These are the thoughts and takeaways from the HR Business Partner Think Tank held at PWC. For further information and insight please contact Jeremy at Oasis HR – 0207 11 88 444 / Jeremy.email@example.com
The inaugural HR Business Partner Think Tank bought together HR Business Partners from a wide range of blue chip organisations in a thought-provoking discussion about the intricacies of the HR Business Partner model and the challenges that HR professionals face when implementing it.
The discussion was kicked off with an enlightening presentation by Nigel Hutchinson from PricewaterhouseCoopers which talked about the challenge he has faced at PwC to find the balance between Business Partnering and Operational HR. After presenting PwC’s model, which has an additional “layer” of operational HR support aligned to the People Managers, Nigel posed the question: How far into the detail does a HR Business Partner need to go in order to be effective? This sparked an interesting discussion of which the following points can be highlighted as the key learning points and take aways:
The importance of a good “Self Service” system to ensure an effective HR Business Partner model.
A good proportion of the conversation was steered towards the use of HR systems to allow an effective Shared Service system. The general consensus was that a strong HR Self-Service system can allow HR Business Partners to move away from transactional work which should sit with the line managers. However, it was also pointed out that many line managers expect a really high-touch service from HR and can be resistant to a Self-Service type model. It was identified that although Shared Services and the focus on the manager can save money, it can also lead to a perception of a reduced service from HR. This leads nicely to our next learning point…
The Role of the People Manager
The Line Manager was pivotal to our discussion and was highlighted as pivotal to the success of the HR Business Partner model. It was agreed that good people managers facilitate the effectiveness of self-service and are comfortable taking on their responsibilities to manage their teams. In a lot of organisations, people are promoted based on technical ability and not always their management capabilities, therefore are more inclined to let HR do the work. This will inevitably end up with a HR Business Partner shouldering more operational responsibility, and not allowing time to focus on the strategic side. This is a topic that definitely needs to be explored further.
DNA of a Good HR Business Partner
So what makes a good HR Business Partner? Commerciality was highlighted as a key requisite of a Business Partner. In order to be truly effective as a Business Partner, you must understand your business area fully and be able to have business conversations. However, it was also highlighted that a Business Partner’s loyalty must also lie with their HR colleagues to implement the organisation’s people strategy. It is key to get the balance right and not go completely “native”. Some organisations have been known to employ non-HR professionals into Business Partner roles but it was agreed that this would only work well in a company with a mature HR model and excellent support from Centres Of Excellence and Shared Services.
HR Shared Services
Getting a Shared Service/ Admin centre up and running can be challenging in itself but is integral to providing a good service with a HR Business Partner model. Members highlighted problems with getting a transactional HR service up to scratch. A lot of organisations have large numbers of SLAs in place but experience complaints about service levels. Managers don’t want various points of contact for HR. It was agreed that work is needed to be done to educate the business about Shared Service but also to ensure that the Business Partner facilitates introductions and ensures a personal touch remains.
Centres of Excellence
The expertise within Centres of Excellence is invaluable. The discussion focused around the fact that often Centres of Excellence are sometimes stretched for resource. It was also highlighted that the COEs are often removed from the business and tied up with project work to improve the business. It can be difficult to involve the experts at the right point. It was discussed that this can lead to reactive HR. Developing the HR team to understand business needs and to feed into the business effectively is very important and this leads to our final important point…
HR BP Talent Development
It was interesting to hear what training and development our members have been offered as HR Business Partners. The responses varied from an MBA, to “business consultant” training, to rotational placements. The difficulty of making the transition from an operational HR professional to a Business Partner was discussed and the question was raised as to what steps do you put in place to develop that pipeline and train the Business Partners of the future. Some ideas were floated, such as moving people around the business and exploring roles outside of the HR remit. Again, this is a topic that could certainly be discussed in more detail.