This thread contains comments to article "Inexperienced HR professionals mean business partner model will always struggle": http://www.personneltoday.com/articles/2008/09/17/47537/inexperienced-hr-professionals-mean-business-partner-model-will-always-struggle.html.
Matt Watson's comments are not surprising in stating that there is insufficient HR talent to fill executive roles. In fact, one could make the observation that in the last ten years, many in HR are still fulfilling a 'personnel' role rather than anything more substantial in contribution terms.
However, I'm still dismayed at the misrepresentation of Ulrich's work. The term 'business partner' is a generic term that had/has been around for a considerable time. Ulrich said that the 'business parner' role was too simple when applied to HR and his argument was that it needed to be seen as a combination of multiple roles - strategic partner, admin expert, employee champion and change agent. This conceptual model was based on example companies Hewlett Packard and Clorox but these were observational rather than subject to any rigorous research sample. This model still has many questions around it in terms of practicality but it assisted in thinking around HR's role as an individual/function.
The reason why the 'business partner' role is problematic is because people are using the term incorrectly and confusingly - something which is not new in the HR 'profession'. It would do well if all those quoting Ulrich would actually read 'Human Resource Champions' as it may help with clarification. One last point Ulrich opened his book with a reference to HR undergoing transition from operational to strategic, qualitative to quantitative, administrative to consultative, reacative to proactive etc. My reseach and observation, along with others, suggests that HR has changed little since 1997
NJH, Int School of HCM
Nick makes the point very well and I understand his comment over the fact that HR seems not to have moved very far along the contribution continuum to a point that is far more value-add than it may be now but, I think this phenomenon underscores my point about organisational context, which I don't believe can be ignored. The general quality of UK management is, in my experience, often poor and HR has to deal with this in the best way it can. It's not that surprising that many jobs labelled Business Partner are nothing of the sort. It is human nature to gravitate to the flavour of the month in an attempt to appear leading edge. You only have to look at the inexorable rise in jobs labelled "Talent Management" to understand this principle.
I do think that the debate over the validity or otherwise of the Ulrich model and the general misinterpretation has held HR back for years. Nick's point about the lack of movement in the quality of HR contribution in that time is very valid. However, I don't believe you can lay all the blame at the door of the HR 'profession' (Nick's quotation marks, not mine). Yes, there are a lot of people in HR who shouldn't be let out on their own: Yes, there are too many people in HR who worry about labels when they should look to the business need, but, as I said in my last post, I believe the organisation itself will largely dictate the nature of the role of HR and we need to be honest about it. Forget the labels, focus on understanding what HR needs to do to support the business it exists in. Then make sure that whoever wears whatever HR badge is capable of delivering what that particular business needs.
I love HR. I am exceptionally passionate about HR but to me HR as a profession is something I am seriously beginning to reconsider. Right now all HR seems to be about is technical jargon and unessary processes and the fight to the boardroom. I feel like I cant relate to anything anyone says anymore. We talk about talent management and succession planning all things that HR as a department are failing at. Another major problem in HR is the fact that there seems to be no clear boundaries between line managers and HR with HR suffering the repercussions. As far as filling executive roles well I have to LOL at that one. With HR being outsourced to shared service centres the future of HR isnt very promising especially for entry level professionals. How do you move from a call centre environment to a strategic business partner one. In the long run its going to get a lot more problematic.Organisations need to start looking at career development plans before recruiting, we like to plan 5 yrs ahead for everything else so why not recruitment.
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