The HR business partnership: getting the line onside

Written by
Changeboard Team

17 Apr 2010

17 Apr 2010 • by Changeboard Team

HR business partnering

As part of our continued investigations into HR business partnering in practice, we interviewed 42 managers in seven large organisations. Their responses gave us new insights into how line managers see HR business partnering and what they want from the model. 

Using our findings we created the stakeholder development cycle (below) to guide organisations through the collaborative process needed to engage and demonstrate value to the line.

This stakeholder development cycle includes five key stages:

Creating a shared vision/business case

It’s essential to collaborate with key stakeholders at the planning stage, articulating clearly how HR business partnering will support organisational objectives. Our research shows how the chances of success increase when organisations follow best practice in change management, involving all stakeholders, both in HR and the line, in design, planning and implementation. 

When this doesn’t happen line managers feel resentful and can become fierce critics of the model – and sometimes of HR itself. 

Tailoring the model with end users

If HR is to retain credibility with the line and HR business partners are to be able to interact at a strategic level, it is critical that systems are in place to deliver transactional HR support.  If line managers are involved in their design these systems are more likely to be user-friendly from the start. And when they aren’t fit for purpose they tarnish the reputation of HR as a whole.

Being clear about roles

It’s essential to ensure a two-way flow of information, so that line managers understand not only what their own role is in the model, but what they can expect from HR. And these conversations need to take place not only with the organisation’s leaders, but also with the middle management layer, who will play a key part in making the model work.

Support and training

An inescapable aspect of HR business partnering is that it requires the line to take on new and sometimes unfamiliar responsibilities. This can leave them feeling confused, overwhelmed and under-skilled. Picking up training requirements and providing support can nip early frustration in the bud, before it becomes embedded and turns to resentment.

Sharing success stories

The more line managers see hard data and hear examples of how HR business partnering adds value, the more they will be convinced of the value delivered by the model. And the more convinced they are, the more they will be willing to play ball.