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Top 10 HR Models Every Human Resources Professional Should Know

This list contains the best, most popular, and new-age HR models tailor-made for all kinds of HR...

Ishvani Hans
Technology and travel journalist
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Think about two companies that differ vastly in terms of their work culture. Perhaps, you have an affinity towards one of them and want to emulate their ways of working. What makes this favored company more desirable? The answer, as delineated in this article by The New York Times, is myriads of factors that can range from meetings to diversity. As a human resources professional, you might have an itch to unearth these factors so that you too can create a great work culture for your team. That’s where HR models come in. 

Simply put, an HR model is an abstract representation of how an HR department works. Because it would be an arduous task to think about HR policies and functions from scratch while starting a new company or even revamping an existing one, HR models are used to map out the workings of human resource management departments. 

This list of top 10 HRM models is made for HR professionals of all kinds, and includes both rudimentary HR models formulated by the ilk of university professors and contemporary models put together by industry leaders. Consider adding it to your arsenal of HRM resources.

In This Article

1. The Harvard Framework of HRM 

HRM Model - The Harvard framework of Human Resource Management

Developed in 1984, the Harvard Framework of HRM is a holistic HR operating model that focuses on overcoming problems associated with historical people management. It’s based on the belief that when HR leaders formulate an HR strategy that enables the growth and well-being of their employees, only then can personnel problems be solved  and outputs increased.

This HRM model directs HR teams to develop HRM policies by factoring in stakeholder interests and situational factors which leads to better HR outcomes and long-term consequences.

Why is it useful today: Although this is an archaic model, present-day HR practices find their roots in it. Read about the best HR software that can help you integrate parts of this framework and streamline your HR processes. 

2. The Dave Ulrich HR Model

The David Ulrich’s HR Model

Dave Ulrich is a renowned HR thought leader, and his eponymous HR model came into being in 1996. Devised as a means to streamline HR operations in large organizations, Ulrich proposed to change the structure of HR functions by splitting the human resource management into roles. He identified four key HR roles which are:

  • Strategic partner: HR business partners who are deployed to help the business grow, fall under this category. They do so by formulating strategies that benefit both – the employees and stakeholders of the company. 
  • Change agent: Change agents are concerned with enhancing the overall employee experience. They study the organization’s culture, identify areas where change is needed, and map out implementation plans. 
  • Administrative expert: Administrative experts focus on talent management. They take care of day-to-day HR operations and use metrics to measure the efficacy of the existing HR functions and processes like retention, reward systems, etc. 
  • Employee champion: Safeguarding employees’ interests is at the heart of an HR manager who is an employee champion. Ensuring safety, wellness, diversity, inclusion, and engagement are some of the themes that govern the work of employee champions. 
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Why is it useful today: In a relatively recent article published in HR Magazine, Dave Ulrich talks about the growing complexity of the human resources profession. Given the increasing specialization of different roles within HR, Ulrich’s model couldn’t have been more relevant today. In fact, HR professionals must build upon this model to include the various kinds of HR roles that are in practice today. 

3. The 8-box model by Paul Boselie

The 8-box HR model of Paul Boselie

The 8-box model shows eight boxes of factors that intertwine to lay the foundations of an HR department. This model can be best explained by analyzing the diagram structurally. 

  • First comes the configuration box that describes how the company’s history, culture, technology, and workforce directly influence HR functions. 
  • Then comes the core box of this model, human resources strategy and practices, further divided into four small sequential boxes: intended HR practices, actual HR practices, perceived HR practices, and HR outcomes.
  • This core box of HR strategy and practices leads to the critical HR Goals box which is concerned with the overall goals of the HR department and includes cost-effectiveness, flexibility, and legitimacy. 
  • The critical HR goals box further influences the goals of the business as a whole, and this is defined by the ‘ultimate business goals’ box. This box encompasses viability, sustained competitive advantage, and the formulation of the business strategy. 
  • These four linear boxes are impacted by four other boxes that have an external influence. These are general market context, population market context, general institutional context, and population institutional context. 

Why is it useful today: Thanks to globalization and advancement in technology, the world is changing rapidly. It’s more important than ever before to factor in the various external influences while formulating your HR strategies. A great example of the relevance of this model is the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on businesses, remote work, and new HR technologies for effectively managing people.  

4. The Warwick Model

The Warwick Model of HRM

Formulated by Chris Hendry and Andrew Pettigrew at the University of Warwick, the Warwick model of HRM draws upon the Harvard Model and analyses the five key factors that contribute to the functioning of the human resources department. These five elements are: 

  • Outer context: This includes external factors such as politics, technical environment, laws, competencies, and socio-economic conditions of a place that guide the inner context of the company. 
  • Inner context: This is based upon the outer context and lays the foundation of a company. Company culture, structure, leadership, technology, are some of the areas that fall under this element. 
  • Business strategy: This includes the overall business strategy, objectives, goals, and product market optimization. 
  • HRM context: This element focuses on the foundations of the human resources, such as HR outputs, HR roles, organizations, definitions, etc.
  • HRM content: This key factor deals with specific HR functions like reward system, work system, employer relation, HR flows, and others.

Why is it useful today: Much like the 8-box model by Paul Boselie, this model acknowledges the dynamic nature of the world we live in. The five aforementioned elements directly or indirectly impact the HRM, and the organizations that try to align the internal and external contexts are bound to perform better. Per a Gallup study on hybrid and remote work, 67% of workers reported increased time efficiency, with 51% experiencing higher productivity in this work arrangement.

5. The Advanced HR Value Chain

The Advanced HR Value Chain Model

According to the Advanced HR Value Chain model, the role of an HR department in creating value for an organization is paramount. There are three HR factors that have a direct impact on key performance indicators from the point of view of customers, processes, and finance. These three factors are:

  • HR enablers: These are the factors that govern the functioning of an HR department and include HR budget, HR processes, HR competencies, among other factors.  
  • HR activities: This category contains the core work of HRM and includes workforce planning, performance management, recruitment, selection, and decision making.
  • HR outcomes: These are the HR goals that every HR department strives for. Some of the common measurable HR outcomes are employee engagement, retention, performance, cost, workforce competence. 

Why is it useful today: To achieve its business goals, an organization must pay heed to its HR value chain. For example, if a business has a low HR budget, it might lead to a lower compensation for its employees, which might further lower the retention and impact key performance indicators. HR professionals should take the three HR value chain factors in consideration and formulate a well-thought out strategy for the company’s human capital. 

6. The ASTD Competency Model

The ASTD Competency HR Model

The ASTD Competency model was created in 2004 by The Association for Talent Development(ATD), formerly known as the American Society for Training and Development(ASTD). It has been revamped twice since its inception, the most recent of which happened in 2013.

This model is designed for talent development practitioners and serves as a roadmap of competencies that such professionals must build, in order to succeed in their careers. These competencies are grouped under two sections, ‘Foundational Competencies’ and ‘Areas of Expertise’ (AOEs), the former of which are base-level competencies that are used to build more specific competencies. 

According to this model, training and development professionals need to integrate both of these competencies in their HR systems to operate efficiently and save training costs. 

Why is it useful today: Over the decades, the HR profession has evolved. In order to thrive in the ever-changing world and maintain a competitive edge, it’s important for HR managers to build not only the foundational competencies but also find their area of expertise. The ASTD competency model broadly highlights the various directions that HR leaders can head towards in order to stand out. These AOEs are as relevant today as they were in 2013. 

7. The 5 Ps Model

5 P's Model of Strategy Implementation - HR Framework

Developed in 1992 by Randall Schuler, a renowned HR leader and university professor, the 5 Ps model of HRM underscores the 5 key factors that drive an organization. These five factors are:

  • Purpose: The organization’s vision, mission and broad goals. 
  • Principles: These are the foundational rules upon which the values and the organizational culture is based.
  • Processes: These are the day-to-day operations set in place in order to fulfill the business needs. 
  • People: This aspect deals with how people are involved in the organization, right from the hiring process. 
  • Performance: These include key performance indicators and other metrics to measure the performance of the employees, organizational goals, and other business functions.

According to this model, the 5 Ps influence each other and HR practitioners should strive to align them.

Why is it useful today: As explained in this article by SHRM, the role of the human resource personnel has expanded beyond the core duties. It’s imperative for HR practitioners to align the organizational purpose, values, and principles to perform their jobs effectively.

8. The Standard Causal Model

The standard causal HRM model for the relationship between HRM and performance

The Standard Causal Model of HRM is based upon numerous overlapping models of the 90s and early 2000s. It shows a causal chain of organizational activities that illustrates how overall business strategy impacts the HR outcomes, which further affects the internal performance and financial outcomes of the business. 

Why is it useful today: The model depicts how a well-formulated overall business strategy could go a long way in improving HR functions, and ultimately the overall performance. 

9. The People Value Chain Model

The People Value Chain HR strategy model

Developed in early 2021, EY’s People Value Chain is a futuristic HR model that’s worth keeping an eye out for. This newly-built model is a deliberate departure from the Ulrich model and puts an emphasis on delivering long-term value creation across four key areas: financial value, consumer value, societal value, and human value. 

The People Value Chain is built on three core components: 

  • The digital people team: This team designs, adopts, and shares innovative services that automate most administrative and operational tasks. 
  • People services: People consultants listen, solve problems, and innovate solutions to unleash the human value that fuels business performance.
  • Virtual global business services: This department takes on the HR organization work and does so by working in a cross-functional service environment where similar tasks from IT, finance, legal, and supply chain departments are combined to deliver impactful experiences at scale.

Why is it useful today: Employees these days prefer an empathetic style of leadership. According to this model, new tools and technology will help HR professionals focus more on long-term value creation and less on mundane tasks.  

10. The High-Impact HR Operating Model

The High-Impact HR Operating Model

This HR Operating Model by Deloitte is a blueprint for an HR function built on adaptability, innovation, and expertise. There are four core elements of this model:

  • HR customers: They remain at the heart of the model and have a direct influence on the workforce experience.
  • The Digital Workplace: This empowers and connects the workforce. 
  • Workforce Insights: These are derived through digital solutions and HR analytics, used for formulating the business strategy.
  • Fluid interaction among the HR components: This breaks down silos and is the model’s strength. 

The model also describes the way to shift from current ways of working to high-impact HR in a framework called the 4 Cs: create capacity, grow capability, empower community, boost credibility.

Why is it useful today: According to their research, when HR operates with high impact, it leads to overall business growth.

A Final Note 

These top 10 HR models have been created by brilliant scholars and HR thought leaders. Many companies including Deloitte and Ey use these HRM models to streamline their human resource management. Find which model best resonates with your company, and implement it to enhance your business.

One must, however, remember that the map is not the territory. Because a model by definition is a broad generalization of something, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Experiment and see which model works for you, and don’t hesitate from borrowing aspects from various models to create your own!

Ishvani Hans
Technology and travel journalist
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Ishvani has been writing for businesses in the technology, HR, and travel domains since 2017. Over the period of her writing career, she has written everything ranging from articles, buyer guides, software reviews, video scripts, and website copy. She studied finance and is currently working on a degree in Human-Computer Interaction at the University of British Columbia. Outside work, Ishvani enjoys learning about the mind and the consciousness, going on long walks, and rambling about cyberculture.

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