Recently, ELMO hosted a workshop with world renowned HR thought leader, Dave Ulrich. Here are just a few of the topics he touched on and his thoughts on those topics.

Value vs Activity

The key message of the workshop was how HR can create value in the business. HR isn’t about activity, it’s about bringing value to the business.

“When we think about HR, we try to think about the value we create, not the activity we do.”

Dave used the example of training to emphasise how activity doesn’t always create value in a business.

“Just because someone has 40 hours of training, doesn’t mean the training was quality.”

Another way to look at it is how competencies are measured. The argument here is that the number of competencies isn’t as important as what you do with those competencies and to make sure you have the right competencies to bring value to your company.

“It isn’t do you have competencies, it’s do those competencies lead to outcomes that make a difference in the company”

Adapting to business change

When trying to solve a business problem, Dave says there are three questions HR leaders need to ask. He stresses that regardless of the problem, whether it’s in regards to innovation initiatives, expanding the business to another region or deciding to implement a new technology, these three questions need to be asked.

  1. Do we have the right talent?
  2. Do we have the right leadership?
  3. Do we have the right capability and culture?

We don’t necessarily need to have the answers, but we need to be asking these questions and they are applicable to any business issue.

Effective HR departments

Getting the department right is important. According to Dave Ulrich, when creating the HR department for your company, it’s not about bringing in complex organisational structures with an entire team of people, it’s best to keep it as simple. For example, companies under 500 people don’t need centres of expertise, they only need 2 or 3 generalist who do their job and do it well.

Creating capacity for change

Businesses are constantly having to deal with change and those who are open to change and able to implement that change quickly are the ones who succeed. Dave Ulrich argues that “the number one HR skill in predicting business performance is the navigation of paradox.”

So how do you go about managing change? You have to create tension.

“If you have to create capacity for change what does that require in the organisation? Tension. You don’t change if there’s no tension.”

By forcing disagreement, Dave argues that you prevent group think. By creating tension, you create an environment of agility that can easily respond to change.

  • “Our job in HR is to navigate tension through navigating paradox”
  • “Force disagreement to prevent group think”
  • “Out of the tension comes agility that responds to change”


These ideas and topics are extremely relevant and we’d like to thank Dave Ulrich for an insightful and thought provoking workshop!

Learn more about how ELMO can help your organisation.
Learn more about how ELMO can help your organisation.