The dial for HR’s area of focus has been shifting towards customer-centric for well over a decade. But the challenge for HR has always been attempting to find the balance between helping the business with their transformations (communications, coaching, restructuring) whilst always in the midst of their own.

I reached out to our HR Network to discuss how can an organisation prepare and support its HR teams in the context of business transformation when the HR function is often at the heart of the execution plan?

The best response was from one HR leader at a large multinational: “ You need to put your own oxygen mask on before assisting others.

A New HR Partnership Model

Many HR teams conduct customer service surveys, asking for feedback from their internal clients. And yet each year, it comes as no surprise that many organisations are expecting one thing from their HR teams, but their HR teams are working diligently on something else.

The reality is, it’s not practical to expect HRBPs to be a one-stop shop for all requirements, both strategic and operational. One organisation has addressed the disparity between the survey findings and the reality of their current HR business practices, by creating a new HR model of partnership that segments the HR roles and responsibilities to better align with the different needs of the business. This has allowed them to provide a more focused HR support by freeing up HR managers from transactional work and simultaneously increasing proximity to employees locally.

This model of HR4HR has helped HR define and implement the appropriate capabilities to deal with business priorities. And surprisingly, it helped to create career pathing within the HR function.

The HR partnership model was constructed around 3 roles:


Serving the executive leaders, and focusing on organization. The key skills are business acumen and consulting, with a strong business expertise required.


Serving the employees and the managers, and focusing on individuals. The key skills are HR fundamentals (generalist and local), process and compliance, with a basic business expertise required.

HR Coordinator

Serving the HR teams and the employees, focusing on transactions. Key skills are HR operations and being data-savvy, with a limited business expertise required.

Those roles are then supported by HR shared services teams (C&B, HR Operations, Global Mobility, Learning & Development, Talent Acquisition).

To BP or Not to BP? That is the Question.

With this new partnership model, there is a role for everyone within HR, which is important as not everyone is suited to or necessarily wants to be an HRBP. In order to be a successful HRBP, it takes a strategic mindset, the ability to connect with and influence senior leaders, and the confidence to coach them or provide constructive feedback. By segmenting the HR skillsets, the organisation reported better productivity and efficiency, and it allowed HR to have more time for their various populations so these clients felt better supported.

As with any new HR model, this setup may not work for all organisations; however, it is refreshing to see new innovations being applied and shows a genuine willingness by HR to transform to address business needs. Of course, change takes time to be properly assessed; recalibration and tweaks are highly likely. Ulrich’s HR model has been implemented across numerous organisations with varying degrees of success, and still continues to divide opinion in HR circles.

The optimal HR model is really a continuous journey rather than a “one size fits all” fix, and it’s important that adjustments are made according to the size and needs of the business. In order to be effective, HR should continue to evolve and recalibrate as the business goals and needs also change.