Pointless shuffling of HR pack gives business partnering a raw deal

An obsession with restructuring HR departments to be more strategic often leaves staff struggling to cope in their new roles, leading practitioners have warned.

The director of HR transformation and systems at mobile giant Vodafone, Mike Taylor, said too many HR functions were rebranding their staff as business partners without providing adequate training.

This often caused the business partnering model to fail and HR to lose yet more credibility, Taylor said.

“We’ve been really guilty in HR of renaming rather than developing new roles. You can’t just take an HR manager and call them a business partner, you really have to take the time to develop them into the role as you see it,” he told Personnel Today.

A fan of the business partnering model, Taylor blamed HR for placing the wrong people into the wrong jobs during restructuring.

“You’ve got to make sure your business partners are business aware, to genuinely be able to influence at a strategic level, so they are not just doing what their line managers ask.”

Peter Reilly, director of HR research at the Institute of Employment Studies, agreed.

“In HR, there has been too much obsession with structure and process and not enough about capability of staff,” he said.

But Theresa Winters, HR business partner at consumer products giant Unilever, insisted business parterning was successful if implemented properly.

“The challenge is in making the role of business partner clear, and giving people the capability to do it,” she said.

Less than half of line managers polled by research firm Roffey Park earlier this year said business partnering was in any way successful in their organisation.

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