Published on May 30th, 2014 | by Orion Partners


Select in haste – repent at leisure

What 18 years of the Ulrich model has meant for HR

Our recent research into the impact of 18 years of the Ulrich model highlighted some interesting stories in the organisations we spoke to.  The overwhelming majority (95%) had invested heavily in the HR transformation process with the largest part of the transformation budget being typically spent on the development of shared services operations and associated technology programmes.

For organisations managing HR process on a global scale the cost of transformation can be startling.  Modern technology does not come cheap nor do the services to implement it.   However our survey consistently showed that those organisations that were prepared to invest heavily in integrated solutions and services, reaped the largest rewards in terms of efficiency savings, closer alignment with the business and overall service level improvement.

So with this level of investment you might expect the biggest problems to arise from the technology delivery or the overall change management process.  However, whilst these were undoubtedly areas that caused problems during HR transformation, one of the biggest issues raised by our participants was that HR staff themselves lacked the capability to undertake new roles in the transformed HR function.

One of the key reasons for implementing an Ulrich model for HR is that it allows for differentiation of roles and the development of a new breed of specialists in HR with in-depth skills around HR operations, business partnering or the critical specialisms of the talent process.   However the advantages of this model are lost if the organisation misses the opportunity to assess, select and develop staff for those specialisms.

HR practitioners who have operated in a generalist environment can struggle to understand the rigours of customer service in a high volume transaction centre.  Similarly, business partners who are not equipped with the necessary mindset and commercial training will not be able to miraculously start ‘being strategic’.  There are numerous examples where poorly equipped HRBPs have resorted to picking up stray bits of admin that have been dropped by staff in an equally poorly prepared service centre.

Too many of the organisations we spoke to highlighted their decision to transfer existing staff into new specialist roles as the single biggest reason why the new model failed to deliver on promised benefits.  The decision is understandable, in a period of significant upheaval, a decision to move existing staff automatically into the new model can avoid a lot of difficult conversations.  However, the transformation process will only ever work if staff are properly selected for the roles.

A primary decision for any transforming function is to determine how staff are to be assessed – what are the critical requirements of the role, how do they differ from historical roles and what is the nature of the gap.  The organisation must also decide how that gap will be addressed – by means of a development programme, a selection and recruitment programme or a combination of the two.  To do anything less is to run the risk of selling short the objectives of HR transformation and, in the long run, acting unfairly to the HR teams who have to operate the new model.


If you would like advice or guidance on the process of assessing, selecting and developing HR staff for critical roles in HR, please contact Orion at partners@orion-partners.com


About the Author

Orion Partners is a Talent, Leadership and HR consultancy who believe every organisation has the talent they need. The organisation just needs to identify and develop that talent and because this involves change we also believe it is essential that our clients can deliver transformational change in their leaders, HR and employees. Orion helps organisations create and deliver leadership and talent solutions aligned with their business strategy and ensure their HR teams have the right process, capability and technology to deliver on it.

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