Leadership For The Future


HR business partners – are they working?

Firstly what is HR business partnering?  The HR business partnering model was developed by David Ulrich in the late nineties.  This changed the focus of HR professionals from a broadly administrative and transactional role to one working closely with leaders and line managers to achieve shared organisational objectives.  In particular Ulrich recommends that HR functions should focus on designing and implementing HR systems and processes that support strategic business aims.

Over the past decade a number of organisations, both large and small, have introduced some form of the HR business partner model to suit their needs. While there has been much debate about the model’s effectiveness, research has found that when line managers are asked to rate the HR business partner activities that have the most impact, their top responses are:

  • developing next-generation leaders
  • understanding the talent needs of the business
  • understanding how to support the business
  • identifying talent issues before they affect the business.

However, it’s not just the activities that are important. Two things that both the research and my own experience have shown is that:

  • support for and understanding of, the HR business partner model by senior leadership and line managers is a vital pre-requisite and
  • the chemistry between the HR business partner and the business leader needs to be positive.

Sadly, the statistics show that only 34% of the relationships between HR business partners and business leaders are effective.

Another aspect of a successful HR business partnering model is the five key attributes that HR business partners need to display to make an impact:

  • Analytical ability:   the HR business partner’s ability to analyse whether it makes more sense to recruit new talented staff or to build the talent within the organisation
  • Courage:  the HR business partners need to make tough judgmentsand concrete recommendations
  • Willingness to delegate:   the ability to identify the business unit’s needs as well as drawing on other HR resources as part of the solution.
  • Ability to see the big picture;  an effective business partner should be able to see things from all sides, using sound analytical skills and good judgment to cut through any bias and determine the real issue
  • Power and influence:   the ability to tell a compelling story backed up by robust data, which in turn delivers results

So what might be the most useful metrics to measure this impact?  The Shaping the Future programme which the CIPD have developed has identified three key areas:-

HR efficiency measures such as absence/attendance measures (causes, costs),recruitment measures (number of vacancies filled, number of internal/external hires)

HR effectiveness measures such strength of the employer brand, workforce agility and readiness for change. These measures are important as they reflect the outcomes of HR activities in developing organisational capability through, for example: talent management, performance management, and work environment.

HR impact measures such as ‘what matters’ to key stakeholders ensuring they are meaningful, aligned and compatible with other organisational and external measures.

The focus should then be on the HR initiatives and processes needed to make maximum impact in these areas.

So how does your HR function measure up? Get in touch if you’d like to know more.

Source: CIPD, Shaping the Future; Using HR Metrics for Maximum Effect