“Competencies can be communicated and therefore can be taught and learned” – Dave Ulrich
David Olson Ulrich, also known as the father of modern HR, is a famous author, professor, management coach, and consultant. In his renowned book, Human Resource Champions (1997), Ulrich put forth a model of HR roles, known as the HR Competency Model.
The competency model is basically a framework that functions as the guidelines specifically developed for the Human Resource department. It provides simple steps to the employee in terms of professional skills, knowledge, and other organizational behaviors, which would then enable the employee to work effectively. Most often, the concept of the competency model is tangled up with the concept of the job description. Even though both might sound similar in terms of the out sketch, they are different from one another.
A job description serves as the summary of the work that the employee is supposed to do, whereas the competency model enables the employee to do their allocated job skillfully.
Now that makes the Ulrich HR competency model, the touchstone model even after years of its introduction, is definitely because of the amount of research and debates surrounding the model.
The basic principles of the Ulrich competency model are:
- The unified value generation system
- Clear distinction of the HR roles
- Forming a competitive edge for the company
- Measuring how the company has performed according to the predetermined metrics
Incomplete implementation of the concept destroys the very essence of the model and hence it ends in vain. Ulrich’s model of HR roles definitely requires deep learning from the original text. One of the reasons for the same is that the model is quite flexible. According to this model, these duties are divided into four major roles which are –
- Strategic partner: This role is all about the efficient balance of HR activities and other business strategic plans. It is not that simple as it sounds. This involves proficiency in communication and management, to implement robust ventures for the company.
- Change agent: This is one of the most important areas of the Ulrich model. The change agent must be well updated about the changing dynamics in the business, technology, and other concerned fields. Their major duty would be to bring out the potential from the human capital available to the company and blending it with necessary transitions.
- Administrative expert: This is one of the most evolving roles put forth by Ulrich. Initially, the role was focused on the quality of the services that the human capital offers. However, with changing times, the role now highlights the need for quality service at minimum cost.
- Employee champion: This role is also one of the most fragile and important ones. The employee champion should know the team dynamics and should be well versed with their needs and challenges. This is important to make sure that the employees are also adapting to the changing environment in the organization and that they can bring out their maximum potential.
Now, these are not the only universal terms that denote the HR duties, other management terms encode the same functions, like centers of expertise, shared service center, and human capital management. When it comes to the practicality of this concept, its first implementation in the US was appreciated and it led to a boom. This eventually transformed into a trend is known as ‘Ulrichization’, and different types of business firms adopted it. But an impromptu adaptation of this model created a sense of ambiguity surrounding the HR roles.
However Ulrich himself, in one of his 2019 interviews, said that “good business leaders can harness uncertainty”. This ambiguity is what makes the HR profession unique.
Bridging the current pandemic crisis to this model opens up scopes for innovation because experimentation is the need of the hour. Hence, the change agent role could be of great use here. Similarly, the employee champion role at the moment could be in terms of the management of fruitful remote work from the employees. Therefore, this model when implemented would call for changes in the business environment to adapt to the new context.
So let’s dig deep into the model with our creative minds, because “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste”.