HR operating model

HR operating model and the role of the HR Business Partner

Wondering how to improve and optimise the HR function within your organisation? In this article, we dive deeper into the various HR roles and focus on a crucial one: the HR Business Partner. This role has undergone a remarkable transformation in recent years and is now no longer just supportive and executive, but rather a strategic and strong partner for the business. What does this mean for this role and the rest of the HR function?

The changing HR function

Dave Ulrich introduced several concepts to modernise the HR function, with the main pillars being: HR business partnering (strategic business alignment), shared services (operational support of employees/managers) and HR Centres of Excellence (CoE, where in-depth knowledge lies regarding specific HR topics, e.g. Learning, Recruitment, Rewards). In organisations that have shaped HR in this way, we see that it provides focus and generates synergy benefits. There is more room to respond to the wishes and well-being of employees, the employee experience. The business can also be better supported with strategic issues. By implementing a strong HR Operating model, HR can add more value to the organisation.

The challenge of a new HR Operating Model

Any change within an organisation comes with challenges, and a new HR Operating model is no exception. For the HR Business Partner (HRBP), the challenge lies in the change of roles and responsibilities and the change in the competences required. This lies not only with the HRBP, the organisation also needs to provide the HRBP with the opportunities for this.

What the HRBP needs from the organisation

To function optimally as an HR Business Partner, the following is needed from an organisation:

  • A strong HR Shared Services function that takes care of the administrative and operational HR tasks so that the HRBP is not responsible for these.
  • The tools to provide advice, such as a good HR system and an HR data analysis tool.
  • Good cooperation with the Centres of Expertise so that solutions are created together that the organisation can build on
  • The right competences, such as building partnerships with business leaders and having a strategic focus.

What does this require of the HRBP

Besides changes in tasks and responsibilities, this changing HRBP role also requires different competences. In particular, we see the biggest change in the following competences:

  1. Building networks and relationships with business leaders: in doing so, the HRBP must be able to work well with managers from different backgrounds. Good listening, communication and matching advice and approach to the manager’s specific challenges will be strong contributors.
  2. Digital knowledge and expertise: although the HRBP does not have to develop or implement new tools himself, it does help if the HRBP works easily with the HR tools available and can also support managers in doing so. HR data analysis can also have a strong added value for the business. Analysing data on recruitment, throughput, development and productivity can support data-driven decision-making.
  3. Have knowledge of the business: in addition to HR knowledge and expertise, having knowledge of the business is crucial. As an HR professional, you need to have knowledge of the market and industry you work in. Know which challenges managers face and adapt strategic HR advice accordingly.
  4. Extensive and up-to-date HR knowledge: being aware of HR trends and recent themes in the field of HR is indispensable as an HRBP. Reporting & analysis, in- & outsourcing, learning & development, performance management and compensation & benefits policies are recent examples. In-depth knowledge of specific HR domains can make all the difference.

Continuing to develop these competences will help the HRBP find a place among business leaders. Where the HRBP will be seen as a full discussion partner and actively involved in making strategic (business) decisions.

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