The Ulrich Model
The Ulrich model was created in 1997 by Dave Ulrich and has changed over the years however the basic idea has remained the same. To build a competitive HR Department given today’s business challenges and make it cost effective and accountable.
http://www.intangiblecapital.org/index.php/ic/article/view/263/223, Multiple-Roles Model for HR Management. (Ulrich, 1997) Dave Ulrich has proposed four key HR roles that HR champions must fulfil to make a business partnership a reality (Ulrich & Brockbank, 1997; Choi & Wan Ismail, 2008). Over the years Ulrich has adapted the model with the increasing changes and strategic needs of the Business. The model originally consisted of 4 key roles: The Strategic Partner has ‘Business Knowledge’ and recognises the various aspects of the business from its products to the services it offers, its competitors and the financials. The strategic goals and objectives need to be accountable and remain up to date on new business developments within and outside the organisation. This will gain credibility with the board and management within the business.
The Administration Expert is the easiest role for HR departments to account for. The employees of the business recognise the need for employee files to be maintained. The Administrator is responsible for producing legally compliant documentation and for maintaining important electronic data. There’s a requirement to process statistical information for the board is paramount and is recognised as one of the responsibilities of the HR Administrator. However HR departments should fight against the opinion that it is an administrative department and gain recognition as a strategic partner adding value to the business. The Change Agent is the role to facilitate and communicate the changes in the organisation. Employment law is ever changing and employees do not like change. The Change Agent is considered to protect the employees against any side effects of constant change which can have a negative effect on employees however can also have a positive effect.
The Employee Champion and The Change Agent roles can seem similar in arrears however the difference is that The Change Agent helps to prepare for and facilitate the changes and The Employee Champion fights for the employees. On occasions there can be conflicting opinions between employees and management and the argument for the Employee Champion can look tough however results which have a positive impact on employees will then in turn instil trust in HR. A healthy relationship between HR, its employees and the board give harmonisation throughout the organisation giving employees trust in the decisions of the HR Department. Both Manager’s and HR professionals are responsible for becoming HR champions and we are no longer on our own nor solely responsible for the department. It involves the business’s broader employees consisting of individuals within the organisation which are dedicated to investing in HR practices to integrate organisational growth and deliver results. 2.2
The Ulrich model needs professionals who have experience of the business and its strategies to succeed. If we want to be strategic, if we truly believe that we can add value, is this best done through the implementation of a model that you feel you need to do to change your perception and “status” within the organisation? Or is it best done by understanding your business, talking to the people and providing interventions that suit your culture, industry and circumstances? I think we need to spend as much time out in the organisation learning the business and help to anticipate problems ranging from recruitment to retention to employee relations. It’s HR’s responsibility to learn the business not the business’s responsibility to learn HR. Top of Form
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Ulrich claims that organisations have failed to implement their own models successfully due to insufficient knowledge of the business. In addition communication throughout the organisation and HR must be sufficient to maintain the relationship.
http://www.personneltoday.com/articles/15/04/2008/45340/dave-ulrichs-model-defence.htm I believe the Ulrich model doesn’t fit all organisations, large or small and that one model does not suite all, no matter how it’s presented. For example the company I work for which consists of 214 staff across the UK, Ireland, USA & India have a small HR Department consisting of Head of HR, myself as Advisor and an Administrator. Clearly there is no room for the Ulrich Model to succeed satisfactorily. Head of HR works on the strategic side of the Business and having run her own Business previously and having worked in the IT sector for many years, is equipped with the tools to do. The interests, skills and knowledge needed for becoming a full-fledged strategic partner are beyond many HR professionals as they have to focus on not only the day to day administration within the department but also undertake talent and organisation audits that could be above the capabilities of some HR professionals. Some HR practitioners simply don’t know how to proceed into the role of Strategic Partner and such individuals need to understand the framework, have the logic and knowledgeable skills of the business to grow into the role.
I believe for the Ulrich model to work; it is best implemented in a larger organisation. For example, defence and aerospace company BAE Systems undertook a serious commitment to enhance the competencies of its HR professionals and implement the Ulrich Model. As a result of the developmental programme, HR’s perceived impact on business performance increased dramatically (the percentage of line managers rating HR as four or five in business effectiveness increased by 120%.) Proof the Ulrich Model can work with the correct implementation. The Ulrich model consistently fairs better in larger Organisations and indeed in a number of civil service departments, for example; the MoD, DWP, Department of Transport and HMRC. The solution is that HR professionals need to learn the business inside out. They must know it well enough not only to do better but also to be able to contribute to the strategic decision-making processes of the senior management team.
The second solution is that much of the admin work will need to be outsourced or digitalised for electronic processing. In addition and for consistency you need a good CEO who is aware of the employee’s needs. As a result this gives the opportunity for the CEO to have responsibility and not just oversight for the major transformation processes and the organisational development which is a necessary requirement. The Board and line manager’s need to understand their part and the role as it’s implicit they buy in to the greater responsibility of HR issues to succeed. For the HRBP Ulrich describes to continue succeeding more HR professionals need to make their way onto the Board. The influence in the Boardroom will increase the profile of a HR business partner and the demand for HR skills in a chief executive is increasing. Finance and sales trained chief executives are much higher in numbers.
Ulrich says among other things, HR directors haven’t been quick enough to grasp the essentials of business management. Often, he adds, “their eyes glaze over when you mention the numbers”. Not exactly a ringing endorsement, either of the profession’s capacity to increase its profile, or of HR directors’ ability to step up to the chief executive role.
http://www.director.co.uk/magazine/2011/3_march/hr-director_64_07.html The reorganisation of an entire department is not something that can be carried out overnight. Shifting to a HR business partner model requires a certain amount of up-skilling and development as I have described, and a large amount of adaptation to each individual business. It also requires HR professionals who have experience outside HR. As Business Partners, we have to recognise our employees as ‘customers’, and therefore have an understanding of the customer’s business needs.
Website: http://www.goingforhr.be/extras/web-specials/hr-according-to-dave-ulrich accessed March 2013 Website: http://www.hrmagazine.co.uk/hr/features/1014777/the-business-partner-model-lessons-learned accessed March 2013 Website: http://www.director.co.uk/magazine/2011/3_march/hr-director_64_07.html accessed March 2013 Book: Ulrich & Brockbank, 1997; Choi & Wan Ismail, 2008 Website: http://www.cipd.co.uk/NR/rdonlyres/6ED61983-0123-4885-AA59-51505F553297/0/9781843983149_sc.pdf accessed March 2013 Website: http://www.xperthr.co.uk/blogs/employment-intelligence/2012/11/whats-next-after-the-hr-busine.html accessed March 2013 Book: MARCHINGTON, M. and WILKINSON, A. (2008) Human resource management at work. 4th ed. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
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