Compare and contrast the role of the HR Business Partner with that of an external consultant. Evaluate effectiveness of a HRBP v an external consultant
This paper will evaluate the extent to which academic and professional research into the roles of the HR Business Partner and that of the external consultant allow for a critical comparison between the two as to their effectiveness. Are they fundamentally different or essentially the same? Having firstly attempted to define then compare and contrast the two roles in relation to a number of key areas and tasks, the paper will also draw upon the findings of various academic and professional sources to endeavour to evaluate the effectiveness of the HR Business Partner against that of the external consultant. It will do so by analysing the roles from various perspectives, using a range of academic evidence to cover both the benefits and limitations of both HR Business Partner and external consultant in order to give a rounded critical evaluation. Finally it will draw together some conclusions. Defining the role of HR Business Partner has become problematic over the years since its first introduction in the 1990s. The role is currently defined by the CIPD as a member of the HR function who “works closely with business leaders and/or line managers to achieve shared organisational objectives, in particular designing and implementing HR systems and processes that support strategic business aims” (http://www.cipd.co.uk/hr-resources/factsheets/hr-business-partnering.aspx. Accessed on 17 Sept 2012). According to Holbeche when seeking to define what being a HR Business Partner means in practice it is necessary to consider what the ‘partner’ requires from the relationship. This is an important point to be addressed as the role of HR Business Partner can often be more associated with undertaking HR duties rather than fulfilling ‘client’ needs. With this in mind Holbeche defines the Business Partner as a person who, “works alongside senior managers, providing the link between business and organisational strategies, providing support and challenge to the senior team and developing credible initiatives...” (1999, 15). This is in line with the work of David Ulrich, the best known promoter of the Strategic Business Partner role, who positioned it within what was famously described as his ‘three-legged stool model’ for the structure of the HR function (1997). Clearly the view taken by these two writers is of the Business Partner working at a senior level dealing with strategic business issues as opposed to someone with extensive operational HR responsibilities. The reality of the situation may be that the HR Business Partner in many organisations finds that maintaining such a strategic level is extremely challenging and something of the previous HR generalist roles and responsibilities continue to be performed (Pritchard, 2010). The implementation of the Ulrich model, with its position of HR Business Partner has been a difficult journey for many organisations and Caldwell (2008) has criticised it for being ambiguous, simplistic and unable to deal with the complexity of organisational difference. However the suggestion of the HR Business Partner as occupying a new ‘strategic’ role gives the potential for greater effectiveness. The role is seen as being ‘strategic’ and aligns it with organisational business aims so the more people who come to accept this the more effective the role could become. Alternatively, Wright (2008) has suggested that the HR Business Partner is a construct being used by the HR profession to gain access to strategic decision makers. In this case its effectiveness will be judged not on the value it creates for its clients or the organisation but on whether it achieves the end of putting HR into the boardroom. This reality has led Ulrich to revise, or perhaps clarify, his original description of the role and the suggestion is that HR business partnering is...
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