Mar 122014
 
Future of HR, leadership and business
Professor Dave Ulrich, the most influential international thinker in HR and author of over 25 books, talks about his proposed visit to Colombo on April 30 and the key topics he plans to address in Colombo.

By Dinesh Weerakkody

Q: Dave you are scheduled to be in Colombo on April 30 to address the HR community in the morning and the CEOs in the evening? What are the topics you plan to address?
Organisations today compete not just by having financial, strategy and operational capabilities but by building competitive organisation capabilities. These organisation capabilities come from talent, leadership and culture. Business leaders are ultimately responsible for managing these organisation capabilities and HR professionals should be thought partners to make this happen.
I will review the ideas and specific tools for building strong organisations as CEOs, business leaders and HR professionals.

Q: Dave you are scheduled to be in Colombo on April 30 to address the HR community in the morning and the CEOs in the evening? What are the topics you plan to address? Sri Lanka is looking to create a knowledge hub to attract and retain the best and the brightest talent in the region and to attract FDI. Would you like to share some experiences based on your recent work in Singapore?
A county wins in the global FDI marketplace by having a focus or uniqueness, just like a company in the consumer marketplace. For example, Ireland focuses on manufacturing/operations, Dubai on tourism and financial services, Switzerland on pharmaceuticals and Singapore on human capital insight. The Singapore government, industry, academia and labour pooled resources to create a human capital leadership institute that would provide knowledge about talent and leadership to the region.   

Q: Dave you are scheduled to be in Colombo on April 30 to address the HR community in the morning and the CEOs in the evening? What are the topics you plan to address? You have had exposure to M&A in the US, what are some of the business challenges surrounding M&As?
In the past most M&As failed because the culture was not taken into account and 30 to 40 percent of M&As reached their expected cost of capital. When culture is taken into account before the M&A, success rates get into the 50 percent range.  These cultural audits look at the cultures of each of the merged companies and try to reconcile them. But to get to the 60 to 70 percent range, leaders need a new definition of culture.  Instead of looking at culture as values, norms, expectations inside a company, they should start the dialogue on culture from the outside in … what do we want the new firm (post M&A) to be known for by those who will use our services? This new culture based on the resources of the newly merged companies then endures because it is tied to and drives customer value.

Q: Dave you are scheduled to be in Colombo on April 30 to address the HR community in the morning and the CEOs in the evening? What are the topics you plan to address? The HR profession for many years has focused on the internal customers rather than delivering value to the external customer. Has this changed?
HR roles and expectations are changing. In recent years, HR has connected with business strategy. Strategy was a mirror which reflected what HR professionals should know and do. But the mirror focused inside the company, not outside. Now, instead of a mirror, HR sees a window into the outside world and anticipates that world so that the organisation can respond.  Instead of being “employer of choice” HR needs to be “employer of choice of employees and customers”.  An external perspective means that HR understands both general business conditions (social, technological, political, economic, demographic trends) but also expectations of external stakeholders (customers, investors, communities, regulators).  Turning these external expectations into internal actions brings sustained value to a company.

Q: Dave you are scheduled to be in Colombo on April 30 to address the HR community in the morning and the CEOs in the evening? What are the topics you plan to address? Talking of talent, what are leading global companies doing to uncover distinctive talent contributions and deploy talent more effectively to create lasting value?
Instead of starting with key people, great companies are starting with requirements of key positions. Once position requirements are defined through an outside in perspective, key people can be matched through staffing, training or development.  In addition, organisations are looking for people who are fully engaged, not just by their behaviours but by their hearts and minds. This work is in our book ‘The Why of Work’.

Q: Dave you are scheduled to be in Colombo on April 30 to address the HR community in the morning and the CEOs in the evening? What are the topics you plan to address? How can organisational culture play a vital role in shaping talent and also to manage the identity of the organisation in the mind of their key stakeholders?
Culture has often been thought of as norms, values, expectations and behaviours of employees inside an organisation. We like to think of defining culture (and leadership) through external expectations. What does a company want to be “known for” by key customers, investors, and others? How does this external identity (or firm brand) become woven into the organisation. When this happens, the culture is not just a value set but an incredible valuable value set because customers will pay a premium for it.

Q: Dave you are scheduled to be in Colombo on April 30 to address the HR community in the morning and the CEOs in the evening? What are the topics you plan to address? What will the HR profession look like in five years and what are your key predictions regarding the future of HR in a business?
A discussion of the future of HR does not start with the function of HR but with the requirements of businesses. Increasingly, businesses succeed and/or fail based less on access to capital, unique strategies or operational excellence but on how to create organisation capabilities that enable these business outcomes to occur. HR becomes the architect and anthropologist to identify and create these organisation capabilities. This shifts HR from an administrative provider function to a thought partner function.

Q: Dave you are scheduled to be in Colombo on April 30 to address the HR community in the morning and the CEOs in the evening? What are the topics you plan to address? Finally, what competencies should HR professionals harness to face the emerging business challenges and for the success of the HR profession?
We have studied HR competencies for 25 years and seen the evolution of the profession. In our most recent (2012) study, we have found data from over 20,000 HR professionals and line managers and found six competence domains:

  •     HR innovator and integrator:  Able to offer integrated HR solutions to business problems.
  •     Capability builder:  Able to diagnose capabilities and shape and evolve a culture that matches customer expectations and strategy.
  •     Strategic positioner:  Able to position the organisation in the business context and with key internal and external stakeholders.
  •     Credible activist:  Able to build relationships of trust with line managers and employees and to take a proactive point of view about the business.
  •     Change champion:  Able to initiate and sustain change.
  •     Technology proponent: Able to use information to make informed decisions.
     

The work is referenced in my two books:  HR from the Outside In and Global HR Competencies.

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