US management guru Michael Porter told delegates that common HR approaches such as adopting best practice or core competencies usually do nothing to improve competitiveness.
In the keynote speech, Porter said many managers had wasted their time using such techniques because they had failed to align them with business strategy.
"We have too many companies locked in unwinnable competitions on best practice that are destroying their economic vitality," said Porter.
He argued firms should stop trying to do things better than competitors and concentrate on differentiating themselves.
Porter urged HR practitioners to elbow their way into the boardroom to influence strategy.
HR must also adapt to new labour markets over the next 20 years where the balance of power will shift to skilled employees, he added.