Economy

HR function should be viewed from the outside in: Dave Ulrich

Our Bureau Bangalore | Updated on November 18, 2011 Published on November 18, 2011

Mr Dave Ulrich, Prof. Ross School of Management, University of Michigan addressing at the National HR conference 2011 in Bangalore on Friday. - Photo: G R N Somashekar   -  Business Line

The human resource function needs to be redefined and has to view itself from the outside in rather than be focused on internal policies and strategies. Only then will it be more relevant for a firm's customers and also help top leadership achieve key objectives, said Mr Dave Ulrich, well-known author and professor at the Ross School of Management, University of Michigan.

Delivering the keynote address on the theme ‘Securing the Future of the HR Profession' at the National HRD Network (NHRDN) Conference 2011 here today, Mr Ulrich said, “The world is changing so rapidly, so how do we link HR through strategy to the outside world, so that we can be advocates of change?”

What does HR from the outside in mean? Mr Ulrich illustrated with a few examples. Many firms talk about being an employer of choice. “Let me move that to an outside perspective. You want to be the employer of choice but if you are not hiring employees consistent with customer expectations, you're hiring the wrong people.”

He referred to training programmes, but “are we linking them to customers, are we co-creating the training with customers? Are they participating in those programmes?” When a facilitator teaches, employees will ignore, but when a customer teaches, they will listen, he emphasised.

Are we executing compensation with customers in mind? Mr Ulrich posed the question to the audience of approximately 1,500 delegates attending the conference. He said he is a regular flier on Delta Airlines with almost 14 million miles under his belt. “Delta told me, here's 100 units of bonus money, each of $100. The airline said it has taken out two per cent of bonus money and given it to customers who travel a lot. When you see good service from an employee, the customer can call and give that coupon. What an idea, the customer is connected now to the bonus pool,” explained Mr Ulrich. As an aside, to much mirth, he added, “I make sure the coupons are in my pocket where everybody can see it and I get good service!”

Value statements

Mr Ulrich referred to value statements issued by companies. “But, how have we linked internal value system to our customers?” he asked. He said these statements can be taken to a customer and three questions asked: Are these statements important to you; what should the company do to live those values, and “if we do live them will you buy more from us? Suddenly the HR professional is connected to the outside customer.”

He urged HR pros to go on sales calls to key customers and build relationships with them. HR, he said, has to connect with all stakeholders as only then can top leadership's objectives and business strategy can be achieved.

Published on November 18, 2011
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