Q&A with HR Titan Dave Ulrich: Give Value or Give Notice
the past four years Dave Ulrich (pictured
at left) was ranked the most influential person in HR
by HR Magazine, and Business Week named
him the country’s #1 management educator and guru.
He has consulted with more than half of the Fortune 200
companies, and published more than 25 books, including
HR from the Outside In, Leadership Sustainability
and Global HR.
Last month we were fortunate to have him keynote CTHRA’s
Think Tank in Washington, D.C., and CTHRA Board Member
Tom Mathews asked Dave some questions
to help all of us live up to Dave’s mantra, “HR
must give value or give notice.”
do you see as the biggest challenges facing the HR profession
DAVE: We talk about three
trends facing the HR profession:
- HR outside in: HR has been linked to strategy
for the last 15 to 20 years. HR would look at a strategy
as a mirror in which they would create HR practices.
HR aligned to deliver business strategy. Today, we see
strategy as a window to the world outside HR. HR aligns
to general business conditions and to specific stakeholders
(e.g., customers, regulators, investors, etc.). This
shifts the focus of HR from delivering to helping create
- HR value: HR has to deliver value. We have identified
three core areas of HR value: talent, leadership and
capability. HR ensures talent so that the right people
will have the right skills for the right position at
the right time. HR also ensures that the organization
will establish a set of capabilities or culture that
shapes behavior and identity of the organization. Finally,
HR delivers leadership throughout the organization by
ensuring that leaders have the competencies that meet
- HR transformation: HR departments are continually
restructuring so that they match business structures.
This means doing transaction work through technology;
more strategic work by creating centers of expertise
and embedded HR professionals.
TOM: With a slightly different emphasis, what are the biggest challenges facing HR professionals today?
DAVE: HR professionals need to demonstrate competencies to meet the above expectations. We have studied HR competencies for 25 years and, based on a global sample of 20,000 line and HR respondents, we have identified 6 competencies which reflect roles of HR:
- Strategic partners who can position the organization in
the market place
- Credible activists who built relationships of trust and
have a business point of view
- Capability builders who diagnose and improve organization capabilities
- Change champions who initiate and sustain individual, initiative and institutional change
- HR innovators and integrators who recognize and implement best practices in HR
- Technology proponents who can use technology for efficient HR delivery, but also for building relationships and sharing information
TOM: Assume that I just started my HR career. What training should I get to become a CHRO?
DAVE: Based on our research, to be a CHRO, an HR professional needs to develop skills in multiple areas. First, be an HR generalist who can architect HR actions to meet business goals and who can use HR to drive business results. Second, be an informed HR specialist who has or can access theory, research and practice in HR areas of people, performance, communication and work. Third, learn global business requirements for most companies. Finally, have experiences outside HR where you have specific business responsibilities.
TOM: What industry or industries do you think have some of the leading-edge HR practices?
DAVE: In general, service industries have more innovative HR practices than capital intensive industries because service industries depend on people to accomplish their business goals. However, in some capital intensive industries, the costs of capital are similar and shared so the differentiators are around people and capabilities.
TOM: What current HR trends and practices do you think have lasting value?
DAVE: Some of the basics in HR will be the same. We define three HR outcomes that will endure: talent, leadership and capability. And we identify four domains of HR practices that can be used to deliver these outcomes: people, performance, information and work. These outcomes and practices will likely be sustained over time, with innovative ideas shaping how they are done (e.g., recruiting through technology).
TOM: What do you see as a couple of the top practices that HR should kill or stop doing?
DAVE: HR should help organizations remove
bureaucracy through more simplified HR practices, improve
the efficiency and cost effectiveness of health care through
innovative ways to provide health care and rebuild the
employee value proposition with the firm with a focus
TOM: What are a couple of things HR staffs should be doing now to prepare for a better economy ahead (we hope)?
DAVE: HR delivers value in three areas,
each of which can help prepare the economy for growth.
First, talent. HR can help build employee productivity
by helping employees find meaning from the work that they
do. Second, leadership. HR can help discover and develop
leaders who shape agendas for future growth. Leaders articulate
and set strategy and they define the culture of an organization
by their behaviors. Third, capabilities. HR can rethink
the organization as a bundle of capabilities like innovation,
service, collaboration, efficiency and so forth. When
HR creates these capabilities, they help the organization
be sustainable over time.
TOM: What parting words of wisdom
do you have for CTHRA members?
DAVE: Think forward. Learn always. Look
for new ways of doing work. Stay aligned. Always align
your HR to customers and investors outside and employees
and leaders inside. Track rigorously. Learn to do HR analytics
so that HR links to business results.
Techs in 100 Days: Hiring as a Business Imperative
By DeRetta Cole, PhD, VP,
HR Global Technology and Operations, Turner Broadcasting
an HR professional, your goal is to be viewed as a trusted
business advisor, so that you have the opportunity to
actually plan, forecast and develop with your client.
In other words, your role changes from advisor to partner.
You sit at the table rather than hovering outside the
room, waiting to be given a task to perform. When I talk
about the importance of being in the loop before
a crisis has occurred, I use a military analogy: All of
us who support the business or enterprise are in the foxhole
together, and the last thing you need is to be shot in
the back of the head by “friendly fire.” The
100 in 100 initiative at Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.
in the Audience Multi-platform Technology organization
was a case of true partnering.
The initiative started with a burning business platform. In 2010 Turner had just gone into a new venture in which our technology organization was tapped to provide new technology across various different media: TV, mobile devices and so on. In addition, subscribers would have access to all airing on their smart phones or mobile devices. As you would expect in an organization like ours, the prospect of working on a project like this generated infectious excitement. But with the excitement came the reality: We’d have to hire a lot of talent—quickly.
Because we had very little time to perform our mission, the Chief of Emerging Technology reached out to the Senior Leadership Team and those who supported her team: HR Director, Recruiting Director, Compensation Partner, Finance Director and Talent Management Consultant. We all sat in a room and discussed specifically what we needed to do, which was hire 100 people in 100 days.
First we talked about how we would plan, prepare, communicate and execute the initiative. It became like the UPS whiteboard commercial. In a project of this magnitude, we had to consider several different moving parts. For the process to succeed it had to include every person who was part of the organization. In the planning process, we had to look at our current job descriptions and prioritize those roles that were critical to the initiative. We also had to think about market data to ensure that we were looking at comparable roles for comparable candidates.
As we moved to the implementation part of the process, it was important that we posted jobs in the right media and in the right way, that we identified the pool of potential candidates that we wanted to source and that we selected the right hire for each position. As we went through that phase, there were also the same logistical factors that you need to consider when you’re hiring even a single candidate: the number of interviews and who participates in the interviews, followed by making the offers and conducting the on-boarding routine.
As we began the communication process, it was important that the leadership team convey the perspective of urgency and importance. That was easy! Everyone was excited about the wonderful new venture, and the chance to work on March Madness was easy to sell to both current and prospective employees. Another very important part of our communications was specific to branding. We created a clear vision for the organization—a rallying point for everyone to follow. After all was said and done, we exceeded our goal and hired 130 employees in 100 days!
I believe that every experience is one of growth, regardless of the outcome. One of the important lessons gleaned from this process was the importance of having senior leadership committed to the success of any initiative. When they lead the charge, the organization will follow. Another key lesson was the need to include everyone at the table. During the entire experience, we all felt as if we owned the project, whether it failed or succeeded. We knew that we were all in the foxhole together and that we must function as a unified whole, not merely as a sum of separate parts. In addition, we learned that to successfully carry out a project of this magnitude you need the following: a recruiting strategy that is national in scope, not region-specific; the willingness to communicate until you don’t think you can communicate anymore and an extensive on-boarding process. Finally, we learned that you can truly bring an organization together, and with synergy, leadership and passion you can accomplish anything.
& Outs of Employee Engagement
By Thomas McCoy
fast-paced nature of the cable and telecom industry creates
the need for a flexible, innovative workforce that is
focused on a mission and possesses a sense of urgency.
In other words: A workforce that is engaged in the business.
A recent survey by the Gallup organization
of more than 7,500 employees in a cross section of industries
shows that a company culture that encourages high involvement
and high performance creates a stable and committed workforce.
Furthermore, a survey by Watson Wyatt Data Services shows
that companies scoring highest on company culture surveys
achieve significantly higher Total Return to Shareholders
(TRS) than other firms. The three-year TRS of companies
that conduct and act on employee surveys averaged
21 percent higher than companies that do not conduct surveys.
In an economy where the competition turns on a dime and customers are loyal to the most recent piece of technology, engaged employees are the competitive advantage. The ability to engage employees in the business is fast becoming a critical skill in today's competitive workplace…and a professional requirement.
The Culture and Assessment
Employee engagement is the condition where individuals
enthusiastically contribute their intellectual, emotional
and physical resources to achieving the goals of the organization.
Full employee engagement includes three elements.
- Work engagement - the connection to and appreciation for
the work being accomplished and a connection to individual
- Company engagement - the connection to and appreciation
for the company, its goals, its leadership and its future.
- Social engagement - the connection
to and appreciation for the people one is working for
and working with on a daily basis.
Analysis of the various employee styles
identifies a continuum with hired hands at one end and
partners at the other. Examining the content of each style
validates the intuitive conclusion that partners are more
highly engaged than are hired hands. From this, we can
establish engagement as the condition where employees
think and act like business partners and the degree of
employee engagement is a function of the rewards provided
by the company culture.
Culture is the personality of a company. It is the behavior and performance of a group of individuals who share the same vision, values, beliefs and experiences. It is the social environment in which work takes place. A culture of partnership encourages a high level of engagement because it transforms the traditional employee/employer relationship into a relationship where everyone is focused on the success of the business and rewarded based on results. A company can create a culture of partnership by replicating the elements of a partnership.
If we examine the partnership criteria, we see there are four components that are common to all partners:
- Education: They understand everything
about the business that they need to know to make a
contribution and be successful.
- Enable: They work in an environment
where there is a system in place that enables them to
- Empower: They are empowered to make
decisions and take independent action to further the
success of the organization.
- Engage: They receive positive reinforcement
in the form of social and material rewards; they enjoy
the work and they share in the gains of improvement.
Assuming a culture of partnership is the foundation of employee engagement, then one approach to developing such a culture is to assess how well it meets the partnership criteria. Companies that apply this approach conduct an employee survey with questions that are designed around the four components. In effect, they ask questions about how the existing culture compares to a culture of partnership. This approach provides actionable results that identify strengths and opportunities to develop a culture that engages employees. The following example question asks the employee to rate his/her opinion on a scale of 1-5 (1=low): “I feel my work is meaningful and rewarding.”
The Engagement Strategy
Once leadership commits to a nurturing environment of partnership, organizational changes can be put in place to develop and support it. A basic engagement strategy on an organizational level can be to:
- introduce the culture into the organization,
- develop the tools to be used,
- establish structured opportunities to participate,
- educate and train all employees, and
- reward employees for actively participating.
An engagement strategy on an individual level can be to provide:
- information and understanding,
- tools and skills,
- the opportunity to use the tools and act on information, and
- rewards based on improvement.
To engage, employees need information
on the culture and the business. Culture information is
provided by the survey results. For example, a service
company provided their survey results to each department
as part of the information used in their Action Planning
meetings. Over a period of 18 months the teams used the
data to develop plans and make changes that increased
the company's culture score from 61.4 to 69.6 and improved
profits by over 12 percent. Business information can be
provided by department level performance ScoreCards and
process maps of how work flows through the organization.
An education plan is often developed to communicate the compelling reason for change and to provide the learning necessary to change. This often includes learning the new role of employee-as-partner, developing business literacy and the use of problem solving tools such as brainstorming, root cause analysis and, as engagement develops, total quality and LEAN tools.
The opportunity to participate and contribute
can be provided by Department Action Teams, a forum where
employees can use information to identify problems, develop
solutions and take action to make changes. For example,
the manager of HR & OD of an international freight
forwarding company believes that the most significant
element of their engagement initiative is the Action Planning
process where department action teams use information
and problem solving skills to refine procedures and processes.
One of the 12 Federal Home Loan Banks implemented more
than 200 action plans in an 18-month period, increased
their survey score from 64.4 to 75.4 and improved profit
by over 20 percent.
Rewards for improvement can be provided by incentive pay linked
to performance ScoreCards. This provides strong positive
reinforcement for participating and being engaged. Recognition
programs can be used to identify role models who represent
the desired behavior and to provide powerful intrinsic
reward for engagement.
The Benefits of Engagement
Business results improve. Three years into their
engagement initiative, a manufacturing
company is no longer threatened by imports. Profit
margin increased from 1.6 percent to 4.1 percent
. Direct labor costs decreased from 18.6 percent
to 12.9 percent. Inventory turns increased from
7.6 to 20.9 and Sales per Employee, a measure of
productivity, increased from $93,000 to $138,000.
- People, processes and strategies
are aligned. Employees view HR and OD initiatives
such as TQM and LEAN as tools to improve outcomes
- Ease of operation improves.
- The company becomes an employer
of choice and can attract the best talent.
- The company’s value and
Most companies develop an implementation plan
based on the survey scores. By addressing the lowest scores
first, they make rapid progress and employees see that
the change is real. Interestingly, most companies find
their survey scores are lowest in the areas of:
- Rewards – This is often addressed
with a comparison of base pay to market pay, the development
of an incentive pay plan and the implementation of a
recognition program. A major regional financial institution
started its engagement initiative with incentive pay
linked to a set of department ScoreCards.
- Goals and objectives – This
is often addressed with the development of department
ScoreCards that link to the business plan. A company
in the international transportation industry started
their engagement with process mapping and education
about the business.
- Authority and participation –
This is often addressed with the development of Action
Planning Teams who have the authority and ability to
solve problems and take action to improve results.
Engagement is a flexible, integrating concept for change and innovation. It doesn't replace current initiatives; it provides overarching support for them. In an industry where the competition turns on a dime and customers are loyal to the most recent piece of technology, engaged employees are the competitive advantage.
About the Author
Thomas J. McCoy is the Director of The Employee Engagement Institute. The Institute helps companies establish employee engagement as part of their business strategy. In doing so they help companies develop a competitive edge, increase profitable growth and enhance customer satisfaction.
This article is based on information
in Employee Engagement: The Framework For The Future,
the third book in the Culture of Partnership series. Mr.
McCoy can be reached at [email protected]
or by visiting www.employeeengagementinstitute.com.
CTHRA members receive a 20 percent
discount on Tom’s book Employee Engagement.
To purchase the book, visit https://www.createspace.com/3866180
and enter the discount code DZHQQ46P.
Roundtable Delivers in Denver
By Sheryl Anderson, EVP
of HR for Starz Entertainment, and Abby Pfeiffer, SVP
of HR for Charter Communications
When we planned CTHRA’s October
12 roundtable titled “Metrics: A Useful Tool for
HR Professionals,” we aimed to help our HR colleagues
learn how to bring relevant, business-impacting information
to the leadership table. Judging from the reaction of
the HR pros who gathered at Starz Entertainment’s
headquarters in suburban Denver that day, we can say,
The agenda was specifically designed to encourage participation.
After introductions and welcome, Beth Florin,
Managing Director of Pearl Myer, the firm that conducted
CTHRA’s 2012 Human Capital Metrics Survey, explained
how the benchmarks it established can help HR professionals
navigate through organizational challenges related to
staffing, recruiting, training and development, succession
planning, retention and managing cost per employee.
From there we moved into small group exercises and followed
that up with a large group debriefing session, which included
our comments about how we use the Metrics Survey in our
respective organizations at Starz and Charter. Throughout,
the intense interaction inspired healthy dialogue.
Here’s a small sampling of the feedback we’ve had from attendees:
- HR metrics always sounded intimidating to me, but this roundtable broke it down into
practical application, which was reinforced by the small group exercises.
- Here at Charter I am focused on the cable/MSO way of doing things. Having an opportunity to hear from both the Charter/MSO perspective and the programmer side was enlightening.
- I had no idea there were so many metrics in this survey! Historically I've not paid much attention to this particular survey, but now I realize what a great resource it is and the fact that it is specific to our industry is a bonus.
Based on the healthy attendance and
comments like the ones above, we have a roundtable scheduled
on November 27 in NYC. Read the details below.