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5 Ways to Check if You're Doing Your Best for Your HR Business Partners

A survey of over 700 HR professionals sheds some light on how HR business partners' roles differ from company to company, and raises questions about how HR functions could help their HRBPs perform better

The vast majority of the world’s big companies already employ HR business partners, who are often senior HR professionals whose job it is to develop an HR agenda with the senior management team in a designated part of the business.

But, despite them being a common sight, a lot of recent reorganization and “HR transformation” efforts have led many firms to experiment with how they manage these HR business partner (HRBP) roles. A recent survey of over 700 HR professionals highlighted some interesting points about the foundation that HR functions provide for their HRBPs, and raises some pertinent questions.

  1. Each HRBP or HR generalist supports an average of 203 full-time employees: This average represents a 10% increase across the past two years.

    Considerations for HR: How does your HRBP function stack up? Are you potentially missing out on economies of scale? Do certain workforce segments within your organization require more or less hands-on support from HRBPs?

  2. Fifty-seven percent of HRBPs support one, two, or three workforce segments: However, with 24% of HRBPs supporting one workforce segment, and 14% supporting nine or more, there is little consistency in the structure of HRBP-line partner relationships.

    Considerations for HR: Has your organization considered alternative structures? Would your HRBPs perform better if they were able to specialize on a smaller number of workforce segments? Or perhaps it might be more efficient for HRBPs to assume a narrower list of responsibilities but serve larger populations?

  3. Thirty-nine percent of HRBP assignments are organized by business unit: On the other hand, 31% of organizations arrange HRBP assignments by business function or department, and 29% by geographic region. There is no one-size-fits-all model for HRBP-line assignments.

    Considerations for HR: How does your organization make these decisions — have you considered the perspectives of your line clients, HRBPs, and HR leaders? Would your organization benefit from a standard way of assigning HRBPs, or should you vary your approach?

  4. Eighty-two percent of HRBPs hold positions at middle-management or above: See chart 1 for more detail.

    Considerations for HR: How do HRBPs within your organization compare hierarchically to other mid-level HR roles? What are common career paths for HR staff interested in rising to HRBP roles?


    What position most closely describes your level within your organization

    Chart 1: What position most closely describes your level within your organization?  n=718; percentage of HRBPs  Source: CEB 2017 Future of the HRBP Role Agenda Poll


  5. Although HRBPs often hold senior positions, the teams they supervise vary greatly in size: Over 400 of the HRBPs surveyed currently supervise others, and the number of their direct reports ranged from one to 20 or more, with the majority of those managers supervising somewhere between two and five individuals. While HRBPs who are managers most often oversee a mix of HRBPs and other non-HRBP HR staff (35%), an additional 21% oversee HRBPs exclusively, and 34% exclusively supervise non-HRBP HR staff.

    Considerations for HR: What are the management expectations of HRBPs at your organization? Do HRBPs at your organization have capacity to support line clients while simultaneously managing direct reports?

More On…

  • Unlock HRBP Performance

    Download this white paper to learn how to remove four organizational barriers that make even the most capable HRBPs less effective than they should be.

  • Human Resources Business Partner

    Learn more about CEB's work on the role of HR business partners.

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