Mar 3, 2003

What roles Can HR play:

This model is not mine but of a gentleman called David Ulrich...Dave
is not a HR prof, but has made it his forte, so that's a different
perspective from him

Ulrich's model says that HR essentially has two paradoxical and
sometimes conflicting roles to play...

1. As upholder of processes and
2. upholder of people needs

It also has two other roles to play ...though these might not be so

1. Operational focus
2. Strategic focus

Putting these axes together you get four roles of HR which somehow
never seem to gel together...

1. Maintenance Expert (Operational focus, high on processes) :You
have met these guys who say "The policy says this hence you have to
so this"

2. Employee Champion (Operational focus, high on people) : This guy
believes that processes need to be built around people and not vice mostly the rare 'loved' HR person...he/she fights for
your training , your promotion...takes on the systems for you.

3. Change Agent (Strategic focus, high on people): This person in
clued into the top management's strategy and proactively works on
questions like "what capabilities do my employees need to develop to
take charge of the future? And how do we build these capabilities"
This is the person we'd give our right arms to be our HR
heads...unfortunately, most of the people of this inclination choose
to become independant consultants and advise companies... :-)

4. Strategic Partner (Strategic focus, high on process):This chap
seeks to constantly align the HR strategy with business
strategy...he/she's mostly responsible when your performance
appraisal system changes every year...when your compensation
strategy changes to align to some market demand and this person gets
most of the blame...

Coming back to your question...

Most companies (even at the top management level) see HR people at
roles 1 or 2, even if the HR directors sit on the Board they are
supposed to concentrate on roles 1 and 2 :-(....

Some businesses (and not necessarily new economy firms) have
recognised the need for HR to be a strategic partner (examples being
AV Birla group, where the HR director, Dr. Santrupt Misra is the
youngest board member, and the Tata Group where Satish Pradhan is
bringing in new concepts everyday :-)