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  • Personal Branding Interview: Dave Ulrich

    Today, I spoke to Dave Ulrich, who is one of the most well-known HR thought leaders in the world, winner of many awards and author of many books, such as HR Transformation.  In this interview, Dave talks to us about talent management, how to retain employees, five categories of leadership, if social networks should be used in the recruitment process and what HR looks for when they hire.

    How has talent management changed in the past five years?

    There are a number of changes. The largest conceptual change is that we fought a “war for talent”. This metaphor might be similar to the way the Allies ended WW I. they held the Versailles treaty where they advocated “to the victor go the spoils”. This payback mindset may have set conditions for WW II. After WW II, the allies worked on the Marshall plan to collaborate with and build the enemies. The War for Talent should be replaced with Marshalling Talent (tentative title of book by RBL colleagues Jon Younger and Wayne Brockbank). To Marshall Talent, we have identified 10 things that general managers need to know and do, all built around creating cooperative across groups and people. We will preview this book on (www.rbl.net) as we continue to draft it.

    What are the top three things management has to do to retain employees now?

    One of the fears of the economic downturn is that we may be getting “false/positive” on talent engagement surveys. In many companies doing surveys, engagement scores are high and mangers are clapping themselves on the back for their transparency and openness. Be warned. Some of these scores might be that in the downturn, employees with a job are grateful to have a job. If the company is taking too much advantage of the economic downturn and treating employees badly, the employees may remember when the economy returns. We are writing about building the “abundance organization” where employees find meaning through their work. Drawing on diverse literatures, we have identified 8 things that managers can do to enhance abundance. When they do these things, they help employees stay with the company now and in the future.

    What are your five rules to live by in your book “The Leadership Code”?

    We interviewed 15 thought leaders in leadership. We performed a “meta qualitative analysis” which is we ask them each to draw on their decades of research and 100,000’ of leadership 360s, and extensive coaching, to answer two questions. First, what percent of effective leadership is basically the “same stuff.”? Like two brands of watches (Timex vs. Seiko) differ, the two watches also have much in common. Their responses were generally in the 60 to 70% range. About 2/3 of what leaders do to succeed is the same basic stuff. Question 2, what is it? We distilled their answers into five categories that we call rules:

    • Strategist: know where you are doing and have a position about the future
    • Executor: make sure you make things happen and deliver as promised
    • Talent manager: involve others in your journey
    • Human capital developer: invest in the next generation
    • Personal proficiency: take care of yourself so others will trust you

    Pretty basic, but they are the essential ingredients of, the ticket of admission, the ante, or the code for leadership.

    Do you believe in using social networks – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter – for background checks (45% of companies do currently)?

    Not sure about legality or morality. But am sure about

    1. Companies can and should do thorough back ground checks on employees since investing in talent is often the most important investment a company makes.
    2. The internet is by definition public data. When someone posts something in a public place they acknowledge directly or indirectly that their posting is public. Electronic footprints are difficult to cover. The dilemma for me is about the privacy of the individual who may think that electronic connections (e.g., Twitter, text message, or e-mail) are private.

    When recruiting for talent, what should a hiring manager look for?

    Start with knowing the requirements of the job. We don’t go shopping for “clothes” in general without a specific article of clothing in mind (a shirt for school; a jacket for dinner). Be clear about the current and potential future position requirements. Have multiple people interview the candidate. Different people will pick up on different tendencies. Have all of the people know of the job requirement and use some of the same probes. Make sure the candidate talks … about successes and failures, work strengths and weaknesses, and hopes and fears for an ideal job.

    Sometimes hiring managers talk too much. Look for technical ability and cultural fit. Can someone do the requirements of the job? Will they fit in with others who are doing the job? Finally, if possible, find job testing experiences where you can see the candidate in action. This might be a mock assignment, a temporary hire, or some setting where you can see the candidate perform real work.

    Dave Ulrich
    is as a Professor of Business at the University of Michigan and a partner at the RBL Group, a consulting firm focused on helping organizations and leaders deliver value. In 2006, 2008 and 2009, he was ranked as the #1 most influential person in HR by HR Magazine and in 2007 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the ASTD.  He studies how organizations build capabilities of speed, learning, collaboration, accountability, talent, and leadership through leveraging human resources. He has helped generate award winning data bases that assess alignment between strategies, human resource practices and HR competencies.  He has published over 100 articles and book chapters and 20 books, such as HR Transformation (2009 Justin Allen, Wayne Brockbank, Jon Younger, and Mark Nyman,(McGraw Hill), Leadership Code (2008 Norm Smallwood and Kate Sweetman (Harvard).  He edited Human Resource Management 1990-1999, served on editorial board of 4 Journals, on the Board of Directors for Herman Miller, and Board of Trustees at Southern Virginia University, and is a Fellow in the National Academy of Human Resources.  He has consulted and done research with over half of the Fortune 200.

    Dan Schawbel is the Managing Partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm. He is the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success (St. Martin’s Press) and the #1 international bestselling book, Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future (Kaplan Publishing), which combined have been translated into 15 languages.

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