HR - The Business Partner (The HR Series)

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  • HR The Business Partner: Shaping a New


    Barbara KentonJane Yarnall


  • HR The Business Partner

  • This Page is Intentionally Left Blank

  • HR The BusinessPartner: Shaping a NewDirection

    Barbara Kenton and Jane Yarnall


  • Elsevier Butterworth-HeinemannLinacre House, Jordan Hill, Oxford OX2 8DP30 Corporate Drive, Burlington, MA 01803

    First published 2005

    Copyright 2005, Roffey Park, Barbara Kenton and Jane Yarnall. All rights reserved

    The rights of Barbara Kenton and Jane Yarnall to be identified as the authors of this work hasbeen asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988

    No part of this publication may be reproduced in any material form (including photocopyingor storing in any medium by electronic means and whether or not transiently or incidentally tosome other use of this publication) without the written permission of the copyright holder exceptin accordance with the provisions of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 or under theterms of a licence issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency Ltd, 90 Tottenham Court Road,London, England W1T 4LP. Applications for the copyright holders written permission toreproduce any part of this publication should be addressed to the publisher

    Permissions may be sought directly from Elseviers Science and TechnologyRights Department in Oxford, UK: phone: (44) (0) 1865 843830;fax: (44) (0) 1865 853333; e-mail: You may alsocomplete your request on-line via the Elsevier homepage (,by selecting Customer Support and then Obtaining Permissions

    British Library Cataloguing in Publication DataA catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

    Library of Congress Cataloguing in Publication DataA catalogue record for this book is available from the Library of Congress

    ISBN 0 7506 6454 1

    For information on all Elsevier Butterworth-Heinemann publicationsvisit our website at

    Typeset by Integra Software Services Pvt. Ltd, Pondicherry, Indiawww.integra-india.comPrinted and bound in Great Britian

  • Contents

    List of Figures ixList of Tables xForeword xiAcknowledgements xv

    Chapter 1 Introduction 1

    A Little of the History of HR 2What then is a Business Partner? 6How Does the Business Partner Role Compare to that

    of a Consultant? 7Background to Our Research Approach and Framework

    for this Book 11Behavioural Framework for Business Partners 13References 16


    Chapter 2 Positioning the Partnership 21

    What are You Seeking to Achieve? 22What are the Cultural Considerations? 24Systems Theory and Thinking 26Understand Current Perceptions 29Assess Your Brand Image 30Develop Your Marketing Plan 31Summary 39Checklist 40References 41

    Chapter 3 Setting Up the Partnership Function 42

    What are the Options on How Partnerships Should be Structured? 43Choosing an Appropriate Structure 48Staffing Issues 53

  • Contents


    Summary 58Checklist 59References 60

    Chapter 4 Positioning Yourself with the Client 61

    Challenge for Existing HR Personnel 61Clients Readiness and Capability 63Business Partner Roles Re-visited 66A Framework for Working Collaboratively 69Reviewing the Relationship from Different Perspectives 73Promoting Yourself 79Summary 80Checklist 81References 82


    Chapter 5 Key Consultancy Skills 85

    What is Consultancy? 85The Consultancy Cycle 86Benefits of Internal Consulting 88The Importance of Contracting 91What to Do at the Initial Client Meetings 94Avoiding Some of the Pitfalls of Contracting 103Summary 107Checklist 108References 109

    Chapter 6 Understanding Self in the Contextof the Organisation 110

    So What are the More Advanced Skills? 111Theoretical Underpinning 111Awareness of Self, Others and the System as a Whole 112Reflective Practice 115The Use of Power in Organisations 116Networking 123So What is Networking? 126How Else Can the Skills be Developed? 127Summary 130Checklist 131References 132

  • Contents


    Chapter 7 Relationship Skills 133

    Developing Rapport and Empathy with Your Client 133Establishing and Maintaining Trust 136Building Credibility 138Individual Credibility 139Credibility for the Function 143Dealing Effectively with Pressures along the Way 144Pressures Stemming from the Business 145Pressures Stemming from the Business Partner 147Pressures Stemming from the Client System 149Summary 150Checklist for the Quality of the Relationship 151References 152

    Chapter 8 Influencing and Leading Change 153

    What Kinds of Change are Business Partners Involved in? 153What is the Nature of Change? 155What are the Boundaries of Your Role in Influencing

    and Leading Change? 156Dealing with Ambiguity 159What are the Issues and Implications for Others

    in Times of Change? 160Other Aspects of Change 167Influencing Skills and Strategies 168Dealing with Resistance to Change 172Value-added Interventions 175Summary 180Checklist 181References 182


    Chapter 9 Reviewing Performance 185

    Recognising the Need for Closure 186Moving On from a Project Without Impacting the Relationship 186Guidelines for Moving On 187Reviewing the Effectiveness of the ClientPartner Relationship 188Reviewing the Effectiveness of the Project 191Reviewing the Effectivenss of the Business Partnership Function 193Summary 197Checklist 198References 198

  • Contents


    Chapter 10 Measuring Your Impact 199

    Evaluating the Success of the Partnership 199What Gets in the Way? 201Good Practice Guidelines for Establishing a Focus on Evaluation 202What Models of Evaluation Might Apply to Business Partnerships? 208Traditional HR Approaches 209OD Evaluation Models 212Business Partnership Models 218Summary 220Checklist 221References 222

    Chapter 11 Conclusions 224

    The 4C Approach to Business Partnership 225Lessons from Best Practice 227Guiding Principles for the Business Partner Role 227

    Appendix 228Index 236

  • List of Figures

    1.1 Ulrichs matrix 52.1 Clients perceptions of the Business Partnership role 364.1 Transition to Business Partnerships 654.2 Analysing your stakeholders 764.3 Stakeholder mapping 785.1 Consultancy cycle 865.2 An example of a meeting record 1066.1 Reflective practice 1116.2 Descriptive model of political behaviour 1197.1 The building blocks to trusting relationships 1367.2 Evolution of a clientadvisor relationship 1397.3 Pressures on the relationship 1458.1 Managing the change process 1679.1 McKinseys 7S Model 196

    10.1 Moving up the HR ROI scale 20410.2 Evaluation models 209

  • List of Tables

    1.1 HR roles compared: Transactional vs Strategic 31.2 Internal/External Consultants: Key differences in role 102.1 Aligning Business Partnership to the strategy 283.1 Structuring the Business Partnership 494.1 Consultant role 695.1 Advantages and disadvantages of being an

    Internal Consultant 895.2 Partner responses to client emotions 1026.1 Networking skills 1267.1 Key determinants of credibility 1389.1 Client rating scale 1919.2 Review of the Business Partnership Function 1939.3 HR priorities linked to the stage of organisational

    development 196

  • Foreword

    Contemporary organisations face constant pressure to enhance levelsof service and productivity whilst also improving levels of cost effi-ciency. The volatility of external environment and the rapid paceof technological change increasingly demand innovative means ofimproving business performance and securing competitive advantage.Human resources are increasingly recognised as the prime source ofcompetitive advantage and the need for effective people managementis therefore more important than ever before. The responsibilityfor effective people management is shared between senior managers,HR professionals and line managers but the challenges facing todaysorganisations provide an ideal opportunity for the HR function todemonstrate its ability to contribute to organisational performance ata strategic level. To take advantage of this opportunity it is necessaryto not only recognise the changes that are required but also identifythe steps to ensure that they can be implemented effectively.

    Whilst much has been written about strategic human resourcemanagement and its contribution to organisational performance, real-lifeexamples of what works and what doesnt remain thin on the ground.We recognise that HR professionals and senior managers alike face asometimes overwhelming pressure to follow trends or apply quick-fixesto a wide range of people management challenges and it can be difficultto get impartial advice about what to change and how to change it inorder to create lasting results. We have therefore developed this seriesto bridge the gap between theory and implementation by providingworkable solutions to complex people management issues and by shar-ing organisational experiences. The books within this series draw on liveexamples of strategic HR in practice and offer practical insights, toolsand frameworks that will help to transform the individual and functionaldelivery of HR within a variety of organisational contexts.

  • Foreword


    The authors of this fascinating book, Barbara Kenton and JaneYarnall, draw on their insights gained from working as consultantswith HR teams throughout the UK, their career experience in HR andmanagement development roles, as well as their detailed research toshow what being an HR Business Partner means in practice. They lookat some of the typical challenges of the role and at what can be done toaddress them. They include a number of case studies demonstratingleading practice in this rapidly evolving area. The authors providepractical insights into how to develop the skills and confidencerequired to really make a difference in Business Partner roles. Whilemuch of the authors focus is on Business Partner roles in HumanResources, the same principles apply in large measure to other value-added specialist roles.

    Acting as Business Partner

    Dave Ulrich defines one of the key domains of strategic HR as beingBusiness Partner with line management. The authors show how beinga Business Partner means working in tandem with the business, focus-ing on the big people, culture, change and capability issues aswell as helping find positive solutions in the here and now. The dis-tinction can be drawn between being reactive and being strategicallyresponsive both leading and following. At senior levels, really strate-gic Business Partners are proactive they influence those who makethe business strategies, working alongside or as part of the businessplanning team to develop strategies together. Business Partners need agood understanding of the business and its changing context; theyneed to be clear about the organisations goals, needs, values; aware ofgaps in culture and capability; to be able to translate business goalsinto operational strategies. They need to be able to influence decision-makers. Good negotiation and interpersonal skills, as well asresilience, may be required.

    HR Business Partners are often described as knowledge rich butpoor in application. Being strategic alone is not enough. ChiefExecutives want HR professionals to be able to translate the organisa-tional issues into business language, and vice versa. They need HRBusiness Partners to help them understand what must be done withregard to people if business strategies are to be achieved. If as an HR

  • Foreword


    Business Partner you are able to say: Im here to help you as CEOand I think I can get a better brand, you need to be able to deliver thekind of cultural shifts which will produce the business results. CEOsdo not want an over-engineered appraisal system delivered late. Theyare looking for a jargon-free and pragmatic approach to creating anorganisation which delivers results in the here and now, as well as inthe future.

    This means that HR professionals at all levels need to be able tosense the issues which count, and have the confidence to relay somepotentially tough messages to management about what needs to bedone. This is the quality Dave Ulrich calls HR with attitude. CEOsalso need HR to be experts in process skills, able to influence and winsupport and commitment within the organisation.

    Personal Credibility

    Personal credibility is key. For Business Partners credibility is usuallygained through high-quality delivery of programmes and initiativeswhich made a difference to line management and the business, such ashelping to reduce stress in the workplace, getting to the root cause ofproblems rather than inventing a new sticking plaster process.Business Partners need to be able to act as internal consultants, work-ing with line managers in problem-solving ways, concentrating onreality, demonstrating business acumen and ensuring that HR andbusiness goals are one and the same. They need to be externallyfocused, in touch with current thinking, having extensive networks andable to apply insights gained in a practical way. They need to be able towork effectively with colleagues in shared services and centres ofexcellence, ensuring the highest-quality client delivery.

    Change Management

    Business Partners need to be able to manage culture change. Mostorganisations see the need at some stage to develop new ways of work-ing and to change old patterns of behaviour. HR Business Partnersshould ideally be catalysts for change, working alongside line manage-ment to define the desired culture and find ways of changing attitudesand behaviours, especially those of people in leadership positions.

  • Foreword


    They need to be able to facilitate change, deal constructively with con-flict and manage the politics of the situation. They require a goodrange of change process skills and approaches, including programmemanagement and planning.

    Developing the ability to see what needs to be changed may simplybe a matter of making time to think not easy in the daily grind ofmeetings and tasks. Bringing about change requires being prepared tochallenge the status quo. Knowing what needs to be done requiresfocus, working collaboratively with Business Partners, using your ownunderstanding and intuition to make good decisions and being able tobring others with you. This involves being able to influence others andchallenge constructively.

    How Can This Book Help?

    Sometimes there is no substitute for simply having a go, but it helps ifyou have built up support for your ideas first. The good news is thatmany of the skills required for todays more complex HR roles can belearnt off the job too. Barbara Kenton and Jane Yarnall have here pro-vided a practical guide for people embarking on Business Partner rolesfor the first time, as well as a useful touchstone for experienced BusinessPartners from any discipline who wish to refocus their practice.

    Julie BeardwellPrincipal Lecturer in Human Resource Management

    De Montfort University

    Linda HolbecheDirector of ResearchRoffey Park Institute

  • Acknowledgements

    There are so many peo...


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