ISSN 1175-5407

NZJHRM 2009 Special Issue: HRM & Performance Work Environment and Retention Page | 145 NZJHRM, 9(2), 145- 146.

Book Review: Ulrich, D; Allen, J; Brockbank, W; Younger, J; and Nyman, M (2009).
HR Transformation: Building Human Resources from the Outside In, New York: McGraw-Hill.
Kristen Cooper - AFHRINZ
Kaycee Projects, New Zealand

This book is sponsored by the RBL Institute, part of the RBL Group, with whom all authors have working relationships. It draws on learning from the Group’s consultancy practice, and the Think Tank Sessions and Mini Forums they hold with practitioners to test ideas, hear their questions and share work practices. The authors want this book to be a working guide for organisations looking at the structure and delivery of their HR work. They claim their audience as HR professionals, line managers, and staff functions such as IT, finance and legal – those other work areas that are also challenged by their businesses to deliver value.

With the aim of HR being to help their organisations succeed, the authors have structured their views and advice into eight chapters referenced under their four phases of transformation: (1) Business Context, (2) Outcomes, (3) HR Redesign (including how to ‘do transformation’ and upgrade HR professionals), and (4) HR Accountability.

The remainder of the book is written by company personnel who offer their experiences of HR transformation in their businesses. Four businesses are covered: Flextronics, a large electronics manufacturing services business; Pfizer, a large pharmaceutical company; Intel, the large semiconductor company; and Takeda Pharmaceuticals North America, a large division of the global Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited.

The case studies help readers see which aspects of the transformation advice in the first eight chapters were most useful for the four business’ circumstances.  For the New Zealand context, though, these private sector companies are huge and this may distract some readers from considering the applications for smaller sized firms in New Zealand, as well as public sector and non-profit organisations. However, I hope not.
The patterns that emerge from the stories are useful for any change situation, and a point that is repeated throughout this book is the importance of ‘adapting’ transformation tools and ideas, rather than simply ‘adopting’ them. It is a vital point.

This book is an easy read, and it provides access to 29 online tools to help with the transformation process. The tools include videos with the authors talking about key ideas, models, and checklists.

My (old-fashioned) preference is to have a complete book, with checklists and models included, but I do understand the drive to work in a different way and perhaps ensure currency of tools as time progresses. Being able to listen to the authors is an added bonus for those who like to hear directly from people. I feel it is a good touch for accommodating different learning styles and modelling humanity in an HR world.

Of course this book is well timed. Today’s economic conditions mean organisations are considering ways they can transform themselves and their business practices to remain relevant today and tomorrow.

As the authors point out, this is not just an HR issue. Many service and functional departments face the same questions. This means the tools and ideas in this book, and the supplementary online material, are helpful not only for HR leaders and departments seeking to transform themselves, but also in providing HR support and guidance in other departments going through organisational change.

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