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Three organisations' interpretations of Ulrich

How Capgemini, T-Systems and Arcus Solutions have implemented the HR model

Capgemini: the global, talent-focused model

For Will Peachey, senior VP, group transformation at Capgemini, one of the main things the Ulrich model doesn’t account for, and perhaps never intended to, are global organisations. “Ulrich tends to be one single lens, rather than catering for the complexity of a global organisation,” he says. “But Capgemini is a very federated, localised organisation.”

The challenge, then, is making overarching centres of excellence (CoEs) relevant to 41 countries. Capgemini’s solution: “A global CoE, but local delivery.”

“Functions like payroll are locally delivered as a service but sit under common group governance so that if you need to negotiate with a payroll provider, for example, there are people who have done that before,” reports Peachey. “When you’re split into three different companies, it’s more sensible to have three centres of excellence for payroll… but at that point they stop being centres of excellence. They actually become a service delivery function in three countries,so delivery becomes another bit feeding out from CoEs, which doesn’t fit into the three bits of Ulrich.”

Ulrich also doesn’t account in this way for European works councils, says Peachey (although given Ulrich is American, this is perhaps pretty understandable). “We have an international works council which is governed globally,” he explains. “Then country works councils governed by country, by location and city in Germany. So what is that person at city level? Ulrich has never thought about that.”

Another key differentiator is its model’s emphasis on talent. Along with featuring HRBPs and shared service and CoE elements, the model also features a separate talent function. “We’re an unusual company; somewhere between 80 and 90% of our revenue is generated through labour. So it is a strategic imperative to have a structure focused on talent,” says Peachey, explaining that L&D, compensation and benefits strategy and D&I all sit within this.

T-Systems: the outsourced centres of excellence model

The way organisations should adopt Ulrich is very dependent on size, believes HR director at T-Systems Sarah Sandbrook. “I would consider us a medium-sized organisation and we’ve had to adapt [Ulrich]… For small organisations it’s even more important.”

The solution for T-Systems has been a high degree of outsourcing of specialist areas. “We can’t support a massive overhead… so we look at what we absolutely need in-house and where we can partner with third parties,” says Sandbrook, explaining that T-Systems still benefits though, from the economies of scale of a wider shared service centre, powered by parent company Deutsche Telecomm and located in Romania.

So T-Systems outsources payroll, benefits, training and development, and all recruitment. “I have an L&D provider who works with the business on bespoke programmes, our core programmes and our My Learning portal; that’s all managed on our behalf. But it’s got all our branding on it,” says Sandbrook, adding: “As far as the employee experience is concerned, they are talking to people from T-Systems. For me that works if people don’t see the join.”

Sandbrook ensures “people don’t see the join” by having a ‘HR deliverer’ on her team: “She makes sure all of these various elements deliver to the business… Whatever quality benchmarks we set ourselves internally we want all the suppliers to deliver.”

Arcus Solutions: the L&D-focused, two-strand model

As a business with a headcount of 900, facilities management firm Arcus Solutions was never going to command the budget for a full-blown Ulrich model, shared service centres, CoEs and all. But with a newly formed strategy to bid for work other than for main client Sainsbury’s, and to increase headcount to 3,000, Arcus did, however, need to do something different from the old structure of “HR [being] seen as very much a support, admin function,” in the words of learning and engagement director Michael Ridgett.

Ridgett’s solution was, as other similarly sized businesses have done of late, to split out the operational and strategic sides, with Ridgett heading up the latter and a HR operations director the former. “The HR operations director has responsibility for resourcing, reward and relations. In her team is the admin team of three people, and the business partners,” says Ridgett. “Over on my side I have learning and engagement managers. With communication, we’re just deciding where that best fits. We think probably with my side because communication is a big part of engagement.”

In this way, Arcus’s HR managers of old can finally get out and about as business partners, and deliver Ulrich-worthy impact. Ridgett is mindful of the need to fully upskill this team, however. “The learning and engagement managers need to be consultants. We’re catching up a bit on that. They’re being regularly called upon to advise on best practice,” he says.

Regarding the prominence of L&D and engagement in this new model, Ridgett explains that neither has traditionally received much focus infacilities management due to this being a highly TUPE-driven industry. So this is a great way for Arcus to achieve competitive advantage: “Our chief exec has always said our advantage is that we invest heavily in that area,” explains Ridgett. “We see that if we can provide great service, that starts to differentiate us. We do that by making sure our colleagues are trained and developed.”

Further reading

Is the Ulrich model still valid?