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6 Questions to HR Management Thought Leader David Ulrich


David Ulrich, a speaker at the marcus evans HR Summit 2014, responds to six questions on HR.

Interview with: David Ulrich, HR Management Thought Leader


Human Resources (HR) has always had to deliver value, but it now has to focus on the outside/in to maximise benefit for stakeholders, advises David Ulrich, HR Management Thought Leader. “This is a great time to be in HR, not because we in HR believe it, but because customers, investors, and communities can receive unique value when HR does its work well,” he adds.

A keynote speaker at the marcus evans HR Summit 2014 in the Gold Coast, Australia, 31 March - 2 April, Ulrich discusses the “new normal” for HR and what it can bring to the table.

What is the “new normal” for HR? What should HR directors plan for?

What’s new is sometimes old. HR has always had to “deliver value.” This is old news. The new news is that the value HR has to deliver is less administrative efficiency, functional excellence, or even strategic HR. HR now has to also focus on the outside/in, which means using HR work to deliver value to customers, investors, and communities. As these external stakeholders face enormous social and technological change, HR must build talent, leadership and capabilities that help them get value from the company. Old news, value still exists; new news, value is outside in.

How could the HR function build competitive advantage for the organisation?

When there are strategic discussions in a company, each functional area brings unique insights: finance has economic numbers, marketing has customer data, manufacturing has delivery schedules and IT has technology and process systems.

So, what does HR bring to this discussion? We believe it is insight on three things: Talent, Leadership, and Culture or Capability. Talent is about the productivity of people. Leadership is the shared agenda of defining a future. And Culture is the external identity of the firm translated into internal organisation actions. When Talent, Leadership and Culture connect to customers and investors, long-term competitiveness is enhanced.

What opportunities do HR directors overlook that could help achieve/foster a culture of innovation?

HR can help deliver culture in some very significant ways. First, it can help define innovation as more than products or services to include governance model, workplace practices, customer interface, and other business processes. Second, HR can ensure that people have both discovery and delivery skills to foster innovation. Third, HR can make sure that organisation practices like staffing, training, compensation, promotion, organisation structure and communication reinforce innovation. Fourth, HR can make sure that leaders who preach innovation practice it in their personal work.

How could HR make better use of metrics? What HR metrics do successful organisations look at?

HR metrics are a critical source of information. Deciding what information is most essential to making the right talent, leadership and culture decisions should drive metrics. For example, in retail, revenue per store is a key outcome. In one chain, they worked to identify which management practices had the most impact on store revenue and discovered that leadership skills were the largest predictor, so they focused on developing leaders to be more effective.  Metrics should follow a chain of data that comes from information that comes from insight that comes from decision clarity. Start with clarity about the business decision that needs to be made, then find HR data to improve that decision.

What are employees looking for?

Employees want to feel respected and they want to find meaning from the work that they do. We discovered in our book The Why of Work that employee meaning can be increased when managers pay attention to seven factors: Identity, Purpose, Relationships, Work Environment, Work itself, Learning, and Fun. 

How could employees be empowered?

We found that there are four keys to empowerment: Information (make sure employees know what is happening and why), Competence (make sure employees have skills to do what they are asked to do), Authority (give employees decision rights to get things done) and Rewards (make sure that there are positive financial and/or non-financial rewards).

You can follow David Ulrich on Twitter: @dave_ulrich

Contact: Sarin Kouyoumdjian-Gurunlian, Press Manager, marcus evans, Summits Division

Tel: + 357 22 849 313

About the HR Summit 2014

This unique forum will take place at the Surfers Paradise Marriott Resort & Spa, Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia, 31 March - 2 April 2014. Offering much more than any conference, exhibition or trade show, this exclusive meeting will bring together esteemed industry thought leaders and solution providers to a highly focused and interactive networking event. The Summit includes presentations on winning HR strategies, the HR leader of the future, fostering a high-performance culture, and achieving long-term success.

For more information please send an email to or visit the event website

marcus evans group - hr sector portal 

The HR Network – marcus evans Summits group delivers peer-to-peer information on strategic matters, professional trends and breakthrough innovations.


Please note that the Summit is a closed business event and the number of participants strictly limited.

About marcus evans Summits

marcus evans Summits are high level business forums for the world’s leading decision-makers to meet, learn and discuss strategies and solutions. Held at exclusive locations around the world, these events provide attendees with a unique opportunity to individually tailor their schedules of keynote presentations, case studies, roundtables and one-to-one business meetings. For more information, please visit 

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