Business-Focused Human Resources and HR Operations: A Look at Its Complexities

Hosted by: Fluor

ChapmanCG co-hosted a recent networking session with the Executive Director Human Resources EMEA from Fluor, Marcel Bechger. We were joined by a group of global and regional HR leaders from organisations including IBM, HPE, Hewlett Packard, Tom Tom, Damco, Liberty Global, ABN AMRO, AkzoNobel, CGI, Ecolab, IKEA, IFF, JLG, Paramount Pictures, TEVA, PVH, Shell, Stryker, and Staples. There were extensive discussions around the complex elements of segregation across business focused HR and HR Operations, with some interesting perspectives on what has worked, failed and what could work better in the future.

The number of attendees to the session highlighted that figuring out which HR model to use is a reoccurring aspect that organisations continue to discuss.As expected, a business-specific approach tailored and adjusted to the ever-changing needs underpinned the debate.

With no surprise, the majority of HR functions are built around the Ulrich model. Many attendees said that their currently structured around the three pillars, Shared Services, Strategic Business Partners and Centres of Excellence. However, there was debate around whether this model was effective and whether the pros were outweighing the cons. Some leaders in the room said their HR Services teams were structured to own more of the delivery model, which freed up the HRBP’s and CoE’s to be more strategic.


There are always going to be positives and negatives in any model, the key is to understand this from the beginning so that plans can be created to mitigate the negative impact.

What was clear from the discussions was that there are many elements that can affect the success of a model, and there is no right model for every organisation. Some structures and strategies work in some environments, while others are better suited to other environments. One suggestion was involving non-HR people to design the structure, let people in the business suggest what they feel is best for enablement and efficiency. A common theme was the need to be aligned with the business, creating HR that better serves business needs rather than choosing what HR thinks will work.

Technology was another topic that will question how the HR model looks. With more businesses taking on Workday, or other HRIS systems, there is an opportunity for increased amounts of self-service HR, therefore taking a lot of transactional work away from HR. However, it isn’t necessarily a cost saver and there is need for more resources to update, maintain and train users. Potentially a transfer of skills within the department, but definitely an aspect of need for a strong relationship with IT.

With transactional work being take away from business partners, there is a chance for more strategic work and an opportunity to add more value. What stemmed from this conversation however, is the global vs local debate. What needs to be kept locally, and what can be centralised. There still needs to be the human aspect to HR and this is more likely achieved through a relationship with local business partners, meaning they still need to keep an element of operational work in their roles.

As the HR function continues to change, it is likely that there will be motivations to also change the model. Doing this may fix some problems, but it will likely create others. What is important to remember is that there are pros and cons with every model, and you need to understand the risks and the opportunities that come with it.


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