The conversation kicked off with a focus on the how the HRBP has evolved, not only in the last 18 months, but in the years that have passed since the role grew since the 1990s. Dave summarised that now, more than ever, is the time for HR: “the pandemic, the social injustice, the political toxicitiy, the technological revolution — all of those things put people at the forefront.” However, Ulrich was also keen to point out the critical role played by the organization itself in driving business success. “Organization has more impact on business results than people”, he said.
You can listen to the full conversation here below:
Continuing to address one of the main HRBP objectives of creating value, Ulrich pointed out the importance of keeping the customer in mind not as a separate consideration from employee experience, but as two parts of a common aspiration. Leading with the mindset that “our people are our customers’ most important asset”, Dave further explored this idea of looking at company culture from the outside-in as “the customers of HR are the customers of the company”. Are we hiring people that will provide a better customer experience; that our investors will give us a premium in stock price for; that will help our community reputation?
“We talked about employee motivation, satisfaction, commitment, engagement, but when I looked at the experience almost none of it talked about customers. In our work, we’ve always said it’s not just about the employee experience, it is the employee experience, so that customers will have a better experience, so that investors will have more confidence, so that communities will have a higher reputation.” Witnessing and acting in line with this interrelation between all stakeholders is foundational to the HRBP in the New World of Work program.
When asked how to balance the needs of the business with the needs of the people, Ulrich directed us to think instead of the word ‘paradox’ — or two things that don’t seem to belong in the same room together. “A company has to be short term and long term,” Ulrich outlined, “it has to focus inside-out and outside-in. It has to be top-down and bottom-up,” adding that, based on data, the number one skill for HR to drive business results was the “great challenge” of navigating paradoxes. When it comes to this challenge, HR certainly has their work cut out for them: “We’ve got to care about the individual. I’ve also got to care about business results. And how do I navigate that inherent tension? It’s not always an easy answer,” Ulrich said. However, Ulrich remains confident that “the opportunity for HR is greater than it’s ever been” because HR is in the global dialogue more than ever in tempering this balance in today’s times of rapid transformation and uncertainty.
Moving Beyond Myths
Week Four of the program is all about dispelling common HR myths. We asked Dave for his thoughts on some of these assumptions and how best to move past them. The first of these was that “HR needs to get to the table. That’s a myth. We’re at the table, we’re in the discussion,” Dave said. A second was the myth that HR is just about people. “It’s not just about people. It’s about people, organization and leadership.”
A third myth? That HR comes with only deep HR expertise. “That’s another paradox,” Dave explained. “We have deep HR expertise so that we help the business be successful. I think those legacies [and] images of HR are hard to change…Some of those legacy beliefs are still there. But we’ve got to move on. We’ve got to show we create value for your company and we will help make things happen.”
Separating Signal from Noise
Lastly, we asked Dave to talk about the key HR skill of ‘separating signal from noise.’ What’s meant by this exactly? As Dave put it, “there’s an enormous abundance of information — a tsunami of ideas and an ocean of insight.” Going forward, an effective HRBP will be able to pick out what’s useful and what’s distraction. “What are the signals out of all of that information that we can mobilize that will help our business succeed in the marketplace?” as Dave put it. “It’s not just the best practice, it’s guidance to doing the practice that helps me mobilize information to connect business and human capability.”
We look forward to welcoming back Dave Ulrich alongside a panel of leading experts to speak on the course, including Peter Dolenc, Principal, PeterD & Company, Michael Kim, Head of HR APAC, Spotify, Saurabh Nigam, VP, Human Capital, Omidyar Network, and Sally McNamara, APAC Director | Future of Work Advisor, HSM.