Pros and Cons of the HR Business Partner Structure

I had a question come in that I thought would be good to get some feedback from you guys on. She asked:

Do you know of any current companies that have an HR business partner model (healthcare would be ideal….but I will take any)? I have to do research on 3 different businesses for a project.

What are the pros and cons of that structure?

I told her I would reach out to the community (you!) for input. If you have suggestions, tips, or ideas, just leave a comment below and I’ll make sure she sees them. Thanks!

My response

Pros: having the HR folks embedded in the business units is important from a flexibility/speed standpoint. A company locally won an award a few years back for their employee engagement practices, and they attributed it to moving from a siloed HR model to an HR model with a generalist “embedded” in some of the key business units. They were able to react quickly to the needs of the business unit and were very familiar with the products/services the unit offered, allowing them to customize HR service delivery that was going to lead to the best customer experience. [Note, if you’re going to be pitching this model to move to, then this is the best way to do it–by describing the business results, not just HR results.]

Cons: this can be more expensive, especially if there are multiple people on the HR team doing similar duties and duplicating efforts. From what I have seen this is typically the #1 reason companies move away from that model. They want to save money by consolidating HR practices/practitioners. It can also lead to fractured HR practices if they are not established at the top level–unit 1 does it this way, unit 2 does it that way. I know of a local company (government contractor) that moved to a shared model away from an embedded business partner model and the employees went berserk because they couldn’t get answers, the support was awful, etc.

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