AJO Blog

Primary tabs

HR Business Partner Are We There Yet? Is HR At The Table?

Posted in



June 20th, 2018

- Updated on

June 5, 2019 - 3:57pm

Part One of a Three Part Series on Strategic HR/HR Transformation

For those of us who have spent time in the Human Resources field, the question of whether one has a seat at the table continues to loom large. It’s a question we’ve been asking ourselves if not forever, at least for decades. Now, I wonder, what has changed? I’m very confident we have made progress, but how much?   
I had the opportunity recently to talk with Dr. Steve Safier, AJO’s Executive Vice President of Strategy and Impact, and head of AJO’s Consulting practice, about these questions. He shared with me his perspective on the topic and his interest in learning what our readers think. We have a short survey (see below) to gauge what HR professionals are experiencing. But first, let’s define the term, HR Business Partner (HRBP).

What is an HR Business Partner Anyway?

Arriving at a common definition of an HRBP as the basis for further exploration is essential but challenging. What do the experts in the field say?
In the following clip, "Connecting HR to the Business Context, Dr. David Ulrich states that in order to be effective in today’s environment, HR professionals must go beyond personal credibility in the common areas of staffing and training etc., so that as true business partners, they deliver business value toward strategic goals that are responsive to the internal and external context in which the business operates, acting as a true internal consultant and credible strategic advisor. 
Ikenna Njemanze of the Cornell University HR School published What Does Being a Strategic HR Business Partner Look Like in Practice? According to Ikenna, aspiring to be viewed as a true HRBP means that the HR professional must understand and participate in developing the business strategy, then work in partnership with line managers to develop systems and programs that will support the business’s goals. HRBPs must understand the broader business environment, economic and demographic trends, and competitive environment so that they can credibly advise their management partners on the best people strategies to achieve the desired business outcomes. 
And, In the report issued by The Conference Board, What’s Next for 21st Century HR? Continuous Strategic Transformation, the authors, in collaboration with the Conference Board Senior HR Business Partner’s Council suggest that instead of looking at the HRBP in a static way, HR professionals must be in a state of continuous transformation. 

“Tran formation,” eh? Where are we now?

The report posits that HR professionals must engage,
“in the continuous process of realigning and redefining the function as an agile, proactive contributor to the business. Transformation requires a strategic mindset, along with capabilities that encourage the business to perceive the role of HR in a new way—as one of strategic impact and innovation.” 
They go on to say,
“A 21st-century HR function leans into the future to anticipate competitive challenges to the business model and is a gravitational force drawing analytics-based insight from across the organization to generate competitive advantage. “
This infographic from the report shows the complexity of evolving transformational expectations if one is to move from a tactical HR professional to the more strategic partner of the 21st Century.
What's Next for 21st-Century HR? Continuous Strategic Transformation,
The Conference Board, December 2017
Tall orders, each, no matter which definition you choose. But, these are all essential perspectives if HR is to continue to add strategic value and drive business outcomes through the sweeping changes and challenges facing global businesses today. 
Perhaps you are well along on several dimensions yourself, but one or two need work. Let us know where you and your organization stand in the survey below, then we’ll discuss some recommended strategies for getting closer to the goal of achieving a true strategic partnership with your organizations’ management team.

What Are You Experiencing in Your Current HR Role? Take Our Short Survey - Let Us know.

Are these definitions in line with your own experience? How do you and your organization perceive your HR role? Let us hear from you in this quick survey, which will take less than 2 minutes to complete. Mobile users, click here to launch the survey.
We share results from our short survey in HR Business Partners: 10 Steps to Your Seat at the Table, along with 10 steps HR and HR professionals can take today to enhance their strategic influence in the organization. You can also access the latest results here.

AJO Blogger - Kathy Flora - Headshot
Kathy Flora is a Career and Executive Coach and AJO Blogger who is actively pursuing her life’s passion, helping others find and fulfill theirs. Known as a positive change agent, mentor and guide, she has assisted hundreds of leaders and their teams understand their strengths, collaborate effectively, and drive organizational success. She has a special affinity for working with virtual teams, using webinars, virtual meet-ups, and online collaborative communities to optimize communication and productivity. Her experience spans over 25 years in executive management and leadership, career development, facilitation, and consulting in private firms, state government, and in federal agencies.