Jul 22, 2009

Business Managers should be HR business partners

I've blogged earlier (in 2003!) about Dave Ulrich's HR Champions framework.

I've been thinking about the whole argument that HR folks have to align themselves more to business to become strategic.

And yes, I've also been thinking about the whole generalist and specialist thought.

So now I've reached my conclusion. For the moment at least.

Business managers should actually move into the role of the HR business partners.

  • Reason No. 1: They really know the business! Take a deep breath, and reflect truthfully. However, much a HR guy knows about the business, he or she will always be seen as a "HR person" 
  • Reason No. 2: If business managers really have to start doing the actual HR work - like sticking to the timelines for performance discussions - or start doing succession planning - and HR folks should do the 'facilitation' - then you have to have a ex-business turned HR business partner.
  • Reason No. 3: As businesses grow and expand - not every business manager wants to rise up the traditional way. Some managers are great at helping people grow and develop. Others are great at spotting talent before they are obvious. Such people are needed by HR. 
  • Reason No. 4: If HR has to be a way of life for people, and not just another function - then this should be the way to go.
If generalization is the way to grow one's career in large organizations - then it should not be really restricted to a function.

I know people who started careers in HR but then due to opportunities in their organizations moved to operational and sales roles. Some moved back to HR. Some moved farther away. 

In fact it has been more than 3 years that one of India's largest firms known for its HR processes asked its CFO to become the HR head. 

I personally think that there should be more such examples! Any that you know?


  1. GG,
    Ulrich has been leading this charge for a looong time. I remember back in the '80's, HR being challenged to get closer to the business. In the '90's, I was with a company where the CEO promoted a VP of Sales & Marketing to head up HR. It was a rough transition but it worked.

  2. I am surprised to know that it's not so (HR and business synergy).
    I am surprised to know that HR does performance cycle timelines/succession planning stuff. In my experience here, it's always business who does it. Business also has a considerable say in hiring.
    But then again, it's only appropriate that HR should know a good deal about business too.
    I believe, there should not be any hard line separating business and HR and rather it should be a blurred line with considerable overlap but with shared understanding.
    People development, retention programs should be shared agenda.

    regards - subashish

  3. Excellent one, Gautam. I really can't agree more. It's high time business managers start proactively handling HR responsibilities. And your "reason 1" is the most compelling one - people who know the business need to manage the people driving the business.