8 Disruptions in HR

WME have been having a dialogue with Dave Ulrich about his latest research.  Here are a few excerpts from that research around disruptions in HR.  The full excerpt can be found here and in even more detail in Dave Ulrich’s renowned books.

 Some insights from Dave Ulrich

The concept of disruption comes from the technology world where change is rapid and on-going and transforms industries:

  • Google disrupted on line search and advertising;
  • Salesforce disrupted Customer Relationship Management (CRM);
  • Amazon disrupted distribution;
  • Uber disrupted transportation;
  • Airbnb lodging;
  • Facebook disrupted social experiences

HR disruption is less about a shift leaving behind one idea for another (e.g., moving from operational to strategic) and more about a pivot of ideas building on each other (e.g., being operational and also strategic).  I pick these 8 disruptions, knowing that other disruptions clearly exist, but these 8 highlight the evolving landscape of HR

1. Value added focus of HR: towards outside in
The first disruption is about the focus of HR work.  HR is not about HR, but the value HR creates.

There have been four waves of HR value creation, each building on the previous platform.

HR Evolution

2. Evolution of Outcomes of HR:  towards organisation
Research with over 1200 businesses and 32,000 respondents shows that organisation improvements have four times the impact on business results as talent investments.  Individuals are champions, but teams win championships.  Talent matters, but organisation matters even more. Leaders shape both the talent and organisation by their modelling of the right behaviours.

3. Talent outcome disruptions:  towards well being
Disruptions are occurring as HR pivots from focusing on employee competence (right skills, right place, right time) to commitment (behavioural engagement and showing up at work) to contribution and well being (emotional engagement and finding meaning from the work people do).  Employees have more responsibility for creating their experience than their organisations.  Organisations have an obligation to offer employees opportunity; but employees have the responsibility to be agents unto themselves to act on these opportunities.

4. Organisation outcome disruptions: towards capability  
Organisation is not structure, but capability.

In our research, we have identified which capabilities predict business success in today’s changing markets including

  • leveraging information,
  • managing culture,
  • creating change or agility,
  • ensuring collaboration and innovation.

Staffing, training, compensation, communication, and policy choices can be integrated around creating these key capabilities.

5: Leader outcome disruptions: towards leadership, navigating paradox, and brand

 There are three disruptions in leadership.


  • pivot from the individual leader to the collective leadership team. Leaders matter, but leadership matters more.
  • HR should not just be about helping individuals become better leaders, but building collective leadership depth throughout the organisation.
  • Any leader is ultimately known for the leadership who succeeds him or her.


  • leaders have been encouraged to have emotional intelligence, then learning agility (or grit, resilience, perseverance).
  • In our research, navigating paradox has become the next wave in the evolution of leadership effectiveness. When leaders can navigate the tensions inherent in paradox (long term and short term; divergent and convergent; top down and bottom up; etc.), they help organisations adapt to changing conditions.


  • 25 to 30% of a firm’s market value comes from investor perceptions of quality of leadership.

6. HR competencies disruptions:  towards competencies that deliver outcomes

We have pivoted from trusted advisor to credible activist; from knowing the business to strategic positioner; from implementing an HR practice to providing integrated HR solutions; from managing change to navigating paradox.   The HR profession is improving the quality of HR professionals.

And, we have disrupted the study of competencies away from merely having the competencies to showing how these competencies increase personal effectiveness, stakeholder value, and business results.  Competency models are not about the competencies, but how those competencies deliver real value.

7. HR Technology disruptions: towards connections

We have shown how technology investments can pivot in four phases.

  • Administrative efficiency.
  • HR innovation in hiring, paying, training, and governing organisations.
  • Big data, innovative analytics, and decision insights.
  • Social connection. 

8. HR analytics disruptions: towards business impact

Without linking analytics to business results, the statistics do not tell the right story.   Analytics has pivoted from a scorecard to insights based on big data to interventions about which HR practices have which results to business impact where HR drives customer share and investor confidence.

Continual HR disruption …

‘For me, the half life of my teaching materials is about every 2.5 to 3 years when I need to have 50% new insights on HR (and handouts, case studies, and tools).  Disruption is both a challenge to stay fresh and an opportunity to continually renew.’

Article by Dave Ulrich – Speaker, Author, Professor

(find out more about Dave)

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