David Ulrich & the RBL Group Assess "The State of the HR Profession"


Guest Post by Charlie Tharp

Following a recent guest post by Bridie Fanning on the development of the HR profession ( published here ), Dave Ulrich and his colleagues at the RBL Group have drafted an excellent new working paper entitled "The State of the HR Profession." The authors have analyzed data collected from over 20,000 individuals spanning a variety of industries and geographies in an attempt to determine the key competencies for HR professionals. The authors provide detailed information on the demographics of HR professionals, the importance and impact of various competencies on the effectiveness of the HR, and the characteristics of the HR function that best predict business performance.

Demographics: The data suggests that the demographics of the HR profession have changed over the past 25 years including:

  • Greater representation of females
  • Higher levels of educational attainment
  • More specialists and individual contributor roles
  • Shorter tenure in the profession

Areas of Impact: The working paper offers suggestions as to the key domains in which HR should focus its effort in support of business strategy and performance. The key domains identified are:

  1. Strategic Positioner: Knowledge and ability to translate external business trends into internal decisions.
  2. Credible Activist: Building personal trust through knowledge of the business, personal relationships and consistently delivering on commitments.
  3. Capability Builder: Helping the organization define and build its organizational capabilities to support business strategy and high performance.
  4. Change Champion: Helping the organization build its capacity and capabilities for change.
  5. Human Resource Innovator and Integrator: Applying HR research, knowledge and skills in crafting HR solutions to business issues.
  6. Technology Proponent: Leveraging technology, including social media, to make the HR function more efficient and effective.

Within the context of these six domains of impact the authors discuss the business practices that have the greatest opportunity to affect business performance. As one might expect, HR exerts the greatest influence over foundational issues including selection, training, performance management and rewards. The authors provide a useful table arraying the relative importance of each of these areas on business performance (see page 10 of the working paper).

The RBL working paper on The State of the HR Profession has been submitted for publication in the Human Resource Management Journal. To read the complete working paper click here.