Video
By Dave Ulrich | January 21, 2021

Podcast: HR Competencies for the Future

Video
By Dave Ulrich | January 21, 2021

Podcast: HR Competencies for the Future

In this podcast, Dave Ulrich and Even Bolstad discuss HR competency models that have been a result of past HR Competency Studies and what they are looking forward to from the results of HR Competency Study Round 8.

Listen below to the podcast by HR Norge and register for your last chance to participate in HRCS Round 8 360s

Below is the full transcript of the podcast with Dave Ulrich and HR Norge.

Voiceover
This episode is brought to you by The RBL Group, the leader in HR and business transformation. To enroll in our latest and largest HR competency study visit us online at hrcs.rbl.net.

Even Bolstad
Welcome, Dave.

Dave Ulrich
What a privilege, again. I can't imagine anything I'd rather be doing than spending time in Norway with Even and HR Norge. This is just a thrill.

Even Bolstad
More than maybe other things, you are connected to the HR competency model or may I say models because you have been doing, through the years, a lot of research on which competencies drive effect for the end users. And first of all, who are end users of HR?

Dave Ulrich
We've discovered, and thank you for your question. First, we've discovered over the last 30 years that the competencies that drive outcomes change about 30% to 40% every five years. So, what one was successful with when we started our research in the late 1980s is no longer the same set of skills that we find today in the late 2019-2020. There's a 30 to 40% change. The second thing, and you said it very nicely is that it's not about the competence I have, it’s whether or not my competence will create an outcome. And we look at three outcomes. One is my personal effectiveness. Am I seen as an effective HR professional and what set of competencies drive that? Two, my ability to serve the business. How well do I serve customers and investors outside the business and which competencies drive those outcomes? Third, my ability to deliver business results. What we have found is the outcome of personal effectiveness, business delivery, and business results have separate competencies and we're continuing to explore those issues.

Even Bolstad
We are now going to start up the next round of HR competency study. In the last round you focused on three core competencies and you put it so nicely when you talked about strategic position paradox navigator and credible activist. From my perspective, the strategic positioner was the real new one, together with paradox navigator. We have elements of those two competencies from earlier models, but they were so focused. For me, that meant a lot in order to understand the concept of HR as a strategic position or function. Would you be kind to explain to me what you see in the future of strategic positioner because in a more ambiguous world the strategic role of HR is about to take in the bigger picture and transform it into HR actions. And when the picture is like it is today, that competency might be even more important in future. What do you think?

Dave Ulrich
When we started this study we talked about HR people should know the business.

What that meant was the language of the business. Can you read an income statement? Can you read a balance sheet? That's the foundation. Then we said, do you know how your company makes money? Then we said, do you know who your customers are, your investors? So, do you know, outside-in? Where we see strategic positioner continuing to evolve is the context. What are the changes in digital, in technology, in the social setting that changes what your company can and should be in the future. I think we'll see more of that. The content is king. You got to have good content, but the context is the kingdom in which the king resides. And I don't mean this to be gender-based but the content matters. How do we make money? But the context, or the kingdom, where we’ll compete to make money is going to vary. And so we see increasingly HR’s job, knowing that strategic context in which we work.

Even Bolstad
And when the strategic picture is becoming more and more difficult to handle, you are led into paradoxes. And you have to navigate into paradox navigator. Explain.

Dave Ulrich
The concept of paradox for me is just marvelous. it's not new. It's in Chinese, the yin and the yang. In a world of contextual change, as you said so brilliantly, when you can't predict the future from the present, what you've got to be able to do is have incredible personal agility to adapt, wherever that future may lead you. There are times we should be top-down times we should be bottom-up. There are times we should be diverse and encourage diversity and divergent thinking. There are times we should be focused and have convergent thinking. So, in the context where there's uncertainty and ambiguity, the ability to navigate paradox helps HR be personally effective. And we found in our research, that skill set for HR people has the biggest impact on business results. So a simple hypothetical: I’m in HR. I’m in a room and this group tends to reach convergence too fast. Here's the decision. Here's our solution. My job is to encourage divergence. Before we jump forward, what are some alternatives? What else could we consider? OR I'm in the same room and this group tends to be too divergent. Look at all these opinions! Here's what we could do. And we never focus. My job, then, is to be convergent. And so understanding paradox allows HR to step in, where the team may need help, depending on what their focus is.

Even Bolstad
Individuals matter and that also comes through HR professionals. You have to be credible and you have to be credible, with an attitude. The credible activist role has been with us for some time. And I think that is an excellent way of explaining that we need to mix competencies. What does it take to be credible and activist at the same time, and why do we have to be both?

Dave Ulrich
This is one of those great paradoxes. Think of a parent with a child. There are times to be loving and caring. I love my children. I care about my children. That's credibility. There are times with my child to be disciplinarian to say ”Don't run in the street, don't buy that house. Don't do some of this.” And learning to be tough love, if you will, is the same kind of thing as credible activists. HR should be credible, we should be trusted. We should have somebody else's view in mind. That credibility comes, though, when there are times we need to take a position. If we go down this strategic direction, we don't have the people to get there. We don't have the culture to get there. Here's the additional costs, the additional burden that the company will have to pay. And so then we become an activist. We become somebody who has a point of view, who takes a position. Knowing when to do that, to build credibility and take an activist position, is one of the things that helps HR people get invited to a meeting. Sometimes HR people have a false positive where they think, “Oh, I'm just nice and they really love me, they'll invite me.” They'll invite you, because you're nice. But they won't ask you to stay.

Because if all you do is a firm and you're credible and you’re warm and friendly all the time, they're going to go, “Why are you here? I want someone with an activist. I want somebody to take a point of view.I want someone to appropriately challenge my thinking so that we both learned together.” So that's where that credible activist is more than just a trusted advisor, personal credibility. That's where the credible activist idea begins to come in.

Even Bolstad
What is fascinating about HR, one of the things, is that it has all kinds of professionalism in it, It has to do with marketing. It has to do with economics. It has to do with everything and for each and every individual they can look at these, all these kinds of frameworks and think that “I'm not good enough. I'm not mastering it.” And your competency model and your research has focused on the qualities of the HR department, more than the HR individual the last round. And do you see that trend going on?

Dave Ulrich
Yes, the simple answer now, the substance behind it. When we measured business results, we looked at two different things. Look at your left hand with five fingers. That's talent, that's people, that's a skill set. Look at your right hand as a fist. That's the team. That's the system. When we looked at those two things, talent versus organization, people versus process, individual competence versus organizational capability, we try to figure out which of those two have more impact on business results. We were surprised. It's one of the beauties of data, with 1200 businesses and 30,000 people across those businesses, that the team, the right hand with a fist had four times the impact. Let me say it again, four times the impact on business results than the individual competencies. People matter. Teamwork matters even more. And so as we go to the next round of our research, and we are so honored to have HR Norge join us, we're going to look at what can an HR professional do to create that sense of teamwork that sense of organizational capability at every level in the company? Not just if you're a senior HR officer, but if you're a plant manager, if you're a division manager in HR, if you're a geography manager. What can HR people do to create organizational capabilities, our language, that are better than individual competencies at every level in the HR roles and functions?We don't know how to do that quite yet. That's what we want to study and get better insight on.

Even Bolstad
If you listen to this, and you are an HR officer at a small to medium-sized company, you might be even more frustrated because you don't have the resources that huge companies have. What is your best advice to them?

Dave Ulrich
Be delighted where you work. We have found that HR’s impact on business results is generally higher in small companies than big companies because in a small–medium enterprise with 100, or 300, or under 500 people, the HR person is on the business team, not just as an HR person, but as a business player. And so we have actually found that the impact of HR investments in talent and culture and leadership in smaller companies is actually, in some cases, higher than bigger companies. Now you don't have resources. One of the things we've learned is there are groups together and you could find that Council through HR Norge or others that do the administrative work of HR and especially with HR technology. The three major players SAP, Oracle, Workday, have technology solutions that allow small companies, even, not to be burdened by the legacy administrative challenges of HR.

Even Bolstad
If we're on to tech, what should HR bring to the table when it comes to tech because we, a lot of those who go into HR, they are not necessarily there because they are so good at tech. They come from other professions. This is maybe the weak point for many of us. What should we bring to the table?

Dave Ulrich
In the last few years, every few years in the HR field, there’s a new focus, it was on millennials and generations. It's been on performance management. It's been on quality. The latest, greatest focus is digital HR and there seemed to have been two major ways one is make HR more efficient through digitalization. So, take our existing HR practice, put it into a technology platform, either because through one of the big vendors or one of the apps. The second wave is innovation. Josh Bersin is the expert in this space and he said in the last three years, there have been over 2700 new HR apps. We're seeing incredible innovation in staffing and training and performance reviews and well being. I think efficiency and app innovation are really critical, but I think the next two waves of good HR digital is information and connection.

Hopefully, what HR digital can do is provide information and analytics. It is not just a scorecard or predictive analytics, but gives what we call guidance. So use the digital HR to guide choices that will help the business be more successful. And that guidance idea is one that we're starting to focus on.

If I'm 40 years old and I want to retire at age 60 with a certain sum of money, I'll go to a financial advisor who will give me guidance and say, “Given what you have today. Here's the amount of risk you need to take. Here's the amount of money you need to save so that you can reach your number at age 60.” I'm over 60 so I’m obviously not reached my number or I'm not working for the money but provide information through digital. And the next wave is connection.

Too often those who spend time in digital isolate themselves, we use technology and digitization to separate ourselves, rather than to connect us. I think legacy HR digital has been about efficiency and innovation, the first two waves. I think going forward. It needs to be even more about information to provide guidance and connection to build long term relationships.

Even Bolstad
Thank you very much, Dave, for sharing your insights. Thank you for being here.

Dave Ulrich
I'm not done. This is so fun to be with one of the pivotal thought leaders in Norway and HR. Even, what do you see as the future of HR in Norway? Where do you see HR being most helpful as Norway moves forward? What would you see?

Even Bolstad
The position of HR in Norway is that we talk about the triangle. We talk about the company. We talk about individuals and we talk about society. And in Scandinavian culture, I think that the societal part of HR is very strong.

And we haven't had that breach of trust we can see elsewhere between companies and individuals. So for me the strength of that triangle is very strong, and I think that the HR should definitely be navigated within that triangle and bind it together. And I think it's so important that the HR has a strong business perspective. At the same time, I'm not afraid that we will lose our individual perspective and I'm quite sure that those who are entering HR, they have a value base, which is very strongly linked to the individual. So, I think keeping those lines together between individuals and companies, but also see this in a societal context. I'm really afraid that we will not be inclusive enough in the years to come, and a society that will obviously be a challenge if companies start to sub-optimization. So for me that’s the whole and the and the and the concept of HR and it should be business focused, individual focused, and societal focused at the same time. And I think we have a good starting point. But to work on that triangle, I think it's highly important.

Dave Ulrich
I would totally agree. I think the individual, we in HR help individuals make their knowledge into productivity. For the companies, we build legacy capabilities, and in society. I really agree with your focus that we create social citizenship and that we create a context in our society where people can grow and thrive and have citizenship, but in the right setting.

Thank you. That was very helpful for me. Thank you.

The original podcast is available at HR Norge's website.

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Dave has published over 30 books on leadership, organization, and human resources. These ideas have shaped these how people and organizations value to customers, investors, and communities. He has consulted and done research with over half of the Fortune 200 and worked in over 80 countries.  He has received numerous public recognitions and lifetime awards for his work. 

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