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HR/HRD and strategic business partnering
HR/HRD and strategic business partnering

HR/HRD and strategic business partnering

Preliminary results of IITD and DCU Business School HR/HRD Strategic Business Partnering Research – Get Involved in the Next Phase!

Strategic business partnering is a long standing goal of Human Resource (HR) and Human Resource Development (HRD, i.e. Learning, Development, Training, Talent, Education) professionals, yet in practice, HR/HRD professionals still appear to only symbolically at the board table. Available evidence indicates that they are not in positions to influence strategic business level decision making, nor are they actively and genuinely given a voice.

Preliminary findings from research conducted by DCU Business School in conjunction with The Irish Institute of Training & Development offers new insights into the relationship between HR/HRD and the C-Suite, focusing particularly on strategic business partnering.

Establishing credibility with the C-suite, senior management and line manager personnel is central to the success of HR/HRD.

New research by DCU Business School analyses this dynamic, seeking to address four main questions:

  • Is there a real or perceived difference between HR/HRD and C-Suite perceptions of the HR/HRD strategic business partnering position?
  • To what extent and how does C-Suite trust in HR/HRD professionals impact HR/HRD achievement of a genuine strategic business partnering position?
  • To what extent and how does use of HR/HRD data analytics/EBHR impact C-Suite trust perceptions of HR/HRD Managers?
  • To what extent and how does use of HR/HRD data analytics/EBHR impact HR/HRD achievement of a genuine strategic business partnering position?


The preliminary results illustrate differences between HR/HRD and C-Suite perceptions on the role of HR/HRD professionals at strategic business level. For example, while 61.5% of HR/HRD professionals perceive that they participate in the process of defining business strategy, only 45.5% of the C-Suite perceive HR/HRD as participating in this process.


Data Analytics and Evidence Based HR Practice

The use of metrics to capture the impact of HR/HRD’s capability and impact on the bottom line is instrumental in demonstrating the value added contribution of the HR/HRD function. As such, greater use of HR data analytics and an evidence based approach to HR/HRD decision making is suggested as a mechanism through which to enhance the perceived credibility of HR/HRD professionals as strategic business partners. This means collating and analysing multiple sources of the best available evidence (scientific research findings, professional experience and judgement, organisational data, facts and figures and stakeholders’ values and concerns) to make more informed decisions.


The preliminary results illuminate that in general both HR/HRD professionals and the C-Suite perceive HR/HRD professionals as relying on sources of professional experience and judgement rather than scientific research findings when making HR/HRD decisions. In addition, while 78% of HR/HRD professionals perceive themselves as utilising organisational data, facts and figures for decision making, only 58% of the C-Suite perceive that HR/HRD professionals use organisational data.


The preliminary data would suggest that using evidence based HR practice matters as, where the C-Suite perceive HR/HRD professionals as engaged in EBHR they are more likely to also perceive them as strategic business partners. The data is also suggesting that where the C-Suite perceive that evidence based HR practices are being used, it is likely to positively impact organisational outcomes such as operating costs, customer and client satisfaction and profitability.


Trust is another important factor in the HR/HRD and C-suite dynamic. Trust in others is determined based on three key factors: the person’s ability, benevolence and integrity. Ability refers to the skills and knowledge needed to get the job done. Benevolence refers to the belief that a person wants to do good to another. Integrity reflects the belief that a person adheres to a set of principles and values that another finds acceptable.


Our preliminary results lend support to previous research that suggests a trust issue in relationships between HR/HRD professionals and the C-Suite.  The general trend is that the C-Suite have significantly lower perceptions of HR/HRD professionals ability, benevolence and integrity than HR/HRD have of themselves. While it is consistent with prior research in other professions that HR/HRD professionals should have trust in their own ability, benevolence and integrity in their roles, of concern is that even their perceptions of themselves are far from self-assured.


Evidence Based HR Practice, Trust and Strategic Business Partnering

A possible solution to enhancing C-Suite credibility in HR/HRD professionals may rest in exploring the impact of evidence based HR practices on C-Suite perceptions of the ability, benevolence and integrity of HR/HRD professionals. The preliminary results reveal that in organisations where the C-Suite perceive HR/HRD professionals as using evidence based HR practices, they then also report significantly higher perceptions of HR/HRD professionals’ ability, benevolence and integrity. This is not perhaps surprising when HR/HRD professionals are seen to be making decisions based on better sources of evidence and better decision making practices, that they are also seen as being more competent and following a set of principles that the C-Suite agree with.  


C-Suite Trust in High and Low EBHR HR/HRD Professionals

It is long been understood that the adoption of certain practices or approaches has the potential to enhance the strategic value add of the HR/HRD function. Evidence based HR  is something that appears recognised by the C-Suite as significant in advancing the cause and impact of HR/HRD. Yet HR/HRD professionals exhibit a reluctance to engage in evidence based practice, preferring instead to rely on their own and other professional experiences. Overall, there appears a void between what HR/HRD professionals say they are doing and what the C-suite thinks they should do.



Get Involved

We are seeking further data in order to effectively answer these questions. This is vital so as to provide evidence based, practical advice and tools to HR/HRD professionals so that they can advance into genuine strategic business partnering roles and have a positive and significant impact on HR and organisational metrics.


A full report on the results of this study will be available to IITD members and survey participants, once an appropriate quantity of data is collected and analysed. To achieve this objective, we need more data, therefore if you are a HR or a HRD (Learning, Training, Development, Talent) Manager or Director or a member of your organisation’s top management team or C-Suite, please get involved in our study. Email Claire Gubbins at claire.gubbins@dcu.ie to be sent a link to the survey.


The Research Team

Dr. Claire Gubbins, Dublin City University; Dr. Brian Harney, Dublin City University; Dr. Lisa van der Werff, Dublin City University; Prof. Denise Rousseau, Carnegie Mellon University; Eric Barends, Centre for Evidence Based Management; Prof. Rob Briner, Queen Mary University London. This initial phase of this project was completed with the support of the IITD and CIMA.