The Human Resources Business Partner: A Series

What is a Human Resources Business Partner? Is it a title? A function? A role or an attitude? Depending on who you ask, it’s all of the above or none of the above. When I hear the title, one name comes to mind and that’s Dave Ulrich. He created the HR business partner model 20 years ago and that model continues to evolve.

I currently have the title of HR Business Partner (HRBP). It’s one I’ve had for some time now. In my current role with Slalom, I have this title because I am helping to build the HRBP function for our organization. I was hired 3 and a half years ago, along with my peers, to shape and define this role as it had not existed in the previous 15 years of the company’s existence. As we were growing, there was a need for HR to be more proactive. We needed to be more strategic in our offerings, to be able to anticipate the needs of the business, and to help enhance our people decisions. Think of every HR buzzword and we were trying to implement it.

This journey has been fantastic. I have had the opportunity to work with some tremendous people and I’ve seen our HRBP function as well as our entire HR organization accomplish a lot in a short amount of time. We still have a lot of work to do and I’m excited about it.

As we have been building this team, I’ve thought a lot about the HRBP role. I’ve thought about its value to the organization and how it has been defined in my career. Regardless of the title, I have been operating as a business partner for the better part of my 20+ year career. I’ve been sitting at tables long before that phrase was considered a bad thing.

And whether it’s the Ulrich model or the SHRM Competency Model, each include elements of the role around strategic advisory and consultation, HR expertise, and business acumen.

One of the exciting things about working for Slalom, is the amount of support they give to their employees. And this is not just lip service. This blog is a perfect example. Since I started this in February, Slalom has embraced and supported my writing. They share my posts on their social feeds, they provide writing workshops to help employees like me to enhance writing skills for their own brand. My boss and I discuss my blog and how I can improve it through the work I do.

Ok, so what’s with this blog series on the HRBP? I thought I would spend to time over the next few months to share my perspective on what it takes to be an HR Business Partner. To share some of the challenges, frustrations, and successes I’ve had along the way in hopes to help other businesses and HR professionals along their journey. I’ll be showcasing some of the things I’ve done to demonstrate strategic advisory, HR expertise, and business acumen. I’ll open the curtain to some of the activities I participate in on a day-to-day basis.

With Slalom’s support, I’m so excited to talk about October’s spotlight. As a part of my role, I support our Midwest markets. I, along with my direct report, provide the HR consultancy, support, and advisory for our leaders and employees and help to move HR up the value chain.

Each market is led by a General Manager who is responsible for the overall success and profitability of the market and the overall success and development of the employees. I meet with my GMs on a weekly basis to strategize about our people initiatives, discuss HR trends, and the overall health of the market.

Recently, I had a chance to sit down with our General Manager at Slalom Chicago, Justin Odenbach. As the Midwest Regional HR Business Partner for Slalom, I’ve had a lot of great conversations with Justin. Our latest discussion was on how Slalom creates an environment where people understand their value, feel inspired, and never stop growing.

In our past exchanges, I realized the insights I took away from our conversations might be useful for others. So, I asked Justin if we could record and share our passion and perspective on cultivating talent and building a culture of growth and learning. We then partnered with our Marketing department to see how we can feature some of these conversations through my blog and on some of Slalom’s channels. I love this collaboration!

Starting tomorrow, and over the next four weeks, I’ll spotlight parts of our conversations and highlight the strategic advisory and consultation competencies in the HRBP model. I hope you enjoy this series and I’m looking forward to your feedback.



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