Let’s Talk HR Business Partners

Lately I have been talking to a lot of HR VP’s and many of them struggle with the same issue – how to bring more credibility to the HR Business Partner role.

Dave Ulrich introduced us to an HR organization consisting of Shared Service Centers, Centers of Expertise and Business Partners. Shared Service Centers deal with the administrative and transactional services and Centers of Expertise make sure policies and procedures are in place. The role of the Business Partner then was to establish a firm link between HR and the business, and to bring more alignment and make sure HR was fully involved in realizing the business strategy.

HR SSC’s and CoE’s took off immediately, but companies have struggled to successfully add HR Business Partners. In 2008 a poll by research firm Roffey Park revealed that only 47% of the managers polled said that business partnering was in any way successful in their organisation. One in four said the model was ineffective, while the rest were undecided on the merits. 3 years later, nothing has changed – in fact, the number of companies that say business partnering is not successful is growing.

There are several reasons for this:

  • HR Business Partners still lack business skills and therefor add no value to the business
  • Strategic thinking is missing from the function
  • Educational institutions have not created the right curriculum to train BP’s
  • Business managers have acquired more HR skills faster than HR Business Partners acquired business skills
  • Business people do not view HR as a smart career move

So I am curious: what is your take on this? Is the Ulrich model flawed and should we change it, or can we still make it a success as long as we find a solution for the business partner? Is there still room for the business partner in our companies?

If you’re an HR business partner I would like to hear from you. And if you’re a business manager who does not need an HR business partner, by all means, leave a comment.

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