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The Human Resources Business Partner

Dr. Carol A. Beatty, Queen's IRC
Publication date: October, 2019
The Human Resources Business Partner

Introduction

The Human Resources Business Partner (HRBP) is a popular designation for many human resources professionals in today’s Canadian organizations. However, there seems to be no consistent definition of this role and its responsibilities. This article will attempt to describe the most common organizational structures or models used by HR departments to incorporate HRBPs and will review the strengths and challenges of these models. It will also illustrate the duties and the necessary skills of the fully competent HRBP and make recommendations for organizations considering creating HRBP roles.

Assumptions underlying the HRBP Model

At the heart of the Human Resources Business Partner (HRBP) model is the assumption that an HR professional should become a strategic partner with line managers to help fulfill business goals.[1] Its intent is to “help HR professionals integrate more thoroughly into business processes and align their day-to-day work with business outcomes. This means focusing more on deliverables and business results than HR activities.”[2]

A second assumption is that the human side of the business is a key source of competitive advantage. The HRBP model enables the organization to optimize its human capital by bringing human resources considerations into strategic plans.

The success of the HRBP model also depends on several other key assumptions, namely that the HR partner is sufficiently skilled and prepared for this challenging role, that the line managers being “helped” are willing to accept the new model, and that HR work is restructured so that other more traditional HR functions are also being performed adequately.

 

[1] Ulrich, D. (1998). ‘A new mandate for human resources’. Harvard Business Review, 76: 1, 124–134.

[2] Ulrich, D. & Brockbank, W. (2009). ‘The HR Business-Partner Model: Past Learnings and Future Challenges’.  People and Strategy, 32/2, 5-7.