will. Ulrich's model will work with the right people in place: business-minded, commercially oriented people who can apply the lessons they have learned in the wider business world to truly add value to HR. And the HR community would welcome that with open arms.


Gareth's background is in marketing HR and Payroll outsourcing services in the UK. As an experienced digital marketer, he has extensive experience in search marketing, direct marketing and data.

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