ICube’s innovative pentagon of HR


A first of its kind, web-enabled diagnostic platform on human capital management practices.

Many CEOs and business leaders have this perception – anyone can handle the HR function!

Is that right?

On the contrary, we have all seen that in the last decade or so, there have been several cases where seasoned HR professionals across the world including India, have got into the board rooms as successful directors and CXOs with additional portfolios.

In the last 12 months, we have engaged with a couple of hundred CXOs, business leaders and HR leaders with the objective to understand the preconditions for establishing the HR function as an ‘able business partner’.

What emerged from these discussions was that the functional capability, and therefore credibility of the HR function continues to be directly dependent on the depth of domain expertise brought to the table by senior HR professionals.

It is about the ability of the HR professionals to translate this domain expertise and implement strategic solutions to enable businesses achieve results and earn their place in the spotlight.

Here is a sample of responses of what business leaders understand of the HR function from our year-long engagement exercise with them. There is a perceptible improvement over the last decade.

1. Business leaders want to know what else to expect from HR other than getting the basics vis-à-vis payroll, benefits, recruitment, exits, HR policies, training, employee grievances and vendor management.

2. They continue to be mystified with the subject of human capital management practices and how HR directly contributes to business efficiencies and effectiveness.

3. They are unclear on what ‘HR value-add or strategic’ means in practical terms.

4. HR is viewed as an immensely important function and they trust HR professionals to guide them on HCM.

5. HR is beginning to understand the business and customers.

6. A cost that is essential to get things done for business (brutal!).

7. Anything to do with people or people-related practices is primarily HR’s responsibility.

8. Anyone who ran a business, and has administrative skills can handle the HR function!

Some of you may not agree with some parts of this perception or may even think that we are kidding!

Times have changed and so has the HR profession, and its effectiveness, as pundits argue! Partly true and mostly it is a continuous process.

In reality, all of us can do much better to demystify and simplify for CEOs or business leaders, everything about human capital management (HCM) practices that HR function can be an enabler of.

Here, we define HCM as not just people but as an amalgamation of people and people related strategy, policies, processes, practices, technology and systems to enable efficiencies and effectiveness.

Recently, Dave Ulrich shared his insights on what HR professionals and the function can do (fig.1):

Fig 1: Dave Ulrich© May 2015

This gives a great perspective on the ‘what’. So the question is ‘how’ do we translate this into a user-friendly reference model that supports HR function/leaders and the business.

At ICube™ we refer to a “Three Steps Capability Continuum” (fig. 2) for the HR function and its professionals to move up the value chain.

Fig 2: Copyright ICube Consortium September 2013


Integrating and orchestrating all the facets together, the diagram below depicts what it means to enhance the functional capability and support business at all the three levels of continuum. But is awareness of the components in this diagram enough to make one a domain expert? What goes into assessing or learning about these domain areas?

With extensive research, engagement and the application of our global experiences in building organisations, ICube™ answers these questions and many more with a Pentagon model© (fig 3).

Fig 3: Pentagon model© September 2013


This model comprehensively covers various facets of the HCM lifecycle. It acts as a reference model for our conversations with HR and business leaders to demystify HR functional practice and facilitate a clear understanding of how business leaders and HR professionals can partner with each other.

This Pentagon model© also underpins our human capital management diagnostic tool called ICE Cube™, a first of its kind, web-enabled, HCM diagnostic tool that assesses importance, capability and effectiveness of all your HCM practices that form the foundation to understand your best practices as well as clarify the what, how and where investments or improvements are required to support/sustain business growth.

This model and its 170 themes assessing an organisation at three levels of capability and effectiveness was reviewed and evaluated by 80+ leaders who are CXOs, domain experts, HR practitioners and academia across several countries globally. The tool presents a comprehensive view of the HCM cycle. Based on further feedback from 125+ practitioners, it delivers our 5S that we set out to create for the clients – standardised, structured, self-discovery with speed and scale. The detailed report with dynamic benchmarking data, visuals, graphs and scripts help companies accelerate towards solutions, vastly reducing the lead time to implementation. We conduct action planning workshops and support in end to end implementation of solutions.

Over and above, we partner with HR and business leaders to make them successful. You can now be assured of the efficacy of your investment in HCM; gain insights into what HCM practices mean and leverage the power of this tool to diagnose your organizations’ HCM alignment to business strategy and accomplish the desired results. In the process, HR professionals can gain domain knowledge and engage business at a strategic level.

(Views shared here by the author are from his global experiences as a practitioner, creator of The Pentagon Model© and Founder of ICE Cube™. Watch ICE Cube in action and try complimentary diagnosis at It just takes 25 minutes for one dimension and one hour to get the report along with a sample five dimension report. You can write to the author at and he will be happy to listen to your needs and challenges. Visit and learn more.)

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  1. An eye opener for HR fraternity. Mostly HR professionals get entangled into Transactional activities and Value added role to certain extent and Strategic role get missed out. Its important to pay attention to strategic role and get aligned to business needs.

  2. An eye opener for HR fraternity. Mostly HR professionals get entangled into Transactional activities and Value added role to certain extent and Strategic role get missed out. Its important to pay attention to strategic role and get aligned to business needs.

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