Business guru Dave Ulrich urges HR to focus on outcomes to add value

Leading business guru Dave Ulrich has called on HR to be more in tune with business issues to deliver real value.

Speaking at a Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC) annual international conference based in Rome, Ulrich told more than 400 HR practitioners to focus on outcomes – ie, what they deliver for their organisation and key customers, rather than what they do inside.

He urged HR to have an opinion on external changes in technology, economic trends and demographics, and to understand their chief executive’s expectations of the business.

“The challenge in HR is not what we do, but what we deliver how we add value,” he said. “For decades we have been too focused on what we do. The world of HR for the future should not start with HR it should start with outcomes of HR.”

Ulrich urged HR to ask how they can use the knowledge they have to help their business leaders.

He told the audience that instead of starting a discussion with chief executives on training, staffing, recruitment and so on, it is better to start with the outcome – how what HR does adds value to the customers, which ultimately should shape the business agenda.

“It’s important to get customer and investor focus – not what HR thinks should happen, but what’s the external reality facing this company in the next 10 years?”

A worldwide PwC survey out this week confirmed that 89% of 1,150 chief executives polled said working on people management issues was one of their top priorities.

Yet just 43% of chief executives believed their HR department was capable of securing the right talent.

“CEOs need help with people issues, stuff we in HR should be good at. But I still see HR people saying: ‘I don’t know what to say [to my CEO] – I’ll wait until staffing issues come up’. HR needs a point of view about business issues. The barrier is not line managers – the barrier is us in HR.”

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