RBL Group- Building Human Capability that Delivers Business Results

RBL Group- Building Human Capability Dave Ulrich

The business landscape is taking dramatic strides every day. For the professionals working in the HR to deliver value in future to all the stakeholders, they need to be well aware of the context in which they are operating. To do this, they have to first examine the social, technological, economic, political, environmental and demographic trends that are shaping the country and the specific industry. 

Featuring for The Enterprise World’s this issue of The Most Admired Companies to Watch in 2022 is RBL Group, a company helping people build human capability that will deliver business results. 

In this interview with Dave Ulrich, Co-Founder, let us know more about the journey of the company. 

1. Tell us more about the inception of the company.

RBL group was formed by Dave Ulrich and Norm Smallwood in 1999. Each of these founders had extensive experience in thinking about and influencing people and organizations.  Norm has worked at Procter and Gamble and Imperial Oil/Esso, then co- founded Novations, a consulting firm focused on strategy, careers, and survey research. 

Dave had been a Professor at the Ross Business School at the University of Michigan since 1982 teaching primarily in the Executive Programs.  Dave is recognized globally as “the father of modern HR”. Since our founding, we have added two equity partners, Ernesto Uscher and Joe Hanson each of whom has over 30 years of consulting experience with hundreds of global clients.  Over the 20 years, we have partnered with some of the most thoughtful, creative, and dynamic consultants, facilitators, coaches, and in the consulting industry.  

The company took on the title “Results Based Leadership” (RBL Group) based on a book by Dave, Norm and Jack Zenger called Results Based Leadership.  The premise of this book has been the underlying logic of the firm with a focus on results.  We are committed to helping individuals, teams, and organizations define and achieve results, defined by five key stakeholders:  

  • Employee results measured by sentiment and productivity
  • Strategic results tracked by strategic redefinition and transformation 
  • Customer results indicated by customer share and net promoter score
  • Investor results as tracked by cash flow and intangible market value
  • Community results tracked by social citizenship and responsibility

We have a global reach with clients and colleagues throughout Latin America, in Europe, and throughout Asia, as well as North America.  Our clients include over half of the Fortune 200.

How do you decide to take the company a step further in terms of your products/services?

Is there any new addition to the list of products/services? Anything exciting you would like to share?

2. What are the products/services the company focuses on? How are your services different from those in the market?

RBL Group committed to delivering stakeholder results for our clients.  We offer unique insights tailored to each client needs that will help them deliver stakeholder results.  We are thought partners and work to transfer our insights to our clients success.   

Our work to enhance human capability includes 

  • Talent (people, workforce, competence)
  • Organization (culture, workplace, capability)
  • Leadership (individual leaders and leadership capability)
  • Human resources (department, practices, analytics, and people)

We are thought leaders through research, books, articles, and consulting in each of these four areas of human capability

The RBL Group has produced over 35 books and 100’s of articles that define each of these four areas.  Some of the key books include:

These ideas and books are based on extensive research in each of the four areas.  Two recent research projects include the HR Competence & Capability Study (HRC2S) and Organization Guidance System:

StudyQuestionSampleKey Findings
HR Competence/Capability Study (HRC2S)(sponsored by RBL Group and University of Michigan with 19 partners)How do HR competencies, HR departments, and business capabilities deliver personal, stakeholder, and business results?29,000 global respondents with 360(3,600 participants25,000 raters)HR department and business capabilities have 6 to 8 times more impact on stakeholder and business results than personal HR competenciesHR competencies cluster into five domains, with a focus on verbs: accelerate business to advance human capability by mobilize information, foster collaboration, and simplify complexity
Organization Guidance System (OGS)How can five stakeholder results (employee, strategy, customer, financial, community) be increased by human capability investments? Over 3,000 respondents in over 2,000 organizationsBusiness/HR leaders can prioritize investments in human capability to deliver stakeholder results. Insights:Talent: acquire right peopleLeadership: build business caseOrganization capability: strategic clarity and agilityHR: reputation and relationshipEach organization can determine what works for them (guidance)

Based on our research and extensive experience, we propose an integrated human capability framework with four pathways and 37 initiatives: 

Talent (historically what “human capital” means): individual competence, people, workforce, and employee (10 initiatives)

Leadership: individual leaders at all levels as well as leadership capability throughout an organization (6 initiatives)

Organization: organization capability, culture, workplace, and systems (12 initiatives)

Human Resources (HR): characteristics of the HR department, practice, and people (9 initiatives) 

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Using this human capability framework, we are able to show the continued connection to stakeholder results.  

Out of this work, we have articulated three simple meta-themes or agendas for human capability to rise to the opportunities, relevant to all interested in human capability.

  • HR is not about HR, but delivering value to all stakeholders inside (employees, business strategy) and outside (customer, investor, community).
  • HR contributes human capability (talent, leadership, and organization) to all stakeholders.
  • HR reinvention occurs through the HR department, HR people, and business conversations.

Based on these assumptions, we offer a number of ways to upgrade business and HR leaders.  We believe that business leaders have primary responsibility to deliver these results, with HR support as business partners.  

We have created a portfolio of development experiences for business and HR leaders and we offer personal coaching.

Building Business and HR Leaders 

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1: RBL Institute.  

The RBL Group Institute is a membership organization of companies committed to thought leadership and action in HR that delivers value.  Member companies send participants to  think tanks to shape new ideas (recent/upcoming think tanks on agility, hybrid work, mental health/well being, public human capability reporting, post COVID leadership trends, and the new workforce), participate in the latest research, access personal advisory services, and share best practices.  The RBL Group institute is the incubator of innovative ideas with impact.

2:  HR individual in-person learning.

RBL Group partner  with the University of Michigan in their Advanced HR Executive Program (AHREP) where global participants learn the play book for the future of HR based on the 35 year HR competency research.  The faculty in this 2 week program include thought leaders in strategy (Ram Charan), global HR (Arthur Yeung), CHRO agenda and DEI (Myrian Graddick-Weir), HR profession (Johnny Taylor), strategic HR (Wayne Brockbank), HR analytics (Dick Beatty), HR compensation (Charlie Tharp) and HR value creation (Dave Ulrich).    

3:  HR in person virtual learning 

RBL Group Partnering with Udemy, RBL Group created virtual learning academies on talent (12 modules), HR (16 modules), leadership (12 modules), and market-oriented ecosystems (8 modules).  These virtual academies include blended learning with digital, personal modules and facilitated discussion groups.  Participants can access and personalize the HR playbook for success.  Participants can also access personal assessment and improvement modules

4:  HR virtual team learning experience (HRVLE)

RBL Group invited companies to identify an HR priority that will drive stakeholder results and to organize a team of high potential HR professionals to not only address that agenda, but access through a digital library the latest thinking on HR.  Each HRVLE  team is virtually coached by world class coaches (e.g., Dick Beatty, Norm Smallwood) to make progress on the HR agenda, and each team member access HR content modules relevant to their personal learning and team project.  Each team member may also access personal coaching from Dave Ulrich.

5:  HR Learning Partnership (HRLP)

The RBL Group Capstone program (HRLP) has been offered for 30 years with over 1,500 participants.  Participants attend as a team of high potential future HR leaders in an 8 day consortium with 6 to 8 teams from other companies.   Participants learn the playbook for HR value creation, work on a company project to apply the playbook, and receive personal coaching for professional and personal growth.  Teams also share with each other and have an immersive  learning experience that helps implement a company’s HR agenda and inspires personal improvement.

What do you think are the responsibilities of an entrepreneur?

Our professional commitment is to create ideas with impact.  We always start with client needs to identify how they can be more effective with their stakeholders. RBL Group focus on delighted customers regardless of what competitors are doing. We then offer them tailored solutions to reach their goals. 

As a firm, we have employees who have incredible competence in their ability to work with clients, to diagnose challenges, and to offer creative and tailored solutions.  These RBL Group partners are among the best consultants, facilitators, and coaches in the human capability industry.  RBL Group’s clients repeatedly express incredible appreciation for their work.

We are all motivated to deliver value to clients through innovative ideas that have lasting impact.   

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