Human resources directors admit business partner is failing

Leading practitioners have joined the attack on business partnering, adding weight to claims by line managers that the human resources (HR) model is failing organisations.

A survey by research firm Roffey Park last month revealed that half of the 479 managers polled thought business partnering was less than successful in their organisation. And a quarter said the model was ineffective.

HR directors have told Personnel Today they were unsurprised at the survey results, despite the business partner model having gained popularity since 1997 when first introduced by HR guru Dave Ulrich.

Sian Thomas, deputy director for NHS Employers, which is responsible for workforce issues across the NHS, said: “Business partnering doesn’t do what it says on the tin. If organisations are calling people business partners, they need to be more commercially savvy and more in tune with the imperatives of the business. [The profession] hasn’t developed enough HR people with those skills.”

Thomas also agreed with the survey that line managers look for advice from HR generalists rather than specialists. “People don’t want to go to recruitment for that [issue], reward for this – that’s not very customer-focused.”

Jackie Ward, HR manager at engineering consultancy Mott MacDonald, said: “Although business partnering is a good idea in theory, it is very difficult to achieve in practice. It tends to focus more on shared-services than the full business partnering model.”

However, Jane Clark, a senior HR business partner at charity Christian Aid, defended the model. “Business partnering is a highly specialised job that has been undermined by poor implementation and people just changing role names with no attempt to re-skill.”

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