In 2012, writing for Personnel Today, Dave Ulrich wrote about the “six competencies” that Human Resources departments must develop to handle challenges like the economic crisis, changing technology, and globalization. Ulrich is credited with the creation of the modern HR model, and his words were welcome at a time when the business landscape was shifting for many organizations across many different industries.

Three years later, the economy has stabilized a bit, but all three issues that Ulrich discussed in his article are things we are still dealing with. The HR guru’s advice is still worth reading, digesting, and implementing within your organization.


The Six Competencies of Modern Human Resources

Ulrich’s article focuses on what he believes is a newly emerging “wave” in the industry. The wave, which he calls “HR from the outside in,” focuses on Human Resources venturing beyond their organizations to be more efficient. Previously, HR has been mostly focused on a company’s employees and overall mission statement. Departments were responsible for making sure a business’s core goals were integrated across the organization, as well as for ensuring employee interests were preserved as well. Now, Ulrich believes that focusing on outside “customers, investors, and communities” needs to be an important component of the HR job description.

To help HR employees master the “outside-in wave”, as well as the previous three “waves” of HR (which Ulrich defines as “HR administration,” “HR practices,” and “HR strategy”) the pioneering Human Resources guru introduced six roles or “competencies” that must be understood. These include the following:

  1. Credible Activist. HR professionals who are credible activists do, in Ulrich’s words, “what they say they will do.” They stay true to their word, build personal trust with employees, stakeholders, and other players both inside and outside an organization, and are therefore able to serve as driving forces in their organizations. In addition to this personal trust, credible activists must be able to back it up with data-supported knowledge about business issues and clear opinions about the direction of the company.
  2. Strategic Positioner. This competency essentially has to do with industry business knowledge. The best HR professionals, Ulrich says, “understand the global business context” into which their organization fits. This contextual understanding can deal with technology, social and political issues, economic trends, customer demographics, and more. Human Resources departments need to be able to take all of this information and use it to help a business strategize, set goals, and become more successful.
  3. Capability Builder. Human Resources departments are, in part, tasked with enhancing and broadening what their organizations can do. Sometimes, this role may mean helping employees access professional development opportunities; other times, it might mean building morale in the office, or helping employees feel like they are a part of a broader mission or purpose. An HR professional with strong building skills might also be able to help strategize ways to increase the innovation or efficiency of the workplace.
  4. Change Champion. Ulrich says that HR professionals are often the cogs in a business that “develop their organizations’ capacity for change.” Using their knowledge of the business, employees, stakeholders, customers, marketing, and other factors, HR departments can identify processes that need to be changed or replaced to improve a company’s bottom line. HR also drives the implementation of these changes, and tracks which alterations are successful and which are not.
  5. Human Resource Innovator and Integrator. Human Resources departments are not static in their purpose. As business goals and priorities change, Human Resources professionals need to be able to adapt HR practices to reflect the organization’s core missions and capabilities. By being able to innovate, integrate, and tailor HR practices to suit “desired business results,” HR professionals are better able to help their organizations achieve specific goals.
  6. Technology Proponent. Here, Ulrich talks about how HR professionals have always benefitted from using technology to become more efficient. He cites the example of HR information systems (HRIS), a type of software that Human Resources departments have long used to manage payroll, records, and more. This longtime commitment to technology makes HR professionals a natural choice to help implement technology more fully across an organization, from social networking to what Ulrich calls “management of information.” By being technology proponents, HR departments can help their organizations become more innovative and efficient across the board.


How Document Management Can Help HR Professionals Master Ulrich’s Six Competencies

Clearly, document management and DMS software were already becoming a big part of Human Resources three years ago, when Dave Ulrich wrote this article. HRIS software is essentially the HR-geared version of a DMS while Ulrich’s recommendation that HR professionals become technology proponents hinted at the need to implement and integrate DMS across an organization.

However, the benefits of DMS go beyond the technology proponent role and can indeed help Human Resources departments master all of Ulrich’s competencies. Most of the roles that Ulrich discussed put HR professionals in a position of having to track, review, understand, and internalize bulk quantities of information. To be a convincing activist, an HR professional needs to understand his or her organization from the inside out; to be a strategic positioner, an HR professional needs to be aware of market statistics, demographic information, and a slew of other extraneous information. Also, to be a capability builder, an HR professional must be able to understand what different employees and departments throughout the organization are capable of achieving.

All of these competencies could be made easier to achieve by implementing an electronic DMS across an organization. For instance, having their company’s information all accessible in a single place would help HR professionals find and reference the data necessary to become a credible activist. Similarly, having a good way of accessing employee files would assist HR professionals in identifying untapped potential throughout the organization, a vital part of the capability builder role.

The bottom line is, if you are involved in Human Resources and want to learn how to integrate Dave Ulrich’s six competencies into your department, a DMS might just be the key. Try out eFileCabinet as your document management system today, by visiting our homepage at There, you can click on the “Free Demo” tab at the side of the page to try out a free 15-minute preview of our software.