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Factsheet:

HR business partnering

Resource summary

This factsheet was last updated in September 2015.

What is HR business partnering?

HR business partnering is a model whereby HR professionals work 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. This can involve the formal designation of ‘HR business partners’ - HR professionals who are embedded within specific areas of the business.

Many varying definitions of HR business partnering exist and the role of HR business partners can vary widely from one organisation to another. For more information on how HR models and approaches are linked to business strategy see our factsheet on strategic human resource management.

The concept of HR business partnering, or strategic partnering, emerged during the mid-late 1990s, around the time that US business academic Dave Ulrich set out his initial theories for the optimum delivery of HR. The business partner role emerged as one of the aspects of the Ulrich model, which is known as the ‘three-legged stool’ or ‘three-box’ model for HR. However, there is  ongoing debate over how his theories should be interpreted and put into practice (see Challenges to the HR business partnering model, below) and Ulrich himself has also reviewed and further developed his own theories in subsequent work.

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  • What is HR business partnering?
  • How widespread is HR business partnering?
  • The role of HR business partners
  • Implementing HR business partnering
  • CIPD viewpoint
  • References
  • Further reading

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