May the 4th be with you (and also your HR team)
By Vicky Hossack and Graham Atkinson
The 4th May holds a special place in the hearts of Star Wars fans. It has no official status. It’s not a bank holiday. It is a grassroots phenomenon that has overtaken the pun that inspired it. Around the world, “May the 4th Be With You” is known as “Star Wars Day.”
To bring a unique HR twist to the day, we decided we’d think about our Star Wars HR dream team and what it would look like. What kind of HR leadership roles would our favourite Star Wars characters take on? And how would they ensure their colleagues could thrive and avoid the dark side? To do this, the well-known Ulrich model of HR, we used… (as Yoda would say)
The model of HR developed by Dave Ulrich in the nineties is still seen as a powerful way of defining the key parts of the HR role / function. It’s often used in deciding the structure of a HR team or designing HR roles. It’s also sometimes used to frame the different qualities or ‘hats’ that can be required of a HR professional.
The model identifies four main roles for the HR profession and after some long deliberation and soul searching, we’ve determined our Star Wars HR dream team:
The Strategic Partner - Leia Organa
The strategic partner in Ulrich’s model focuses on alignment of HR activities and initiatives with the business strategy and is often a task of HR management or Business Partners. They ensure that leaders are supported to achieve goals through their people and that they build engagement and performance.
Undoubtedly the greatest strategic leader of the resistance and Rebel Alliance is Leia. She demonstrates all the great qualities of a HR strategist. She brought people to her cause using her natural coaching and mentoring style that empowered and brought the best out in others, whilst managing complex systems and processes to keep the resistance’ mission on track.
Whilst able to show a compassionate, empathetic side to her colleagues, she was also fearless and brave in achieving her objectives, guided by a strong moral code and instincts. A leader who was practical, goal-orientated and smart, makes Leia the ultimate strategic partner in the quest for transformational change.
Change Agent – Anakin Skywalker / Darth Vader
The change agent role is about delivering effective change management across the organisation. They help to ensure effective business planning and capacity around change initiatives that impact on people. They avoid wookie errors like failing to communicate effectively with people.
Not only did Anakin Skywalker change his identity, personal brand and sides (twice), he also changed the future of the galaxy. After taking on the role of Sith apprentice to the Emperor, Darth Vader was charged with bringing a new order to the Empire and ultimately the galaxy. He set out a clear vision for new ways of working and aligned the resources to that vision.
Darth Vader set out, and applied, clear standards and expectations for the people who worked around him, although he did lose his temper from time to time with his Generals (which we don’t condone). He role-modelled the kind of culture he wanted to see and communicated clearly, sometimes telepathically.
Vader also achieved something that many change agents often fail to do. Having realised that the programme of change was headed off course and that the context had shifted, he was able to change himself and take a new direction.
Employee Champion - Finn (aka FN-2187)
The employee champion helps create and drive processes that are human-centred. They care about the interests of colleagues and ensure that proper thought is given to the needs of people within the organisation. They help people to drive business needs because they want to, not because of force.
Our pick for a motivational team player, Finn, is able to rally those around him. He proves himself early on when he stands up and protests against the injustice being carried out by his fellow Stormtroopers. Championing the voice of the vulnerable, he takes the brave decision to abandon his post and join the resistance.
Over time he proves his value as both a true friend and leader of others, rising through the ranks to become a General, managing his team of people and their operations. Quotes such as ‘We’re all in this. Until the end’ demonstrate his ability to bring people together and utilise strong values and principles to secure commitment to their mission and goals.
Administrative Expert – R2-D2
The administrative expert in any HR team ensures that solid foundations are in place that underpin the rest of the HR function. They bring attention to detail ensuring that HR tasks are carried out with diligence and that systems and processes work efficiently.
R2-D2 is the epitome of administrative expertise. He proved to be a Star Wars stalwart serving diligently and faithfully under many leaders from Queen Amidala of Naboo to Luke Skywalker. He took great care with important tasks most notably carrying the technical plans needed for the destruction of the death star.
R2 could always be relied upon to support the team and support various missions in an understated yet highly efficient way. Even when having some downtime (like the disappearance of Luke between Episodes 6 and 7) he enjoyed poring over, and analysing, decade’s worth of data in case it should come in useful. We never saw him produce a people data dashboard in the films, but we’re confident it’s the kind of thing he would have done with aplomb.
Like any team, our Star Wars HR dream team is based on the collective strengths of the group rather than their solo contributions. Each of these characters may have flaws or gaps but together they are capable of creating a vision for HR and building a workforce that can thrive and fill their potential.