In 1997 in his book 'Human Resource Champions' Dave Ulrich offered new dimensions for the HR BP role.

HR Business Partner History

The model of Human Resources partnership has its roots in situations when large companies started to become multinationals and use all sorts of matrix structures. In the matrix structure HR professionals have to report to both a HR Director and a manager of a business.

New structure of HR function

Some sources insist that the three-legged stool was not offered by Ulrich and that he just described the system used in Philip Morris and that he got to know this approach. In Phillip Morris at that time some functions, for example strategy development, was the responsibility of the HQ, while others, like training development, C&B, organisational design were in the Centres of Expertise. Traditional, routine processes were in the Shared Services Centres. And Human Resource Business Partner was an HR professional, responsible for a specific business unit. This approach was at the heart of the 'three-legged stool' model.

Early 2000 was a hot time for HR BP as many books and articles were dedicated to make internal business consultants our of HR Business Partners.

Three main functions of HR Business Partner

According to Dave Ulrich, HR Business Partners:

  • HR Business Partners works with the business.
  • HR BPs report to the business and are expected to provide real value. It is the strategic shift from the traditional approach, when goals, priorities and results of HR function were determined by HR function itself.
  • HR Professionals work with line and top managers to achieve organisational goals.

All legs in three-legged model

Let's consider all 'legs' in the three-legged model of HR functions by Dave Ulrich.

HR Business Partner

Focus areas of HR Business Partner:

  • Forming relationships with line managers and business units.
  • Support in achieving goals of business units.
  • Development of organisational capabilities.
  • Working on the best HR practices.
  • Coordination of HR services.
  • Front office.

Centres of Expertise

Focus ares of Centres of Expertise:

  • Developing HR structure.
  • Developing strategic HR initiatives.
  • Repositories of key technical knowledge on resourcing, reward, employment relations.
  • Working with HR BPs on business needs.

HR Shared Services

Focus areas of HR Shared Services:

  • Delivering HR services.
  • Effective and efficient prcesses.
  • Developing HRIS (Human Resources Information System) to provide administrative and basic support functions to the remainder of the business.
  • Can be outsourced.
  • Back office.

Dave Ulrich model in 2007

Dave Ulrich presented his fifth model in 2007. The model has received the sixth part, development zones or competencies were substituted for roles which were divided into two perspectives and three roles.

HR Roles

In the new model the previous five zones became new roles:

  • Credible Activist
  • Business Ally
  • Operational Executor
  • Strategy Architect
  • Culture and Change Steward

The new role was defined by Ulrich as a Talent Manager / Organisational Designer

Two perspectives

All six roles were distributed among two perspectives: people and business.

People perspective had the roles:

  • Operational Executor
  • Talent Manager / Organisational Designer

Business perspective had the roles:

  • Business Ally
  • Strategy Architect

Credible Activist and Culture and Change Steward are in both perspectives.

Three levels

The 2007 edition of the HR competencies has divided all six roles into three levels: relationships, systems and processes and organisation capabilities.

On the forst level - relationships - we have Credible Activist role.

On the second level - systems and processes - there are roles of Operational Executor and Business Ally.

On the third level - organisation capabilities - we have the roles of Talent Manager / Organisational Designer, Culture and Change Steward and Strategy Architect.

Dave Ulrich HR competency model over time

In 2012 Dave Ulrich changed his model again. The six main HR roles stayed intact, some items were regrouped.

HR Roles and Capabilities

In the Business Perspective Dave Ulrich combined two roles into one: Strategic Positioner and Strategic Architect became Strategic Positioner.

In the Human Resources Perspective the author changed the names of two roles. Operational Executor became Technology Proponent and Talent Manager & Organization Designer became HR Innovator & Integrator.

Culture and Change Steward Role was divided into two roles: Change Champion and Capability Builder.

The Capability Builder role is now in the Culture domain.

Credible Activist in the Personal domain is the only role that not renamed.

Please see the table below to get more details.

New levels

Dave Ulrich also changed levels of his framework. The previous model had three levels: 1) relationships, 2) systems and processes, 3) organisation capabilities. Now the model presents the different approach.

  • Individual level: Credible Activist role.
  • Organization level: Capability Builder, Technology Proponent, HR Innovator & Integrator and Change Champion roles.
  • Context level: Strategic Positioner role.

Nine-factor model of Dave Ulrich

In 2016 Dave Ulrich presented his nine-factor model - the last one. All HR competencies are divided into three groups: Core Drivers, Organisation Enablers and Delivery Enablers. The model includes 9 roles and 21 competencies.

Core Drivers

Strategic Positioner: able to position a business to win its market.

  • Evaluates business environment
  • Understands stakeholders expectations
  • Understands internal business processes

Credible Activist: able to build relationships of trust by having a proactive point of view.

  • Has an opinion
  • Wins trust by providing results

Paradox Navigator: able to manage tensions inherent in business (including long-term and short-term tensions, and top-down and bottom-up tensions).

  • Balancing various interests and goals

Organization Enablers

Culture and Change Champion: able to make change happen and manage organizational culture.

  • Designs organisational culture
  • Manages change

Human Capital Curator: able to manage the flow of talent by developing people and leaders, driving individual performance and building technical talent.

  • Develops talent
  • Develops leadership
  • Manages performance
  • Builds technical talent

Total Rewards Steward: able to manage employee well-being through financial and non-financial rewards.

  • Designs jobs
  • Manages compensations and benefits

Delivery Enablers

Technology and Media Integrator: able to use technology and social media to drive and create high-performing organizations.

  • Leverages social media tools
  • Integrates technologies

Analytics Designer and Interpreter: able to use technology and social media to drive and create high-performing organizations.

  • Gets the right data
  • Interprets business data

Compliance Manager: able to manage the processes related to compliance by following regulatory guidelines.

  • Ensures that HR practices comply with law
  • Stands up for employee rights
  • Actively educates employees and managers on how to stay within legal guidelines

Intermediate conclusions

We have reviewed the evolution of the Dave Ulrich competency model. This will help us better understand the Value Pyramid of the same author, which we would analyse in the future articles. Now it's time to draw intermediate conclusions.

Moving up

In his first book, Dave Ulrich analysed three HR competencies:

  • understanding business,
  • change management,
  • HR practices.

In 20 years Dave Ulrich changed his model several times and returned to something similar to the initial variant. 21 HR competencies are divided into 9 roles and 3 groups:

  • key competencies, connected to strategy, leadership and aligning stakeholders interests,
  • organisational competencies, connected to change change management, people development and remuneration,
  • supporting competencies, connected to technologies, HR analytics and compliance.

So we can say that HR professionals have three levers to increase operational efficiency:

  1. HR practices / Supporting competencies: Managing role portfolio.
  2. Change management / Organisational competencies: Managing projects portfolio.
  3. Understanding business / Key competencies: Managing business portfolio.

Intermediate conclusions

So, we can draw the following conclusions.

  • Requirements to HR competencies changed over time significantly.
  • The initial focus was on individual knowledge and skills; now focus is on the value HR functions delivers.
  • Requirements determine HR structure.
  • HR structure in large companies is often based on "three-legged" model and divided into: 1) Shared services, 2) Centre of excellence and 3) HR business services.
  • One of the processes HR are responsible for is evaluating the need in learning and evaluating learning effectiveness.