What is an HR business partner?

The role of the generic HR professional has developed quite significantly over time.

The concept of an HR business partner was first introduced by a man called Dave Ulrich back in the 1990’s, and it has since evolved to become one of the most fundamental and extensive HR structures used by businesses to this date.HR business partner

The popularity of HR business partners has proven that corporate success is as much about people as it is about having an effective plan-of-action for a company.

What is an HR business partner?

HR business partners are not a passing trend in the modern business world.

Since their introduction in 1997, they have since proven the true value and importance of HR work – particularly when it comes to successful people management.

An HR business partner plays a much more vital and personal role than general human resources staff do, with their main priority being the success of the organisation they are working with.

Compared to other human resources professionals, HR business partners have a much closer relationship with the senior management team and consequently a greater understanding of what guidance the organisation requires in order to prosper.

The work they do will depend significantly on context, as they understand better than anyone else that every organisation has unique HR requirements and there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution.HR business partner

The benefits of having an HR business partner

The knowledge and experience of HR business partners will mean that you receive expert guidance on how to successfully eliminate and control any problem areas across your business.

Maybe having a high rate of employee turnover and low morale are the main issues your business is facing – or perhaps you are struggling to recruit the right talent.

Whatever difficulties your organisation might be facing, a dedicated HR business partner will be able to work through them with you and devise a plan of action for the future. Companies with a unified goal across the entire team will always have a bright future and higher likelihood of expansion.

HR business partners are always the most senior professionals from their department and will have the widest breadth of experience.HR business partner

Implementing an HR business partnership

CIPD states that there are two ways of implementing an HR business partnership which tend to be the most popular.

The first one is the arguably more traditional method, as this is where the HR business partner works specifically with the management team as an attached unit to identify a strategy that best suits the company.

The second way is referred to as the ‘three-legged stool model’, and this is the splitting of HR functions into three main areas:

  • Shared services, which covers the general administrative tasks and transactions (payroll, absence monitoring etc.)
  • Centres of excellence. This refers to more complex HR issues (such as employee engagement, training and recruiting) and these functions are carried out by specialists.
  • Strategic business partners. A small group of senior HR professionals whose main focus will be on the business owners or line managers and implementing strategies.

Many experienced HR professionals have commented in the past that they’ve seen more companies struggle with implementing the second method rather than the first, saying that there is often an element of confusion as to who should be taking up which role.HR business partner

Are there any disadvantages to having an HR business partner?

The main reason for employers and business owners choosing not to appoint an HR business partner was found to be due to the costs involved, especially when it might seem like two or more HR workers are doing the same job. Being picky about your HR business partner and ensuring that every individual you appoint has a defined role will prevent this from happening and ensure you get your money’s worth.

You must also be very careful when choosing an HR business partner to work with, as you want to ensure that their ideology and way of thinking compliments yours and the goals you have for your company.  You should meet with all potential HR business partners prior to working with them, simply to get a feel for their personality and the way they work.