HR: Components of the strategic business partner mindset | XCD People

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Ulrich envisions HR as a strategic partner, unchained from day-to-day admin and free to consult across the business, unpicking innovative HCM strategies from the emotions, hopes and beliefs of its people.

It’s what organisational leaders envisage when they talk about HCM as a critical value-driving operation. In 2016, a KPMG survey found that over 80% of business executives felt that effective HR was critical to success, and 59% believed it wold only grow in importance.

The kicker? Only 17% felt that HR did a good job in demonstrating its value to the business.

Is it that the remaining 83% of HR spends too much of its time on transactional processes; not enough time on strategy? Are HR professionals too focussed on HR? Or are HR teams simply just bad at communicating their skills and what they do?

What can we learn from that 17%? What is the purpose of HR business partners, and what does the strategic HR business partner mindset look like in practice?

What’s the purpose of the HR Business partner mindset?

The HR business partner mindset is a way of carrying out HR functions where HR is more integrated with the business objectives of a company. It can allow HR to transform from having a reactive, administrative purpose to becoming a pro-active and strategic part of a business.

By deeply understanding the goals of a business and how its employees fit into that, HR business partners can drive strategy and progress for a company. HR business partners therefore must be aligned with C-suite, management, and stakeholders in a company so that the expertise and strategies of the business partner can be implemented.

The Ulrich model is just one way to implement an HR Business partner mindset and its execution will naturally look different in different companies and workplaces. This is why it’s key to understand the basics of a business partner model so your HR managers can implement strategies in a way that make sense for the company’s unique goals and needs.

Wider contextual knowledge for a business partner

The published reading lists of renowned scientific innovators like Albert Einstein or Carl Sagan show something interesting. The books that inspired them most were not related to their field of expertise, but instead enriched the context in which they worked.

In a similar way, the strategic HR business partner should be an authority on more that just their role in the organisation. The business partner should understand the fundamentals, the challenges and objectives of finance, sales, marketing and production. They should read up on sector innovation, competitor activity and market analysis.

Inspiration strikes when old knowledge meets new insight. And by building organisational and sector context around what they do, the strategic HRBP professional increases their ability to identify innovation opportunities and make sound recommendations with business results in mind.

Bottom-line objectives and measurement

Strategic HRBP professionals have their KPIs tied to the business. Every initiative, every action performed by HR should have a justification linked directly to business objectives.

A performance report stating that CPD completion increased by 19% in Q2 is good news, but forgettable. A report linking that increase with a boost in productivity or a fall in waste will land on the boardroom table with a far more satisfying thud.

Dave Ulrich advises HR to ask business leaders and management which business priorities matter most to them, then make HR innovations and practices relevant to these challenges. “HR is not about HR but the business,” he says.

HRBPs analyse the business from the outside-in, looking at stakeholders and external conditions as well as internal circumstances. This means that HRBPs have a wider perspective of the whole business, rather than just HR function.

Data unlocked

The strategic 17% make data-driven, people-related strategy decisions by harnessing the data they hold.

What are the traits of our most productive and high-performing employees? Which employees are most likely to leave? How does our retention in key roles compare to our competitors? What skill gaps are we likely to face in the next 12 months and what skills should we look for when we recruit? Where are our next leadership candidates coming from?

The answers to these questions have strategic business value, and HR, with its troves of data, is the best placed to provide them. In the age of business digitisation, there are many examples of organisations using people analytics to achieve profound results. An HBPR model brings together HR’s analytics, data, and a finger on the pulse of employee experience with the goals of the business.

Admin automated

For HR to find the time for an HRBP role, its traditional administrative tasks must be delivered in the most efficient way possible. The international strategic advisory firm McKinsey even suggests that businesses should create a new role, ‘Talent Value Leader’, with a purely strategic remit. The Talent Value Leader should be entirely removed from the operational issues dealt with in regular HR roles.

Rewriting organisational structure like this may not be possible in the short term, but there will be few among KPMG’s 17% that don’t use self-service systems to save time and empower employees to manage their own personal data.

There’ll be fewer still who run systems that rely on manual data entry and transfer, waiting days or weeks for their data to get up to date.

Harnessing the efficiency and accuracy of HCM software and the deep insight of analytics in the digital age requires HR to develop new skills and data practices, choosing solutions that fit their organisation and its employees, then make a compelling case for investment.

When employees are involved in Human Resources by using self-service HR software, HR can work more efficiently as a business partner without getting bogged down in so much day-to-day admin.


Strategic HR professionals are highly valued by business leaders because what they do is clearly articulated and communicated. Their strategy is written and shared so all business leaders can refer back to it at any stage. Their progress is well documented and their successes are communicated at all levels of the business. They PR themselves like pros.

Implementing a Human Resources Business Partner Model

Creating a Human Resources Business Partner Model can seem intimidating, but with the right tools it can be easy to transform HR into HR business partners.

Using XCD’s cloud based HR and Payroll software can improve the efficiency of HR administrators by reducing their administrative workload, giving them access to real-time data-driven insights across the entire business, and streamlining processes such as onboarding and recruitment.

With these boring duties automated and streamlined, HR professionals can implement the HRBP mindset and participate in strategising, problem-solving, and value-creation that will benefit the entire company. HR software frees Human Resources departments to evolve into business partners and improve HR practices.

HR business partners don’t wait to be asked. Start drawing up your plans for greater strategic impact using HRBPs today.

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