Human Resources Transformation - The Economist

Economist.com | Jun 15, 2009
Dave Ulrich
 

Human resources transformation refers to the massive restructuring of corporate human resources (HR) departments that took place in the decade or so after 1995. Before that, the staff in HR departments had generally been seen as administrators, not as people to be involved in high-level strategic discussions. HR staff saw themselves as lifetime career specialists with little need for knowledge or experience of what the rest of the business was about.

But with the growing appreciation of the value of a company’s human assets, and a need to ensure that the talent that an organisation requires is not just on board but also properly motivated, the role of HR has more and more come to be seen as strategic. The old-style HR that dealt with strikes, bonuses and gripes was rarely suited to this task.

So companies began to look at ways to revamp their HR departments. They were heavily influenced by the ideas of Dave Ulrich (see article), a professor of business at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan and author of a 1997 bestseller, “Human Resource Champions”, the book that more than any other set the HR transformation ball rolling. Ulrich’s idea was that the HR function should be divided into three: