A New Mandate for HR Managers

Published by MBA Skool Team, Published on January 30, 2017

David Ulrich made waves when he published the above paper delineating the importance of the Human Resources regarding mandates for HR managers in a company. In a time where HR could not have been thought to be more redundant, David Ulrich successfully identified four spheres or mandates where its need was in fact imminent. Very simply put, David Ulrich believed that the basic purpose of HR was to achieve organizational efficiency. This was a different concept not thought of even by veteran management pundits who believed that the HR existed only for washing senior management’s laundry. The HR was supposed to be limited to the mundane job of filing papers and being a regulatory watchdog.

Perceiving certain grappling issues like Globalization, Technology, Profitability, Intellectual Capital and Change, David felt that the need for a competitive HR was more than ever in today’s business scenario. I have described these issues further. Organizations needed to think globally and act locally. This was and continues to be a fairly difficult challenge what with changing consumer needs and preferences, volatile political environment, shifting macro-environmental dynamics, etc. Achieving revenue growth through innovation and creativity is another hard challenge. Technology has made this entire universe into one big global village. Where man couldn’t reach, technology has been able to. Intellectual capital refers to an organization’s most knowledgeable employees. Now the challenge lies in hiring them, retaining them and motivating them. And lastly, the hardest enemy for companies nowadays is the everlasting change. There is nothing like long term for businesses today but only short term goals.

Image: pixabay

First Mandate: Strategic Partners

The first mandate is the foremost mandate. David Ulrich said that the HR should become a strategic partner with the top management so that strategy implementation can take place effectively. It is important to stress on the fact that David did not for a second believe that HR should create the business strategy. According to him, HR’s role should be limited to only executing it. I find his this opinion a little short-sighted. How can the Human Resources dream of an able partner in strategy execution if it is not allowed a seat at the creating table? The HR managers are not any lesser in thinking skills, abilities and knowledge as compared to other departments. So what is the reservation in making it an equal partner of the organization’s strategy building initiatives? It is important to realize that this role cannot be worked out properly if the HR is not allowed to be a part of every step of the way.

Second Mandate: Administrative Efficiency

David Ulrich demanded administrative efficiency from the Human Resources. To state it in layman’s terms, administrative efficiency refers to increasing revenues and reducing costs. This should be done in a way such that the quality is not jeopardized. Being a good administrator doesn’t mean going on a rule-making drive, it means that the processes are performed in a way that is better, faster and cheaper. It bodes well for the organization, not only from the financial perspective but also helps in building HR’s reputation. David was very thorough with this function of HR and it is admirable to see that what he said holds true even today.

Third Mandate: Become role model for employees

The third carefully thought out function from David Ulrich to HR is about being a hero/champion for the employees. Before elaborating on this role, let’s consider the following situation. Today all the corporations have the difficult task of with competing globally. The protective trade barriers that at one time existed to make the domestically owned companies huge monopolies are no more. If any organization fails to meet international standards, it is out of the business. In this scenario, employees are under tremendous work pressure. With this kind of demanding work relationships, employees do not bother to contribute anything other than their time. According to David, organizations cannot truly succeed until and unless their employees are sincerely engaged in their work. Thus HR has to work towards raising employees’ satisfaction levels, finding out factors that lead to low morale and making sure that they are removed. David Ulrich has very beautifully explained how the HR can achieve this. Keeping the employees motivated is what the companies today need and David was quick to spot that in 1998 only. But with a new era, there has been an emergence of new methods to achieve exactly this - like work-life balance, flextime, and work from home.

For example – during the induction program at Tata Consultancy Services, employees are made to play fun games so that they really enjoy the process of joining a new organization.

Fourth Mandate: Become a change agent

Finally, the HR should become a change agent that modifies, improves and transforms the organizational structure, culture and design so that further progress can take place easily. It can also be interpreted to mean that it is the HR’s duty to keep up with the new transformations that the world is going through. After reading David Ulrich’s most famous paper, I realized that he wasn’t very clear about the HR’s role as a change agent. Does it mean that the HR has to be informed about the latest technology or does it mean that it has to be aware of the best practices in the world? David said that this function would help to increase an organization’s capacity. But if we go along with that, then isn’t it the same as improving the administrative efficiency of the workplace? If that is the case, then how is it really different from the second HR role?


In conclusion, it can be said that David Ulrich was right about some of the functions of HR while for the others; the same thing cannot be said. Some of the issues raised by him like cutting costs while retaining quality and being an employee champion are still relevant in today’s times. On the other hand, the scope of HR needs to be increased like when it comes to it being a strategic partner.

This article has been authored by Suvayan Roy from IMI New Delhi


1. “A New Mandate For Human Resources” by Dave Ulrich

2. An innovative approach to Learning and Teaching Human Resource Management by Denisi Griffin & Sarkar

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