Human Capital, Building Human Capability
Human Capital, Building Human Capability

Human Capital, Building Human Capability

This week I have mainly been discussing, reading and listening and reflecting on “human resources.” It has included conversations with CEOs, COO’s and People Professionals, PM Daily and listening to the CIPD Podcast. Somewhere in those lines of enquiry, Dave Ulrich‘s no-nonsense outlook rang my bell. As a taxonomist (the science of simplifying complex ideas) he is an essentialist, and a patterns seeker.

Outside-in. Don’t look in a mirror and build an HR plan. Looking through a window to the outside world – who our customers.

Dave Ulrich (PhD, Rensis Likert Professor, Ross School of Business, The University of Michigan)

And to be clear, HR’s customers are not the employees, they are the “customers of the company.”

His message is as concise as it is simple.

Human Capability: talent + leadership + organization + the HR function.

  • Human refers to talent (human capital, employee, workforce, people, competence).
  • Capability refers to organisation (team, workforce, capability).
  • Leadership bridges the two and refers to both individual leaders and to collective leadership.
  • HR function refers to the HR department, practices, and people.

What to prioritise?

What do the customers of company need? Ulrich tells us to begin with the needs of the company’s customers and investors. I paraphrase, “if you don’t succeed in the marketplace, this is not workplace.”

Where to start?

Of course, change requires change. Until there is a felt need for change, it is only an event not a pattern.

Dave Ulrich

Four areas. People Professionals contribute through talent (everything related to people like hiring, training, and engagement), through the organisation (our capacity for change, innovation, collaboration, teamwork), and through leadership (how we govern HR). This evolution from personnel management to human capability, with a focus on external value and simplifying our approach through talent, organisation, and leadership, outlines the direction he believes the HR field is heading.

The success of HR is not determined by what it does, but by what it enables others to do.

Dave Ulrich

To wrap up, in fast fire series of questions on the The Modern People Leader: Forward-Thinking HR podcast, Dave Ulrich reminded me of two important qualities of great people leaders.

  1. They create value for others.
  2. When they leave an interaction with you, you feel better about yourself.

On Monday, I will be working towards enacting those two points.

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