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What Does HR Mean, and What Do They Do?

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Practically every store or company has an HR department or employee, depending on the size. It’s often the first person or department you talk to when you apply for a job as well as the person who helps you when you have questions about your benefits or some other aspect of the company. It’s also the first person or department you talk to when you leave the job and need to get your paperwork together. So, who exactly are these HR employees, and what do they do?

1. What is HR?

HR is short for human resources. It’s the department within a company that handles hiring, employee well-being, firing, benefits and keeping up to date with important laws regarding taxes and other business-related issues. Whether you’re a small business of just 10 people or you’re a large Fortune 500 company, the person or people in charge of your human resources are critical to your ability to thrive. They can keep you out of legal trouble, both with your current and previous employees and the state and federal governments, and they help keep track of things like payroll so that you are free to run the other important aspects of your business. The term “human resource” dates back to 1893 when it was used in the book “The Distribution of Wealth” by John R. Commons.

2. What Does the HR Department DO?

Accurately named, the HR department in a company is literally a resource for the people who work for you. It ensures they have the tools they need to be productive and happy employees. Some of these tasks may include: Administering training programs for new employees or to boost the skills of current employees Managing payroll for the entire company Handling all things benefits, ranging from health and life insurance to wellness programs and cafeteria access Accepting applications for new employees along with conducting background checks and contacting references Interviewing potential employees to ensure they meet the company’s qualifications Conducting orientations for new employees Processing paperwork for new hires and people who leave the company Working as a mediator when problems arise between employees and managers Staying on top of laws and practices regarding taxes, sexual harassment, equal opportunity employment and more and advise management on these issues

3. Does Every Business Have an HR Department?

Whether or not a company has an HR department typically depends on the size of the company. Larger businesses almost always do because there simply isn’t enough time for management and executives to handle these tasks. Smaller and medium businesses may have a small department or a single person who handles all HR tasks. Some small businesses may choose to outsource some or all of their HR duties. As a matter of fact, it’s also becoming common for larger companies to outsource a few HR duties, like payroll, background checks, exit interviews, risk management, and dispute resolution, to free up their HR departments to handle bigger and more important tasks that add more value to the company.

4. What are Some Positions Within an HR Department?

If you do end up working in an HR department at a company, there are several rolls that may interest you. The most common is an HR specialist. These are the people who handle job interviews, payroll and benefits if that work is not outsourced, and they may specialize in one aspect of the job. HR managers oversee the department and coordinate all administrative duties of a company. Training and development managers typically handle all training and skill development for new and current employees. More specialized jobs include executive recruiter which is a person will help a company find senior-level employees. A global HR specialist will handle the hiring of employees for a company’s overseas endeavors.

5. How Do You Get a Job in HR?

If you like working with people in a business environment, HR may be a career option for you. For entry-level positions, you most likely need a high school diploma, though some people opt to get an associate’s degree or certificate. If you plan to work your way up or want to start out as an HR manager in a larger company, consider getting a bachelor’s degree in a subject like business administration, human resources, marketing, finance, management or economics. Many schools even offer an MBA with a focus on HR. When it comes to skills and personality traits you’ll need to work in HR, some of them include: Excellent communication skills, both written and oral The ability to work towards goals and solution s Project management Extroversion Networking skills The ability to negotiate The ability to understand business practices and laws


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What is the HR Business Partner Model?

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The human resources business partner model is when the HR department participates in planning in a strategic way to elevate the business growth and supports it in its present and future goals.

Rather than limiting itself by concentrating on HR duties such as payroll, employee relations, and benefits, HR departments seek to add business success to the company by overseeing training, recruiting, advancement, and placement of all employees. In addition, the HR business partner model can organize how HR functions are carried out.

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The HR business partner role carries the expertise and a comprehensive understanding of how the HR function works and how to make a line of business within the company prosperous.

Their job responsibilities include coaching business leaders about human resources issues such as developing supportive HR, business strategy planning, analyzing talent requirements, onboarding, and recruiting.

HR business partners exhibit solid business knowledge and specific experience within the employer’s business sector, using HR capabilities to support organizational business goals.

HR as a function is close to the top and the center of the organization’s structure. In this manner, HR can function to enhance organizational objectives and add value to the business. In addition, HR business partnering makes human resources a part of corporate strategy rather than a strict, reactive personnel function.

Why is the Human Resources Business Partner Model Important?

The HR business partner model structure is curated to elevate business growth on all levels over time. HR chooses and screens individuals best aligned for the roles involved in recruitment.

In the development and development process, HR locates which employees need detailed training and ensure that it is done correctly.

In knowing the company’s inner workings, the strategic nature of the HR partnership model is combined with a corporate game of employee and manager sequence to achieve the most effective business outcomes.

Our top-rated HRBP certification provides insightful information on the HR business partner model. Take a look here and make sure to enroll to upskill your knowledge with the advanced HRBP skills:

HR Business Partner Certification

What is an HR Business Partner?

A human resources business partner is a senior HR member with a deep knowledge of the correlation of the HR department’s role with the company’s success.

Their role includes supporting, guiding and coaching other HR staff members, as well as strategies, recruiting, and onboarding.

An HR business partner differs from an HR manager. The HR manager is focused on looking over the running of the HR department, while the primary goal of an HR business partner is to ensure HR contributes to the broader success of the organization.

Why is it Important to have an HR Business Partner?

An HR business partner ensures that the HR is treated as an essential business division to develop the business and drive more profit. Processes like intelligent recruitment decisions, smooth internal communications, and effective onboarding all contribute to the broader success of the company. An HR business partner helps lend these things the prominence and attention they deserve.

For HR business partners to work in practice, HR must shake off its lack of self-esteem. However, when done in a strategic way, HR adds immense value to the organization . 

Perks of HR business partner model

HR business partnership, defined by a more expansive definition, is the future role of HR. It walks away from the limited functions of training, recruitment, etc., and makes these functions work for the business.

Reasons for Considering Human Resources Business Partner Model

Here are a few reasons to consider the HR business partner model structure for your organization:

Companies’ primary reason for considering and implementing the HR business model is due to change and evolution.

Change is necessary to expand the business or make it more productive, efficient, competitive, and problem-solving. Therefore, change in the business paradigm is a continuous necessity.

The HR leaders recognize that the business model handles the required changes and improvements by investing in human capital and people.

The supporters of the model understand that the success and job satisfaction of the employees is one of the primary keys to business success. Where a well-run HR partner model is most suited to focus on the needs of both the company and the individuals.

2. Considerations

Businesses considering the human resource business partner model must understand the nature of different model aspects and train outsourced individuals or hire HR specialists.

Expecting a sole HR office to handle HR generalist duties on top of interviewing, training, recruiting, strategic planning, and reviews results in frustration and eventual program failure for all involved. Instead, the HR business partner model requires a conscious HR strategy to change and hire a force of technical HR talent to see it through.

An HR business partner plays a crucial role in acquiring top new talent and verifies business objectives. As a result, they place current employees in the proper position with the correct managers and team partners and have access to vital training opportunities that permit long-term advancement. In addition, by promoting employee satisfaction and individual success, an HR partner aids in publicizing business success.

What areas in which the human resource business partner model adds the most weight? The answer might differ from business to business, the best HR partners work with the upper management team to specify the organization’s short and extensive goals. Then, they develop techniques for achieving these goals and discuss the organizational structure to pinpoint problem areas.

Advantages of a Human Resources Business Partner Model

In a traditional model, the HR manager is accountable for hiring and recruiting employees, administering benefits and payroll, and handling employee relations.

Digital HR technology now takes care of many of those traditional tasks, often freeing up space for HR to take on new responsibilities. Many companies are now looking at the HR role as a business partner, which plays a vital role in driving growth and profitability.

Responsibilities of HR business partner

The business partner model reduces and takes away pressure from management to sharpen employee job skills for efficiency and productivity. Also, they identify, develop, and groom the best employees for success.

HR personnel is also responsible for assessing and reviewing employee data. This allows HR personnel to figure out strengths, which they may develop further to place employees more smartly, and disadvantages, which they may correct with further job skill training or corrective action.

Limitations of a Human Resources Business Partner Model

Suppose the HR department already works in a dynamic way and faces employee relations problems. In that scenario, you will not have enough time and people to assign to partnering with the company for other functions.

The business partner model requires the involvement of HR in almost each and every aspect of the enterprise, including financial status, production statistics, and sales numbers.

Management buy-in may is also a difficulty, as the traditional role of HR is inflated to that of an overseer of the whole business in the business-partner model.

There are multiple shortcomings of a human resource business partner model. The most fundamental ones are mentioned here:

1. Capability Shortfalls

The implementation of the HRBP role often displays pressing shortfalls in vital areas, such as how good the HRBP’s understanding of the necessary drivers of organizational success is and how progressive the HRBP is.

2. Reactive, not Proactive

The HRBP exists to benefit the client, i.e., the internal customer, but, that means pausing for the client to approach them rather than taking a functional approach. This means not concentrating on real value due to unaligned requests.

There is a risk that the client’s demands are based on activity not in line with the strategic goals. Therefore the HRBP does work that is not even aligned with the strategic objectives.

3. Unnecessary Assumptions

There may arise a few assumptions about what parts need attention rather than the ones that need actual requirements.

For example, an HRBP may take the task in seclusion, so when it fails, that HRBP will look at the reasoning behind the loss of that individual project. Yet only about thirty percent of initiatives are ever executed. Therefore, the HRBP needs to look at the business signs rather than take an isolated view.

4. Unsuitable Solutions

There is a trend to give internal customers the best practices. However, this is not always what the customer requires or wants. So instead, HRBPs are responsible to serve the best current outcome.

HR business partnering is gaining popularity amongst organizations to organize their HR function. This is because it’s proving to add meaningful professional value. Human resource is the instigator of both change and balance through business partnering, balancing different stakeholders to the overall organizational ambitions. On the base, this means HR professionals hire the right talent and encourage it here without losing the picture of the more extensive goals and performance in the long term.

The mission of the HR business partner model is to add actual value to the company by adding HR into all areas of business operations and strategic planning. As experts on the human element of the business, HR is best qualified to figure out how every employee fits into the organization’s goals and put each employee in a position to deliver positive results.

Human resources business partners identify employee morale, support new perks, and benefits that provide a competitive edge and build a strong company culture from the latest employee to the oldest one.

Companies must focus on results instead of the process to measure an HR partner’s value. For example, instead of changing the performance review process, Human resource experts need to assess and measure the impact of those changes. There are several trackable HR metrics that companies can use to gauge results.

For the HR business partner model to become a success, an HR professional must develop proficiency with all angles of the business. This will need digitalization or outsourcing primary administrative duties to free specialists up to focus on more significant outcomes.

If you are new to human resources and are looking to break into an HR Business Partner role, we recommend taking our HR Business Partner Certification Course , where you will learn how to build your skillset in the human resources business partner realm, build your HRBP network, craft a great HRBP resume, and create a successful HRBP job search strategy.

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What Is the HR Business Partner Model?

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In the HR business partner model, the human resource department participates in strategic planning to help the business meet present and future goals. Rather than concentrating solely on HR duties such as benefits, payroll and employee relations, HR departments seek to add value to the company by overseeing recruiting, training, advancement and placement of new and current employees.

The business partner model relieves pressure from management to hone employee job skills for efficiency and productivity, as well as identifying, developing and grooming key employees for advancement. Human resource personnel is also responsible for analyzing employee review data. This allows HR personnel to recognize strengths, which they may then further develop to place employees more effectively, and weaknesses, which they may correct with further job skill training or disciplinary action.

If the HR department is already overworked with everyday employee relation issues, there may not be adequate time and personnel to devote to partnering with the business for additional functions. The business partner model requires HR to be involved in almost every aspect of the business, including production statistics, financial status and sales projections. Management buy-in may also be a challenge, as the traditional role of human resources is extended to that of an overseer of the entire business in the business-partner model.

In theory, the HR business partner model is designed to positively impact the business on all levels over time. By being involved in the recruiting process, HR is able to more carefully screen and choose individuals best suited for the jobs. In the training and development process, HR is able to pinpoint which employees need particular training and ensure that it is carried out. In knowing the inner workings of the business, the strategic nature of the HR partnership model is tasked with a corporate chess game of employee and manager placement to achieve the most productive outcome.

The primary reason that companies consider and implement the HR business model is change. Whether to grow the business or to make it more competitive, productive, efficient or to solve problems, change in the business paradigm is often necessary. The HR business model handles the changes and improvements necessary by investing in what is known as "human capital." Proponents of the model recognize that the personal success and job satisfaction of the individual is one of the keys to business success, and a well-run HR partner model is ideally suited to focus on both the needs of the individual and the company.


Businesses considering the HR business partner model need to consider the specialized nature of different model aspects, and hire, train or outsource HR specialists. Expecting a one-person HR office to handle generalist duties on top of recruiting, interviewing, training, reviews and strategic planning will result in frustration and possible program failure for all involved. The HR business partner model requires a conscious decision to change and the hiring of a sufficient force of specialized HR talent to see it through.

Matt McKay began his writing career in 1999, writing training programs and articles for a national corporation. His work has appeared in various online publications and materials for private companies. McKay has experience in entrepreneurship, corporate training, human resources, technology and the music business.

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What is an HR business partner?

A human resources business partner, or HRBP, is an HR professional who can handle everything from hiring and benefits to compliance and employee relations. Some employers hire a dedicated HRBP within their HR department for such purposes, while others choose to partner with a professional employer organization (PEO) .

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What does an HR business partner do?

Hrbp responsibilities, skills of an hrbp, how companies benefit from hrbps, what is an hr business partner model.

HR business partners direct their clients on how to best reduce employment-related risks. Their guidance covers the full range of HR issues that can happen on any given day – employee conflicts, compliance questions, worker classifications , HR policy and more. HRBPs also perform some tasks on behalf of their client, such as training employees or evaluating benefits packages, which can alleviate administrative burdens.

What is the HRBP meaning of strategy?

Sometimes employers know that a correction is needed, but they’re not entirely sure where the underlying problem lies. That’s where the strategic support of HRBPs can be incredibly valuable. For instance, they may analyze data and use benchmarking to assess whether compensation and health benefits are competitive for the target market. Some HRBPs even have industry-specific knowledge and can help their clients create strategic plans.

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What does an HRBP do that makes for a great business partner?

When an incident occurs that could pose compliance risks, employers can’t wait for a lengthy response from their HRBP. Those who succeed in this role understand that the most important thing to their clients is reliable communication and having someone they can count on for timely assistance when it’s needed. Some might even call it “at your fingertips compliance management.”

Building strategic relationships as an HRBP

Engaging with clients on a regular basis is an important part of being an HRBP, but the cadence of those interactions largely depends on the individual business and its needs. For employers who want assistance with HR strategy or responsibilities that occur infrequently, such as training or open enrollment, quarterly check-ins may be appropriate. Other employers that struggle with the day-to-day operations that keep their business moving might require weekly contact with their HRBP.

The HR business partner job description includes many responsibilities, but generally HRBPs provide guidance on any of the following HR functions:

HRBPs are professional communicators who know HR policy and can help businesses find the root cause of employee challenges, such as turnover. They usually have a degree in human resources or one of the following certifications:

In addition, HRBPs have extensive HR experience, which they gain by working in several industries and with companies that operate across multiple states. This gives them a well-rounded perspective of how to guide clients no matter what situation comes their way.

What is HRBP vs HR?

HRBP is a profession within the larger realm of HR. Whereas an HR manager might handle day-to-day administrative functions, the HRBP usually works directly with organizational leaders and business owners, helping them understand their employment-related challenges and offering real-world solutions.

Employers with an HRBP enjoy peace of mind knowing that there’s someone in their corner who can help them:

The HR business partner model, from the perspective of a PEO , is one in which each client company has access to an HRBP for guidance and support. These HRBPs are shared among several businesses, which allows clients to reap the benefit of professional HR expertise without bearing the cost of hiring and compensating someone on their own.

However, this HRBP model does not necessarily mean that there’s a revolving door of HR professionals. Some PEOs, like ADP TotalSource® , assign the same HRBP to a client for the length of the business relationship. This way, clients have a familiar face who knows their business challenges and policies inside and out.

This article is intended to be used as a starting point in analyzing HR business partners and is not a comprehensive resource of requirements. It offers practical information concerning the subject matter and is provided with the understanding that ADP is not rendering legal or tax advice or other professional services.

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What is an hr business partner.

The definition of a HR business partner is an experienced human resource professional who works directly with an organization's senior leadership to develop and direct an HR agenda that closely supports organizational goals. Rather than working primarily as part of the internal human resources department, the HR business partner works closely with senior leadership, perhaps sitting on the board of directors or collaborating regularly with the C-suite. Placing a human resources professional in close contact with executive leadership makes HR a part of the organizational strategy. The business partner model for human resources is becoming more and more popular among business organizations.

What does an HR business partner do?

The role of the HR business partner is to make sure human resource policy and procedure throughout the organization fit the needs, goals, and aims of the organization and its top leadership. There is less focus on administration, compliance, and management. Rather than performing the day-to-day trainings or dealing with policy wording or the details of benefits packages and hiring, the HR business partner works with the big picture.

The person in this position determines and steers the objectives of the human resources department of the organization, focusing more on developing strategy rather than implementing policy. The HR business partner ensures that HR strategy fits into the organization’s overall business strategy.

The HR business partner is not a vice president, nor is this person a human resource manager. Instead, an HR business partner is more of a consultant who works in human resources, building relationships and providing resources in departments throughout the organization.

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What is the definition of a business partner?

The definition of a business partner includes any contractual, exclusive bond between parties that represents a commercial alliance. The two parties may be individuals who agree to work together to create and manage a business. The parties may also be separate teams, groups, or businesses that agree to cooperate and work together for a mutually beneficial common purpose.

What does it mean to be a strategic business partner?

A strategic business partner is a leader who is included in conversations about the future, mission, goals, and overall strategy of a company or organization. A strategic business partner, while not a member of the C-suite or executive leadership team, has a voice in their HR conversations. A strategic business partner is a consultant whose opinions and ideas are valued. The HR business partner is generally considered to be a strategic business partner that can offer recommendations, make decisions, and carry out goals.

To be valued as a strategic business partner and merit an invitation to conversations about the organization’s future, a human resources professional must have a certain set of skills and knowledge. This professional must understand all areas and departments of the business, and how HR can benefit these aspects. The individual is skilled in listening to problems and ideas, and in clearly articulating solutions.

HR business partner vs. HR manager

An HR business partner and HR manager are separate roles and represent two different models of conducting human resources services within an organization. The HR manager’s work focuses around developing policy and enforcing procedure. This position is accountable for systems such as processing payroll, recruiting, hiring, system administration, and more. The HR manager oversees the HR department.

The HR business partner, on the other hand, does not have administrative responsibilities over a department. Their primary function is to work with the company’s senior leadership team and with department managers to help guide and communicate overall company strategy. HR business partners collaborate with the HR department while consulting the executive team on HR issues and initiatives. They may have a hand in developing HR initiative and strategy that affects the whole organization.

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HR Business Partner (HRBP): Let's Make History

Every successful organisation needs an HR business partner (HRBP).If you're an organisation interested in unlocking your productive potential, investing in an HRBP should be your next big move.

What does it take to become one? Is there a model for success? What skills do they need to succeed? We’ll answer all of these, and more, in the following article.

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What Is an HR Business Partner (HRBP)?

What does an hr business partner do, what does it mean to be an hr business partner, the 5 core tasks of an hr business partner, how can you become an hr business partner, hr business partners in everyday hr.

HR business partners (HRBP) are human resources professionals who help align an organisation’s ‘people strategy’ with their ‘business strategy.’ They help senior leaders envision, develop and execute an HR strategy that supports their growth, performance and future objectives.

What Is HR Business Partnering?

This is the model by which we can understand and realise HR’s role as a strategic force within an organisation. In order for this to happen, an organisation needs to rethink the way they position their People Team and how they are viewed in the greater organisation.

What Is an HR Business Partner’s Role?

An HR business partner is an HR manager who has freed themselves of administrative chaos. Instead of working as an HR service provider, they take on tasks of strategic importance for the company (such as HR planning or strategy). This allows them to strategically influence and grow an organisation from within.

Let’s take a recent example and explore it: the Covid-19 pandemic. In a traditional organisation, an HR person may have functioned in a purely administrative role. But, almost overnight, they were expected to:

Look after teams of people working from home across virtual networks.

Onboard new employees remotely.

Deploy smart HR technologies.

Ideally, they would flourish, mobilise previously-unknown strengths and uncover their hidden potential. Or, due to the amount of administrative work on their plate, they may flounder.

For an HR business partner, strategic work and crisis scenarios like these are second nature. In a time like the pandemic, they’d have both the mental capacity and time to understand what’s happening in the business, where leaders currently stand and what decisions they need to make (and how to make them).

When done correctly, each of these decisions can add immense value in a time of crisis. This is because they are not simply trying to keep their head above water, but playing their part in business success.

What Makes for a Great HR Business Partner?

It’s all about facilitating a place for them at the table of senior leadership, A great HRBP needs to be involved in high-level discussions, in order to help a business fulfill its business goals through the lens of their ‘people goals’. When the role of HR is elevated to this position, that is the definition of an HR business partner.

As early as the late 1990s, American professor Dave Ulrich claimed that the conventional approach to HR management needed to be updated. HR management needed to be redefined by the following:

A business partner to senior management.

Given new, extended duties and responsibilities.

Actively contribute to value creation.

This is how he coined the term "HR business partner".

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The difference is that an HRBP isn’t just a partner in name alone. While they continue to work as points of contact for employees, they also serve as sounding boards for executive management.

An HR business partner’s expertise provides valuable and reliable management input, and they need to be involved in all major management decisions. Basically, being an HR business partner means being a senior leader in your own right.

What sort of opportunity does this new status of HR create for companies? HR business partners work collaboratively with executive management, proactively contribute to the creation of value and help to achieve ambitious corporate goals.

In general, what might an HR business partner be asked to do? We see it in five unique ways:

1) Strategic Control of HR Processes

Employees are a company’s most valuable resource, and the current shortage of skilled professionals constitutes one of the greatest challenges in HR. HRBPs are equipped with the strategic vision to identify bottlenecks early on and run efficient, smooth recruiting and hiring processes.

Beyond that, HRBPs manage employee retention from a basis of sound people analytics data: After all, high turnover rates are one of the major cost drivers within most companies.

2) Staff Development & Coaching

Once the right employees have been brought on board, HRBPs ensure that they stay on course and help to move the company forward.

For this, it is crucial that HR provides tailored professional development and training initiatives for managers and employees. These not only drive productivity but are also essential for the company’s ability to add value.

Employees who feel appreciated and whose development is supported within the company are much less likely to search competitors’ recruiting pages.

3) Close Collaboration with Executive Management

As an HRBP, your role goes well beyond that of an internal service provider. Instead, you are executive management’s direct point of contact for anything to do with planning and meeting HR requirements.

You work with razor-sharp management accounting tools and reliable data to support the executive management team in major decisions such as:

How many new employees will need to be recruited?

Which skills are lacking within the team to maintain an edge over competitors?

You are the one who keeps a clear view and actively helps to shape the company’s future.

4) Taking Control of Change Processes

The ever-increasing number of challenges people in HR are confronted with is clear evidence of just how important it is to digitalise. Professional roles need to be reconsidered, a new dynamism needs to be injected into established working structures and processes such as recruiting and onboarding need to be made accessible online.

Interested in learning more about change management processes? Click here to read our definitive guide , with examples to help illustrate how to do so effectively.

This is where HRBPs are essential drivers of digitalisation, working closely with executive management and confidently taking control of change processes .

5) Employer Branding

And last but not least: As an HR business partner, it is up to you to bring your company’s corporate culture to life and ensure that it supports growth.

At the same time, it is also your job to communicate your corporate culture and everything to do with it to the outside world. Why? This is strategically essential if you want to recruit the best available employees, both in today’s highly competitive market and in the future.

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Take your HR work to new heights by growing business through the lens of the employee life cycle model. 

First of all, by developing a new mindset. The attitude toward human resources must change – from viewing it as an internal service that administers staff to appreciating it as a provider of added value that actively shapes HR processes.

This step requires courage, a commitment to change, and a readiness to step away from well-trodden paths from all stakeholders. Digitalisation is both necessary and here to stay – and HR can do so much more than just deal with ad hoc issues. It’s time for HR to evolve as a business partner with:

How Can Companies Benefit From HRBPs?

To put it concisely, with HR as a business partner, HR management becomes a business division that contributes to optimising the creation of value.

As a result, HR is no longer a rigid, only handling admin and driving up their own costs. Instead, they proactively contribute to increasing a company’s bottom line.

Here’s how that shift occurs:

HR teams that work strategically and use smart digital HR tools , in contrast, will be effective drivers of both branding and growth.

Here’s our rundown of the top five most popular workforce planning tools out there.

The following three aspects are essential if HR is to take on its role as an HR business partner successfully:

The executive management’s determination to undergo a paradigm shift.

The future HR business partner’s assertiveness and commitment to take on responsibility and familiarise themselves with new tasks and tools.

Thorough planning and consistent implementation.

A haphazard approach to a paradigm shift won’t work. If HRBPs are to leave the domain of routine administration behind and start working strategically, they need time to do so, above all. They can make this time by building better, more automated HR processes, that almost run on their own.

After all, HR teams still spend an incredible 42% of their time on administrative tasks . It’s high time that HR business partners be taken seriously in their new role as valuable formative forces and be put at the helm.

If the right environment is created, vast benefits can be reaped, both for corporate success and employee satisfaction, let alone for you as HRBPs – in times of crisis and beyond.

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For HR professionals , you can unlock new levels of productivity and influence. Become the HR business partner that your business needs, by getting back time for what matters: your people.

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Explore CIPD

Business partnering

Learn why organisations use business partnering, how it’s implemented and how it can shape successful relationships across the organisation.

On this page

Introduction, what is business partnering, why implement business partnering, how can business partnering be implemented, how can organisations create effective business partnering, what to consider when implementing business partnering, further reading, explore our related content.

Many organisations use business partnering as their key HR operating model. Business partners align with business leaders to enhance workforce performance, foster and nurture strategic people enablers such as talent, leadership, learning and culture, as well as develop people solutions, to achieve organisational objectives.

This factsheet explores what business partnering is and how it works, both as a model and a mindset. It covers the roots of business partnering, the role of the business partner, and the original business partnering model. It also offers guidance on implementing business partnering and how it can help businesses shape positive change to people, performance and business practices.

See the full A-Z list of all CIPD factsheets . 

Business partnering, sometimes called HR or L&D (Learning and Development) business partnering, is how HR delivers its capability in an organisational context. Business partners work closely with leaders to help build organisational and people capabilities. They help to shape and implement effective HR strategies and programmes, drawing on their unique knowledge as people professionals. The original business partnering model was conceived by Dave Ulrich in the mid-1990s and though it has evolved, it has become fundamental to the way many organisations structure their people function.

The essence of true business partnering is context. It’s understanding the organisation’s strategy and goals, appreciating people demographics, the organisational culture, and developing people solutions that help achieve business objectives while enabling employees to flourish. This is achieved through developing meaningful relationships with key people across the organisation, using data to be more evidence-based in practice , and delivering a portfolio of business relevant solutions that meet the evolving needs of the organisation.

Our Profession Map sets the international benchmark for the people profession and aligns closely with business partnering as a practice.

Business partnering is one way that HR can move away from being a traditional back-office function, to become a business enabler or driver. It’s about developing and deploying expertise that helps shape positive change, translating organisational goals into people-based solutions, as well as challenging and focusing on adaptive people practices that ensure alignment to future objective.

Some of the key reasons organisations implement the business partner (BP) model, or consider doing so, are:

Enabling the business – Rising expectations mean that people professionals need to work proactively as strategic enablers. Working closely at the right levels and with the right people, the BP model can ensure strategic objectives are achieved, by understanding the business, responding to challenges and helping shape strategies that merge people practices with high performance.

Cost-effective – An aligned, proactive and networked HR team has the potential to ensure cost-effectiveness by focusing expertise where it’s needed. People professionals then work closer with the business to interpret others' needs and create solutions that deliver positive outcomes. Increasing efficiency and reducing costs are important for any organisation, so adapting the way HR is organised to deliver on these areas illustrates their credibility.

Connected – Effective business partnering builds productive relationships that improve collaboration. If people professionals can help break down internal silos, it facilitates a more connected way of working. Through championing and driving this, people professionals can create the networked, agile, learning organisation that many thought leaders believe is the future of work. The business partner can therefore be a true catalyst for transformational change.

Strategic – If those working as an HRBP (HR Business Partner) or L&D Business Partner are aligned with, and in effective partnership with, the leadership structure, they are in a prime position to critically evaluate, influence and develop the appropriate people solutions to help leadership achieve their objectives and vision. HR then becomes both a strategic partner and enabler in one.

Operating models should be different for different organisations, depending on their context, size, complexity and evolution. Business partnering is just one approach: it’s potential value, efficiencies and capabilities should be critically assessed to decide if the BP model is suitable for a particular organisation. However, business partnering should not be simply defined as a role. It’s both a capability and a mindset that encourages people professionals to design and align the right capabilities and solutions as the organisation evolves.

There's no standard way to implement business partnering because context is incredibly important – what works in one organisation may not be right in another. However, the two most common ways it's been implemented (depending on organisational need and budget), have been either aligning individual business partners, or the ‘three-legged stool’ model.

Standalone business partners - attached to or aligned to a business unit. This role is the focus of the relationship between HR and L&D and the business, ensuring HR and L&D are aligned effectively with the teams and individuals they support. BPs are facilitators and business consultants, ensuring that the HR value proposition is both relevant and effective.

Three-legged stool model - where the HR service is split between three areas of expertise:

Three-legged stool model

Shared services – usually a centralised service group that handles routine ‘transactional’ services across the organisation, for example recruitment administration, payroll, absence monitoring, template generation and advice on simpler employee relations. Shared services are a first line support and administration hub.

Centres of excellence – usually small teams of experts with specialist HR knowledge delivering business and people benefits through effective innovations, interventions and initiatives. Areas include reward, learning, recruitment, employee engagement, organisation development and talent management.

Strategic business partners – senior and experienced people professionals who work closely with business leaders or line managers, usually embedded in the business unit, influencing, steering and implementing both the business and people strategy by aligning HR capabilities across the whole organisation.

Both options have their strengths and weaknesses. There are many different types of organisations, so this means that there are many ways that HR can be expressed as a functional model. However, HR becomes a true business partner through understanding the business model, the operating context, shaping the people strategy and creating the right HR services to deliver a positive impact on the organisation, its people and wider communities.

The most effective way to create a BP model is to consult with the business to nurture the right value proposition and operating model that’s understood and supported by the business. Too often, the business partnering concept is delivered as a solution without any consultation to ensure it’s aligned or even understood.

Much of business partnering to date has focused on it being a defined role within an HR team – often a strategic BP or operational BP, and sometimes a specialist partner (such as recruitment, reward, talent, etc). It’s also evident that other business functions have picked up on the benefits of business partnering, creating finance partners, marketing partners etc, to align their capabilities more effectively with the organisations they support.

There are four key areas to consider in being an effective business partner:

Understanding the business model at depth – getting to know and understand how the business operates, how it creates value, its strategic drivers and its purpose.

Generating insight from data and evidence – using and applying evidence to support business cases or strategies, as well providing insight, inspiration and the opportunity to validate and qualify the impact of their work.

Connecting with curiosity, purpose and impact – asking the right questions, crafting networks and understanding where HR can identify opportunities to create the most value.

Leading with integrity, consideration and challenge – having the courage and confidence to challenge the business and its leaders.

Our report Business savvy: giving HR the edge looks at these four foundations, and offers further ideas on what people professionals need to understand their business better.

Of course, understanding the business is essential for a business partner role. However, BPs also need to be able to take ‘an outside look in’. Ulrich talks about this in his book 'HR from the outside in: six competencies for the future of human resources' (see Further reading) and it’s also evident in research by Orion Partners which has shown that there are five main criteria for success:

Self-belief – HR needs to believe in its own capabilities and how it can add strategic value to the organisation.

Independence – HR needs to be courageous enough to challenge the business and leadership, even when it might not be the most popular option.

Knowing the business – HR needs to understand the business, its strategy, its purpose, its culture and be able to have meaningful conversations about them.

Relationships – HR needs to be able to build and facilitate relationships across the organisation that are based on trust and are productive for all stakeholders.

‘One HR’ – HR needs to connect its capabilities into a joined-up approach so that the business sees a seamless service. This is internal partnering in practice.

These points will help people professionals re-evaluate, rethink and refresh their business practices, but also position of HR as a true partner to the organisation.

The nature of the BP model has and will continue to change. The CIPD engages with organisations to survey and understand how it is evolving and constantly develop and grow learning programmes to meet the needs of current and aspiring business partners.

Successful implementation and ongoing evaluation of the BP model is essential to ensuring that the HR and L&D services are fit for the business. Further to the research outlined above, HR needs to consider the following when assessing or implementing the model:

Credibility – If the stakeholders are not engaged with and committed to business partnering as a way of working, HR’s credibility and ability to deliver effective partnering solutions will rarely be realised. The business’ leadership, management and other key stakeholders need to be engaged and consulted so that they understand the value and opportunity of the business partner model. It’s essential that people professionals can communicate and demonstrate this to the people they are working with.

Capability – Being a business partner requires a certain set of competencies, the right blend of knowledge, values, capability and experience, that can be recognised and developed. People functions need to be able to assess, align and develop the right people for the role to ensure it’s a success. Not everyone is suited to the role.

Community – Effective HR business partnering is as much about creating connections amongst the teams as it is with the wider business. Relying on process mapping and areas of control can still lead to things slipping between the cracks where there is no defined responsibility. Partnering with colleagues and creating a collaborative team helps bridge these issues and demonstrates the tangible value of business partnering.

Context versus content – Effective business partnering means understanding the depth and breadth of the wider HR team’s capability and then applying this in the right context to deliver both immediate and strategic value. HR needs to focus on business imperatives if it is to be deemed a credible business operator.

Focus – Whilst business partnering is about context, it’s also important to ensure that BP roles do not get distracted by low value work. Whilst it’s important to do occasional case or project work to maintain currency and help build trust with new stakeholders, the real value is achieved by working towards strategic elements.

Strategic ‘road mapping’ – Business partners must plan and map change effectively. This means understanding the needs of change, likely outcomes, identifying quick wins to build credibility, celebrating milestones achieved, as well as measuring the potential and eventual impact of people solutions. Developing a road map that’s aligned to and has the potential to shape the overall strategy is key. Tracking transition as it progresses through agreed milestones will help ensure success.

Books and reports

DALZIEL, S., STRANGE, J. and WALTERS, M. (2006) HR business partnering . Toolkit. London: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. 

GRIFFIN, E., FINNEY, L., HENNESSY, J. and BOURY, D. (2009) Maximising the value of HR business partnering: a practical research based guide . Horsham: Roffey Park Institute.

REILLY, P. (2015) HR business partners: yes please or no thanks? A paper from HR in a disordered world: IES Perspectives on HR 2015 . Brighton: Institute for Employment Studies. 

ULRICH, D., YOUNGER, J. and BROCKBANK, W. (2012) HR from the outside in: six competencies for the future of human resources . New York: McGraw Hill.

Journal articles

FRIEDRICH, T. and RAJSHEKHAR, T. (2018) The evolving role of HR business partners. Workforce Solutions Review . Vol 9, No 1. January/February. pp24-25.

McCRACKEN, M., O’KANE, P., BROWN, T.C. and McCRORY, M. (2017) Human resource business partner lifecycle model: exploring how the relationship between HRBPs and their line manager partners evolves. Human Resource Management Journal . Vol 27, No 1, January. pp58–74.

PRITCHARD, K. (2010) Becoming an HR strategic partner: tales of transition. Human Resource Management Journal . Vol 20, No 2, April. pp175-188.   

STEPHENS, C. (2015) Are HR business partners a dying breed?    People Management  (online). February. pp36-37.

YOUNGER, J., YOUNGER, A. and THOMPSON, N. (2011) Developing the skills of HR business partnership: consulting and change management. Strategic HR Review . Vol 10, No 1. pp6-14. 

CIPD members can use our online journals to find articles from over 300 journal titles relevant to HR.

Members and People Management subscribers can see articles on the People Management website.

This factsheet was last updated by Steve George: Digital Learning Portfolio Manager, HR and Employment Law, CIPD 

Steve manages content for all CIPD’s HR and Employment Law learning. He is a CIPD associate member.  

Business Partnering Accredited Programme

Gain confidence, credibility and expertise as an HR, L&D or OD business partner to deliver real organisational impact and be effective in your role.

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Business savvy: giving HR the edge

The four foundations of business savvy, with an overview of what makes up business-savvy competence

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A collection of thought pieces from lead thinkers, academics, practitioners and consultants on the future of the HR function

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Strategic Leadership

The Evolution of the HR Business Partner by Dave Ulrich

HR evolution

In 1997, Netscape was the browser of choice; Motorola StarTAC dominated cell phone popularity; the Apple PowerBook led in innovative laptops; cordless home phones emerged; Sony PlayStation with a 128k memory card was state of the art; Windows 95 was released. And I published the book Human Resource Champions, the ideas therein helped to define the HR business partner in terms of roles and outcomes within an organisation.

Changes over time

In the ensuing 20 years, much has changed in the world of technology; and much has changed in the world of HR. The business partner concept has dramatically evolved (transformed, been disrupted, evolved, or whatever word you choose) from roles and outcomes to a logic of how HR delivers value to employees, organisations, customers, investors, and communities through individual talent (competence, workforce, people), leadership throughout an organisation, and organisation capabilities (culture, workplace, systems).

In these 20 years, my colleagues and I have published over 25 books and hundreds of articles, chapters, research monographs, and blogs, and have given hundreds of talks on how HR is not about HR but about delivering value to multiple stakeholders.

Often critics of HR compare the 1997 HR business partner 1.0 model with the 2018 business requirements, assuming that HR logic and ideas have not evolved. This would be like saying the StarTAC phone should perform the functions of today’s smartphones. So it is useful to capture the concepts defining business partner 2.0. It is difficult, if not impossible, to summarise all the business partner 2.0 ideas, but the following table highlights thirteen pivots (because they build on the past, but they could be called disruptions or evolutions as well) each of which has been the focus of our (and many others’) thinking, research, writing, and practice.

Evolution in HR

We are incredibly grateful for HR professionals and thought leaders whose work we so readily assimilate, learn from, and build upon. The ongoing evolution of HR to a true value-creation stage comes from so many innovators. We appreciate their work and are grateful to be part of the HR value-creation movement.

HR’s evolution will continue as current business issues place HR centre stage (e.g., digital information age, #MeToo movement) and HR needs to continually upgrade to respond; but it is useful to move at this time from business partner 1.0 to business partner 2.0. I should note that each of these thirteen dimensions is the topic of a book, article, webinar, or other public data that is readily accessible on our website ( ) or on LinkedIn.

As these pivots continue, it’s a great time to be in HR!

Author: Dave Ulrich



Ensure HR contributes to the bottom line… Too often Human Resources is an afterthought in the strategic planning process. Many of our HR delegates come with problems such as how to help the business achieve its growth targets, how to integrate cultures, ensuring alignment, to achieve strategic business goals, how to excel at talent management and how to effectively engage their people. We regularly run these events, check out the event page here

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The Evolution of the Modern HR Business Partner

Vaso Perimenis

In 2003, I experienced an early version of HR business partnership . I worked for a major healthcare organization in South Florida which was quickly expanding its footprint and business.

The traditional Human Resources structure that was one degree away from personnel administration could no longer support the organization. We created a new capability called “HR Site Management” as a way to bridge the divide between local leadership and corporate HR . The new department was responsible for employee relations and acted as a conduit between corporate and local business units.

In the past 15 years, I have experienced a continual evolution of the HR business partner (HR BP) role. Different organizations and individuals see the HR business partner role slightly differently. There is no definitive structure, but there are some central tenets that contribute to a successful function and role.

The origins of HR business partnering come from the 1990s and Dave Ulrich’s model of organizing which stems from his book ‘HR Champions.’ In it, he identified four roles of the HR professional :

This definition alone cannot operationalize an HR BP model . Rather, it sets the stage for an evolved HR based on consultant-like qualities that includes less order-taking and more focus on solutions.  

My second encounter with the business partner role was in another healthcare organization in 2009. In this iteration, the role was created and funded with talent from overstaffed recruitment and employee relations departments. The roles’ responsibilities included some employee relations, shared with the employee relations team, recruitment of manager-level jobs and general liaison with manager and director level positions.

READ:  HR and the Gig Talent Economy

With lower recruiting volumes, the model worked. However, when the recruitment volumes started to increase, the model was not sustainable. In addition, although there were many alignment meetings with the employee relations center of expertise, the misalignment continued. The gap in consistency and interpretation between the centers of expertise and the HR BP function persisted.

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Once the environmental conditions changed, Human Resources had to re-examine the role. In this second iteration in 2012 , HR created a sourcing function that assumed responsibility for manager recruitment. The employee relations function remained with the HR BP role. The historical misalignment issues were improved by a weekly case review huddle between the HR BP and employee relations teams. Also, each HR BP partnered with an assigned employee relations expert to ensure appropriate consultation. The HR team also learned about performance consulting as the methodology for operating as consulting partners to the business to solve business problems with people tactics and strategies. Performance consulting tools included:

Third Time’s the Charm

The third iteration came in 2015 with a downsizing that required the Human Resources team to reduce its HR BP team by half. This required a review of all expectations and job responsibilities that yielded decisions to keep, change or delete.

The employee relations function was fully centralized in the employee relations center of expertise. The HR BP no longer attended employee appeal hearings and responded to compliance hotline complaints.  The biggest change was a shift from supporting manager-level leaders to vice presidents and higher . By moving support up the chain of command, the HR BP could more easily influence decisions and projects. This change required the HR BPs to evolve and adopt the following qualities:

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During my second encounter, the HR BP role evolved three formal times. There were informal edits too with the goal of aligning the role to the business. This is a great example of why one definition of HR BP is often insufficient to meet the demand for the capability. Human resources organizations must continuously evaluate the role’s efficacy in context of fast-moving environmental and business changes by:

HR is moving from a largely tactical, administrative function to a more strategic role focused on creating value. Before you embark on your next HR BP transformation, you need to:

Ensuring that your HR business partner community has the desired competencies, an aligned HR vision with all parts of HR, and the ability to align HR strategies with business desired outcomes will result in a successful next level HR BP capability.


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