Our business partner model needs a boost

25 Jan 2018 By PM Editorial

How can we strengthen our employee relationships? 

I work in an NHS trust that operates an HR business partner model across multiple sites. But having been here a few months, I don’t see that much partnering going on. We nominally have responsibility for different areas of the trust, but we rarely go out and meet the employees we’re responsible for. I have made an effort to get out and about but my HR director seems to prefer having us in the office handling calls and queries. I like the organisation but it feels as though we’re stuck being reactive; how can I persuade her that we should be closer to the business?

The HR business partner model has many admirers, and plenty of merit. But it has come to be seen as a panacea for everything HR – whereas in reality, even its founding father, Dave Ulrich, acknowledges that it has to be tailored to consider the needs of the business.

There are plenty of interpretations of the model. And in some cases – potentially yours – business partnering has been adopted as a fashionable idea but might not be the right solution in reality. To determine if that’s the case, however, you should sit down with your HR director and ask her what she hoped to achieve when she introduced the model (assuming it was her idea) and whether she feels it is working as she expected. 

As you’ve arrived relatively recently, those aren’t unreasonable questions to ask, as long as the conversation takes place in a supportive way. You could suggest some ideas from your own perspective on how the partnering might improve, without jeopardising important transactional aspects of HR, and offer some examples of a more concerted approach to partnering that might deliver better results for the trust. 

Hopefully, your ideas will help your HR director see things in a different light and capitalise on your newness to introduce some real changes. And if you can help develop an approach that works more effectively, that’s good for your own career as well as the organisation.

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