Management guru Dave Ulrich will headline the AHRI National Convention in 2015. AHRI chairman Peter Wilson sat down with the university professor, author and management coach to talk about the state of HR globally and how to create effective leaders.
Peter Wilson: Dave, it has been two years since you last visited Australia, which was for the 2012 World HR Congress. What new directions have you taken in your research into HR and leadership since then?
Dave Ulrich: In HR, we are just beginning our seventh round of the HR competency study where we will partner with HR associations around the world to define competencies for HR in the future. We are likely to include a greater focus on information with a better understanding of analytics, big data and scorecards.
In the leadership space, we wrote about how leaders sustain what they should know and do, and I have also just drafted a new book about how investors can assess the quality of leadership within their organisation.
PW: What changes have you observed globally in the development of the HR profession over the past 5–10 years?
DU: Globally, HR professionals are ‘at the table’ and now need to be clear about what to say and do while there. We have summarised the unique outcomes or contributions of HR into three issues: talent, leadership and capability. HR should bring insights into each of these areas.
I still see HR professionals too often lacking in the self-confidence to make things happen. HR issues are often foremost on business leader agendas and HR teams have more opportunities to make a difference than ever.
PW: In your new book, Leadership Sustainability, you introduce the code START ME – Simplicity, Time, Accountability, Resources, Tracking, Melioration and Emotion. Where did you derive these seven characteristics?
DU: We were very interested in how leaders made sure they did what they knew they should. In much of our work, we synthesise research from many literatures to distil it into specific keys for making things happen. We looked at change, derailment, habit and other literatures to derive what we felt leaders should know and do to make desired change happen.
We are finding that there are differences between countries to be an effective leader, but there are some common principles that need to be applied universally. The challenge for leaders to implement what they know they should remains an issue for leaders in any setting.
PW: In Leadership Sustainability, you state that effective leadership depends on the interaction of leadership attributes and stakeholder results. In our own journey of surveying HR leaders in the recent updating of AHRI’s Model of Excellence and the competencies therein, our profession has guided us to distinguish that credibility comes from “who I am” before I show “what I know” and then apply that in “what I do”. How do you see this underpinning of personal credibility to HR leadership competency demonstration?
DU: We found in our study of HR competencies that personal credibility was critical to HR professionals being seen as trustworthy and effective. The credible activist includes the ability for HR people to know themselves, but we also found that it includes the ability to take a stand and be proactive.
In addition to that, it is the most important competence domain to build personal effectiveness, yet it is not the most important in driving business results. In a sense, we found that high credible activists get HR into the strategy discussions, but then HR has to have unique insights once given the opportunity to speak.
PW: The world of HR went into a spin recently with the news that the United States’ Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) was severing the connection with the HR Certification Institute (HRCI). It’s not clear what the new SHRM-driven regime will look like, but it appears to be assessed through an examination of knowledge (what you know), and not observance of a competency set of skills. How do you view these events?
DU: Tragic! In the changing business world we live in, we know that collaboration matters. Being able to work together as partners is key to success. We in HR should be modelling this partnership, not violating it. We have enough major issues for the HR profession to face in order to move forward, which we should be focusing on, rather than quibbling within our profession about who does what.
This article is an edited version. The full article was first published in the November 2014 issue of HRMonthly magazine as ‘HR’s state of change’. AHRI members receive HRMonthly 11 times per year as part of their membership. Find out more about AHRI membership here.