What is an HR “Business Partner”?

(Excerpt from HR: The Business Partner)

“A little of the history of business partnering

Dave Ulrich has long championed the role of the strategic Business Partner, linking it to a business imperative for a more pro-active approach from HR with less reliance on operational expertise.

Ulrich’s thinking (1997) was that HR needed to transform itself with a focus on adding value through four key roles, each of which needed to work as a “Business Partner” with a specific outcome or deliverable in focus.

Ulrich describes the four roles as follows:

  • Strategic Partners – with a focus on strategy execution and meeting customer needs through aligning HR priorities;
  • Administrative Experts – ensuring efficiency in the infrastructure; supporting the business and improving organisational efficiency by re-engineering the HR function and other work processes;
  • Employee Champion – paying attention to increasing employee commitment and capability through listening and responding to their needs; and
  • Change Agents – deliver operational transformation and culture change.”

Kenton, Barbara, and Jane Yarnall. HR: The business partner. Routledge, 2010.



Now that you have this mental model in front of you, ask yourself: am I partnering effectively? Is my organization? Does my passion or focus lean towards only 1 or 2 of the quadrants? Am I particularly weak in one area? Am I ignoring anything? Am I contributing maximum value to the organization? Am I doing my best work? What will it take to move from current to future focus?

I encourage you to print this framework and ask yourself these questions routinely. Whether it is one a day, week or even month, these are questions you should use as a pulse on your value-add.

Now, go get em, partner!

-The SHR


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