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Busy HR Business Partners and the boiled frog syndrome

Source | LinkedIn : By Ramesh Soundararajan

Most HR structures that we have today are based on the 3 legged model of

  • Administrative shared services
  • Centers of Excellence
  • Business partner.

Obviously, the pressure on business partner was more, as the function has to balance out between being a strategic partner to business and change agent and also being employee champion.

Let us take stock on the shared services. Thanks to technology, outsourcing and offshoring, HR administration has taken concrete shape. Like any technology driven outsourcing process, there are pains but there are measurable ways to track and better employee experience.

Centers of excellence were more clearly defined and continued unchanged. There is recruitment, L&D, total rewards and so on. Each of these functions have clear goals and they run the processes. The business partner HR runs the process with their partnership.

What has the business partner become? The goal was to have someone who can

  • Envision the strategic direction of the business and assess capabilities.
  • Develop a talent strategy to enhance these capabilities
  • Partner and bind the leadership team to be cohesive.

This could be happening in true blue FMCG companies with unique businesses. However, how has it played out in large sections of technology?

  • Business Partner HR keeps running calendar processes.
  • They also run their own processes like skip level meetings, engagement programs, employee survey findings, communications.

Since this has become so process oriented, an army of HR generalists have been built, using ratios like 1:400, 1:500 etc. People have a career path based on increasing size. The big lady is responsible for 10,000 people and has 40 people below her to take ” care” of 10,000 people.

Let us pause for a moment. How does this pyramid address the business needs? Neither strategy nor team effectiveness is achieved by these numbers. Not one Business head has gone on record saying ” I was successful because of my business partner HR”. What this has resulted in is a set of people competent in

  • Making reports and review presentations.
  • Ace follow-up agents for corporate processes
  • Identifying complaints from employees and managers and pass it on. Solving is done by leadership or CoE heads.

The business partner HR people are busy. Unfortunately on the mail chasing things or forwarding stuff. In addition, the following trends threaten this function.

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