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Labels, models and initiatives do HR no favours

Posted by Steve Read on December 12, 2011

I had great fun in London on Tuesday this week at a networking event. I was sharing the speaker slot with Michael Jenkins, CEO at Roffey Park and the event was titled ‘Future Proofing HR: Ulrich and Beyond’. The audience were all senior HR practitioners, the debate was lively, and I learned plenty. Amongst the learning points was that Dave Ulrich’s surname is pronounced Ulrich, not Ulrick. Now there’s a thing.

Michael introduced some of Roffey Park’s research into the differing outlooks of the currently employed generations (Boomers, Gen x, Gen Y etc), and I put forward some of our observations from working with our clients.

What struck me was our need to give things labels, call them ‘models’, create ‘initiatives’ and ‘roll them out’ into the business. Dave Ulrich’s ‘Business Partner Model’ is a case in point.  What Ulrich says is all good stuff and makes absolute sense. The four key roles described by Ulrich – Strategic partner, Administrative Expert (Shared Services), Employee Champion and  Change Agent sound to me like the roles of modern HR function.

When I hear HR professionals talking about Business Partnering, or the ‘HRBP’ model, I sometimes wince. I really believe that the rest of the business (I say rest of the business because I believe HR is a part of the business, not a partner to it) doesn’t care about a model devised by Dave Ulrich.  They want to see their colleagues in HR being strategic, providing excellent administrative frameworks and advice, championing the needs of employees, and helping the business to change.

I beleive Dave Ulrich makes a useful contribution to the world of HR, but let’s not get hung up on titles.  HR professionals need to get out there and do it.

And I hope I haven’t offended Dave Ulrich or any of my colleagues in HR functions who call themselves Business Partners!

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