Driving True Competitive Advantage Through HR

Over the last 10 years or so there has been a lot of discussion in HR circles about how HR can partner with the business to deliver value.  This shift in the positioning of HR has seen significant change in how HR functions and teams are structured, resourced and enabled.  

In fact, Dave Ulrich and his colleagues at RBL have articulated a number of waves that the HR function has gone through as it has evolved from Wave 1 HR Administration (which was all about effective HR transactions), to Wave 2 HR Practices (creating innovative and integrated practices across the employee life-cycle), to Wave 3 HR Strategy (involving interpreting and translating business strategy and needs into HR requirements).  

However, Wave 4 is now emerging.  Described by Ulrich et al as HR from the Outside-In, this wave has a distinctly different flavour because it is no longer about HR being separate from the business rather that HR is, and behaves as if it is, part of the fabric of the business. The 3 first waves still need to be done and done well, but this wave is about HR using external stakeholders, customers, communities, investors to really help define what successful HR looks like.

Lets have a look at a few what ifs to see how this could really come to life. 

  • What if the business customers were involved in the recruitment and selection of new staff?  For example, why couldn’t an interviewing panel for frontline customer service roles include actual customers?
  • What if members of community groups, suppliers, regulatory agencies, customers were involved in helping an organisation collaboratively shape its leadership brand?
  • What if customers were involved in allocating a portion of the bonus pool to high performing employees each year? (Ulrich provides an example of an airline where frequent flyers could handout bonus vouchers to high performing airline staff mid-flight!)
  • What if HR facilitated crowd-sourcing of new content for training programs from external stakeholder groups?

So next time you’re thinking about how you add value in your role, challenge yourself and your colleagues to think about what outside-in activities you can initiate?  

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