The Higher Ed Workplace Blog

HR as Integrator, Architect and Coach? 6 Questions to Launch the Transformation

This article was contributed by Barbara Butterfield, an honorary life member of CUPA-HR and a consultant at Sibson Consulting. Dave Ulrich was a keynote speaker at this week’s CUPA-HR Annual Conference and Expo 2013 in Las Vegas. 

When it comes to HR transformation, one name stands out above the rest – Dave Ulrich, a professor of business at the University of Michigan and a partner at the RBL Group. Over his decades-long career, Ulrich has conducted thousands of hours of research on how HR can best contribute to organizational excellence; in other words, how HR can transform from transactional to strategic.

Among the many questions Ulrich has explored, and that you should also be asking yourself, are:

  • What would your clients and constituents say about your HR services and the degree to which those services help them (not you) to be successful?
  • Do you and the HR group on your campus manage talent (do we really know what that means) or do we fill vacancies, audit positions, administer ACB compensation and make sure transactions and compliance expectations are met? These things are important, but are they the important essence of our roles?
  • Have we used technology and process design to reduce energy spent in transactions allowing greater contribution to the needs of our clients?
  • Are we contributing architects of the organizational culture or simply responding to events rather than shaping respectful collaborations?
  • Have we organized to meet the needs of our colleges and universities and in a manner responsive to the organization of the whole enterprise? Are you organized to contribute to organizational success? Is that how your institution would describe you?
  • Most of all, do we integrate our services so we provide an entire solution for our clients or do we address their problems as one-at-a-time fixes?

When I think about the competencies HR needs to provide as integrated services, I am confused when I see task-specific skills listed in the Bona Fide Occupational Qualifications (BFOQs) that we solicit. Today’s HR professionals need to be well-versed in a variety of areas, including technology planning and process design. We need to be integrators, architects and coaches. But how will we articulate these needs and fulfill them?

And what about context? Over the last couple of years, I’ve heard the conversation move from basics to “a seat at the table;” from the seat to outcomes; from outcomes to metrics; from equity to engagement; from competencies to partnerships; from good times to hard times financially; from stable services to transformation; and now to building a culture of respect and accountability.

Take a moment to watch this short video of Ulrich articulating “7 Trends in HR.” Where is your HR organization on this spectrum of evolution? Are you recruiting the right kind of HR talent with the right skill sets to help move your HR unit toward “strategic?” If you’re not there yet, how can you get there?

Dave Ulrich’s keynote presentation at the CUPA-HR Annual Conference and Expo was sponsored by VALIC.