Human Resources Business Partner: publicity stunt or purposeful rebranding ?

Introduction

Why adding up “Business Partner” if “Human Resources” alone make perfect good sense ?

And, is adding up “Business Partner” enough if it doesn’t ?

Where exactly in the value chain few easily outsourced tasks can actually support the Business ?

Did you already try and transform your HR into HRBR ? Was it successful ? Do you want to give it a try and convince me ?

Strategy and alignment

In the course of a Master in Finance and Management Control I presented a thesis on the construction of key performance indicators according to the “Balanced Scorecard” format.

This tool that comes from the United States, the cradle of “Business” and the commercialization of business theories, indicates in four quadrants the basis of each strategy.

  • Commercial
  • Operative
  • Financial
  • Organisational

Obviously there must always be “alignment” between them and it cannot happen that

  • colossal investments in production are launched without financial cover,
  • Budget with spectacular sales growths are approved without a solid product/market base in place,
  • a marketing campaign is imagined without proper organization.

With the development of quality certifications (ISO) then, every company now has a fairly conspicuous (and sometimes even redundant) set of performance indicators to follow.

As often happens with the attribution of licenses and certificates, the controls aim more to verify compliance with the standard than to know whether or not they are of real “business support”.

And the mere existence of indicators in compliance with a given text becomes an objective in itself.

So, with the idea of rationalizing the set of indicators already existing in a company (it had more than 200) while keeping only those really suitable to measure the effectiveness of the strategy, I realized that a good part was useless.

They were put there more to “fill the spaces” and please the auditors than to support the business.

What impressed me the most was the “number of controls of measuring instrument”: when has a business decision ever been made based on the “number of controls of measuring instrument ?” I always wondered.

So, in every work experience I started to regularly examine the “alignment” between :

  • company strategy
  • organization
  • actions implemented in pursuit of this strategy
  • measuring the performance of these actions in relation to the strategy

And I began to realize that, often, some indicators, processes, procedures and even entire corporate functions, when not completely useless, do not bring anything to “Business”.

They are necessary evils (sometimes) and little more.

For me, the Human Resources are just one of them.

Conclusion

You can’t imagine my surprise then to see “Human Resources” and “Business Partner” associated for some time on business cards and important corporate literature sites.

Often in the staff at the General Management (which is a kind way to say that they do what they are ordered to do by the big boss) they perform very low value-added tasks that have nothing to do with strategy.

The added value of a corporate function is low when it is possible to outsource it, gaining in cost and effectiveness.

  • Payroll processing
  • personnel selection
  • relations with social security bodies
    (making extensive use of external consultants and specialists) are the main tasks of Human Resources.

And they are also clear examples of low added value.

Therefore “Human Resources Business Partner” is no more than a spectacular “publicity stunt” of North American origin aimed at including a new source of income in the varied world of business consulting.

Yet “Human Resources Business Partner” for me are just a bit like the Arab phoenix of italian poet Pietro Metastasio: that there is one, each one says it, where it is, no one knows it.

Before you get yourself dragged into an expensive and unnecessary transformation of your Human Resources into a Business Partner, then, I suggest you focus your efforts on the processes that really create value within your organization.