How much has Ulrich's model changed?
Difficult to believe but now, in 2016 it’s 20 years since Dave Ulrich published Human Resource Champions. There is no question that this was a key contribution to taking the function forward and his three-legged model has been adopted worldwide. This series of three articles is not trying to pick it to pieces or reinvent it but to share some of the learning from our research and experience of how to implement it more effectively. Like so many apparently simple models we believe the model is sound but that understanding the complexities that lie behind it, and implementing it in a way that is relevant to each organisation specific context, are the real challenges.
In adopting an organisational model for HR the danger is that we believe there is a one size fits all approach. We look for one model that meets all needs, or look at external best practice in admired companies to decide what model to apply. The problem is that every organisation faces a unique set of challenges in terms of scale, culture, maturity, strategy, market, sector, geography, customer needs etc. Each organisation needs to look at its own context and develop a model that meets its own different challenges.
The drive to look at how HR is organised has in many cases been positive but it has often been a defensive reaction to pressures both from within organisations and from external criticism (see the recent article in HBR ‘It’s time to blow up HR and build something new’ as an example). Such a defensive reaction rarely produces an effective response as it tends to focus on cost and efficiency rather than looking at overall effectiveness, especially how HR needs to be organised to meet the changing needs of the specific organisation and the environment in which it operates.