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Annie Hayes



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Are you ready for HR business partnering?


HR business partnering experts, Judith Strange and Shirley Dalziel present their readiness reckoner to help you decide whether it’s time to take the leap.

Many organisations are thinking about or are in the process of embarking on an HR partnering programme.

Whilst the transformation process brings real benefits, the transition is seldom easy and may go through many changes before it settles into an easy working pattern.

The more prepared you are the better.

Answer the following questions to assess HR’s readiness:

The timing:
There may never be an ideal time, but it is worth pondering the following questions:

  • Is the organisation ready for HR business partnering?

  • What other programmes are there on the agenda?

Understanding the impact the transition will have on the organisation is vital and an important element of honing the communication plan.

Senior management buy-in:

  • Are senior managers open to having HR business partners at the strategy table?

  • Do they see the move as a cost cutting exercise or truly a way to add value to the business?

Senior managers may espouse the value of HR but not really understand the added value that experts can add. Senior manager support and investment in the development of the new ways of working are crucial to partnering success.

The more up front engagement and commitment from senior managers the more that partnering is given a real chance of success.

The line:
A key element of most partnering implementation programmes is a change in how HR supports the line. Can line managers cope with a reduced dependency on HR? The three key questions for the line include: are they willing, able and allowed?

In anticipation of introducing partnering it is worth asking: is there sufficient support in place for line managers? For example, is there an intranet for line managers and employees to conduct their own simple HR transactions? Does everyone have access to a computer? Is there anywhere people can go to for help on simple HR matters, such as an advice centre?

Are line managers competent and able in taking on more HR responsibilities? Are they capable of handling their own discipline issues, especially if they are used to hand holding from HR?

If the answers to any of these questions is ‘no’, HR partners won’t get the opportunities to become more strategic as they will find themselves dragged in to deal with transactional issues. It is unlikely than anything will change. No one is going to see HR as being a credible business player if the basics aren’t in place.

And not to forget HR, though in the rush to implementation this often does happen. Successful partnering needs specific skills and knowledge. Has the organisation spent enough time scoping out the roles and exploring the capability of existing HR staff, pre-selection, to help them make the leap to their new roles?

Are they both willing and capable of moving out of their comfort zone? Can they think strategically and do they really understand the business?

Is HR ready for a rough ride? Often there are teething problems with setting up a new structure and service proposition. How prepared is HR for the perceptions of its service to get worse before it gets better?

Are HR Directors prepared to get into a situation where HR is viewed negatively before it is viewed positively? Will existing, good HR staff (potential future HR business partners) ride the storm and stay through difficult times or will they leave to work for another company?

It might not be realistic to have all these things in place before embarking on an HR transformation programme. It is definitely worth asking the questions though and getting as much of the necessary commitment, support and planning in place as possible.

Successful partnering is all about preparation and being flexible and adaptable to the ‘left field’ challenges that will come along.

The good news is that increasingly many organisations are finding that it is all worth it!

For further information contact Judith Strange and Shirley Dalziel at develop uk, the specialists in HR Partnering (

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Annie Hayes


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