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Real-world Application of the Strategic Business Partner Role

Real-world Application of the Strategic Business Partner Role

Have you tried the Strategic Business Partner Role model for your HR department?

Mary Ann Downey | i4cp

May 06, 2010

“If you want to assure alignment with the business, change the reporting relationship,” says Mike McDaniel, SVP of HR for Alliance. The advantage of this model is that the SBP is part of the business unit management team that is directly responsible for the business outcomes.

In another model, a Center of Excellence (COE) develops the business-driven human capital strategy decisions and is advised by SBPs from individual business units. The advantage of setting up the role this way is that the COE gets direct feedback from the business unit when designing enterprise-wide initiatives. This creates a greater sense of camaraderie and forges an HR function that is more closely aligned with front-line situations.

While two-thirds of large high-performing companies have a job description and/or competency model describing the SBP role, many companies have yet to create one. In such cases, how do organizations select a candidate to take on the SBP role?

Part of the selection decision should be based on the traits of potential SBPs and how those traits fit the needs of the culture. A SBP should have “a real curiosity and interest in how the business makes money and [have] shown that they are open to change and able to learn,” says Susan Layman, VP of HR at FT Services. Susan has successfully lead HR transformations in multiple organizations and says that these are the characteristics she looks for when filling SBP roles.

Our study indicates that, although there is no one-size-fits-all model for how the SBP role should look or be structured, the presence of a SBP does indeed provide real advantages for organizations. We recommend looking first at how successful organizations with similar needs have designed and implemented the role before deciding what structure will work best in your organization.

i4cp’s 4-Part Recommendation:

1. Be committed to the SBP role and staff it wisely. Not every HR professional is cut out to be an effective SBP, so organizations should make a careful and thoughtful selection based on skill and business acumen. Organizations that give HR professionals the title of Strategic Business Partner without restructuring the work, communicating expectations, and providing the necessary tools are setting their SBP up for failure.

2. Balance and cooperation between the SBP and other HR professionals should be designed into the role. While the SBP may be at the “top of the food chain,” as one executive described, they cannot be successful without the support of the operations staff. The performance of the SBP role should be evaluated by how well s/he utilizes the expertise of other HR functions and vice versa.

3. Create a succession plan for the SBP role. For many organizations, introducing the SBP role is part of an overall HR transformation; the selection and training is set up as a one-time event that may not be repeatable. Organizations should develop a career path for the SBP, including competency lists detailing the types of experiences and behaviors required to be successful.

4. Align rewards for the SBP that reinforce expectations of the new role. i4cp’s SVP of Research, Jay Jamrog, believes that firms should use metrics that are tied to how the whole organization is doing in the marketplace, not just traditional HR metrics. Metrics should be “more outside-in than inside-out,” he states. The key is to identify the human capital measurements that support the business and demonstrate impact, then reward the strategic contributions rather than the tactical or administrative efforts.

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