From HR administrator to strategic business partner

Human resource practitioners have new demands on them. In the past HR practitioners were seen and used as glorified administrators. The new demands relates to the critical role of strategic business partner.
Ulrich, Brockbank, Yeung & Lake (1995) propose that HR professionals demonstrate competence when they add value to their business by delivering ideas, programmes and initiatives to their business to help the business become more competitive. Ulrich et al. developed a three-domain framework for conceptualising HR competencies consisting of:

Knowledge of business
HR must know the financial, strategic, technological and organisational capabilities of the business. HR must have the ABILITY to understand the business issues.

Delivery of HR practices
The HR professional must be an expert in HRM. Knowing and being able to deliver state-of-the-art innovative HR practices to organisational members builds the credibility of HR

Management of change processes
HR must be able to manage the changes taking place outside the organisation and mirror the changes inside the organisation. As a change agent, the HR professional will be able to diagnose problems, build relationships with clients, articulate a vision, set a leadership agenda, solve problems and implement goals.

Personal credibility
Credible HR professionals meet commitments, improve others’ results and always act with integrity.

Various other researchers also mention flexibility, adaptability, intellectual independence, business knowledge and creative innovative thinking.

Ulrich & Brockbank (2005:21-22) mention that HR professionals and their stakeholders too often operate in separate worlds. As a HR professional, you are required to create and deliver value to the business. Value is defined by the receiver and not by the giver of value. Delivering value as a business partner has the following implications:

Insight and understanding of the realities that influence business on a macro scale (outside the organisation) as well as ‘n micro scale (inside the business);
Understanding and insight into business processes and areas of optimisation;
A solid understanding of the perspectives of others in the business (i.e. line management) and not imposing HR beliefs, values and goals on other parts of the business;
Understanding who the stakeholders are in delivering a HR value proposition. HR needs to understand who are the key stakeholders, what is important to them, what is important to them and what do they want;

Focusing on deliverables and assist line managers to reach their goals. Your recommendations must align with the line manager’s goals, not yours.
You need to understand that HR starts with the business and your knowledge of the business is crucial.

Part of your journey in increasing your HR competencies is to understand the business and determine the specific value proposition that you can offer to your business unit. The new role as strategic partner required you to change the perception of line management to see HR as a strategic business partner. Changing the perception of the line manager to see the value of a HR strategic partner is to build trust, get to the real line issues, offer deliverables and helping the line manager to develop capabilities to create an action plan for delivering them.

The crucial differentiator in HR as business partner is not what you know but rather what you do with the business knowledge. Ulrich & Brockman (2005:236) state that HR professionals must understand the company as well as the industry they work in. Making a strategic contribution where they build a culture linked to external clients and to the business strategy, requires substantial knowledge of clients and strategy.

There are three sub-factors: value chain knowledge (what links market demand with internal supply) (56%) of overall impact, knowledge of the company’s value proposition (28%) and labour knowledge (16%).
As a new HR practitioner, it is difficult to grasp all the new demands and make a difference in business. The Alusani® course for new HR professionals will unpack the new demands of business, bring you up to date with labour relations and legislation, help you to recruit and manage talent and manage performance in the business.

For more insights join the HR for New HR Professionals course hosted by Alusani Skills & Training Network ®. Contact us to find out when our next course is running. For more information call 011 447 7470, email or visit their website

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