There has been a lot of confusion about the "Business Partner" model in Human Resources ever since its inception at the back end of the 1990s. Initially proposed by David Ulrich as a reorganisation of the way HR departments are run, the concept today has worked its way into small businesses, but not in the way you might think.
HR outsourcers call it "modernising HR" - but for small businesses, modernising HR is by no means the most immediate consideration. Getting it done is hard enough. This is where business partners have started to come in - as small businesses grow, usually beyond ten people, the weight of HR administration - allied with the potential risk of getting it wrong - requires an increased need for help.
By bringing in an external HR Business Partner for one day a month, SMEs avoid the hassle - and the cost - of recruiting a full-time employee. Equally, they get on-tap expertise and risk-mitigation. So - how can SEMS get the most out of the Business Partner model?
Understand the model firstTo get the most out of a HR Business Partner, you need to understand how the model works in larger businesses.
A Business Partner is a Human Resources professional who, literally, partners your business. In larger organisations, they have close ties with departments in order to better understand how they work, and better implement people strategies as a result. Therefore, you could see them as "uber-HR" - and many of the best HR Business Partners have backgrounds in running businesses, or in Finance, Sales & Marketing.
Therefore, the challenge set down by David Ulrich was: understand the people before you implement people strategies. Understand the business, and only then can you add value to it.
Get the right business partner, not the right providerIn small businesses, they work externally - often coming into your business for a set period each month - understanding what drives your business and what specific compliance risks you face. Therefore, the important thing here is not which provider you work with, but which partner.
Choose a business partner who has a similar background to you - one who displays an understanding of your business and your industry. We all have specific challenges to face, and these drive our strategies going forward. Therefore, find the person whose background fits your business - not the provider.