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How to become a Strategic HR Business Partner


How to become a Strategic HR Business Partner!

By Ragland Thomas G

“Historically, many within the HR Profession have lamented the lack of respect and acknowledgment for the services they provide. Now the opportunity is banging at the door of every HR function to reverse that situation. The need to be more strategic and business-linked is evident.” – J. Robinson and D. Robinson, Strategic Business Partner

As the business world grapples with several disruptive changes including the impact due to emerging technologies, globalization, changing consumer landscape, multiple generations at work, environmental trends and more, the role of HR continues to be critical for the success of an organization. Even though many voices are sounding the death knell for HR that HR will become obsolete, what it means is that the HR Function should become relevant to the times by meeting the needs of its stakeholders, look at themselves from an outside-in view to reflect on and provide what the customer wants and become more accountable to what the function is responsible for. So the journey from Labor Welfare to Personnel Management to Human Resources needs to continue to take HR to the next stage of its journey in providing value to its stakeholders.

One of the needs stressed by the business world is for HR to become a Business Partner. This need has been articulated for a long time and we can hear this in almost all conferences and meetings from both CEOs and CHROs. The thought leadership from David Ulrich in defining the role of HR into administrative experts, change champions, change agents and strategic partners, added the impetus to the business world to transform the HR function to meet the business priorities by creating the role of HR Business Partners, HR Shared Services, and Centers of Excellence.

Most organizations have adopted the role of the HR Business Partner but the challenge remains as to whether the HR Business Partners are able to deliver what they are expected to, whether they are strategic rather than managing all people transactions that come their way and whether they are able to add value to themselves, their function and the business. Here is a few Organization Development approaches for HR Business Partners to reflect on to increase their effectiveness and have an impact on the organization.

  • Strategic Alignment – The HR Business Partners role can become thankless with the expectation to solve/intervene in all people related issues and with the business leaders moving the onus to HR on all people issues. HR Business Partners can change this by using the OD action research approach to partner with the stakeholders, gain their inputs, build a collaborative agenda and involve them in building and delivering interventions and sustaining the focus. HR Business Partners should prioritize their tasks/actions to reflect the strategic goals of the business leader, coach business leaders to own their people challenges, push back on requests which don’t add value to the role and leverage metrics/action plan to quantify/track the results.
  • Business Knowledge– HR Business Partners should learn about the business in terms of what the business is all about, what’s the product/service, who are the customers, what are the capabilities required to make the business successful and more. Organization Development is focused on providing solutions specific to a business context and for this, the practitioner should know the business context first. When the HR Business Partner speaks the language of the business and provides solutions to meet the specific needs, they begin to offer value.
  • Process Expertise – HR Business Partners should be able to differentiate between expert support and process support. While they are able to provide expertise from an HR perspective, what business needs is also process support in terms of how to get business goals accomplished through people. OD facilitation skills are critical in helping HR Business Partners to understand the need, bring stakeholders together, create an environment of inclusion & participation, facilitating purposeful conversations and bringing alignment toward agreed goals. While HR Business Partners need to be strong in their functional expertise, what will make them impactful is the OD process expert skill.
  • Manage Change – One of the biggest challenges that leaders face is to how to make change happen. This can range from a simple process change to organizational transformation. Organization Development is focused on facilitating change and HR Business Partners need to understand the process and content of change, reactions of people to change and how to work with the business leaders to move from A to B by putting the spotlight on the people part of the business. Research shows that one of the biggest derailers to change is people related; and when HR Business Partners support the change efforts by facilitating people to embrace change, they become invaluable.

Strategic alignment, business knowledge, process expertise & change management are critical skills to become a Strategic HR Business Partner.  There are other skills but these help the HR Business Partners to focus on the goals critical to the business leaders, align themselves to those goals, develop business-specific knowledge to develop relevant people interventions, leverage process expertise to achieve the how of the goals and work with the business leaders to make change efforts successful.

Ragland Thomas G, VP of Global Organizational Development & Strategy for the Institute of OD, offering online certification programs for those interested in Organization Development, Talent Management, Leadership Development and Executive Coaching, and OD Advanced Skills courses for ongoing learning.  He can be reached at info@instituteod.com.  For more information about our certification programs and short courses, visit our website www.instituteod.com.

IOD offers online Organization Development Certification Programs to help participants gain skills to advance in their career in the field of OD.  If you are new to OD, you will benefit from the OD Process Consulting Certification Program (ODPC).  If you have been in the field for several years but lack formal OD training, the Organization Development Certification Program (ODCP) will provide you with the tools and skills needed to advance in the field of OD.


I searched for an OD training program that would provide me with tools and skills to apply immediately in my job.  This is the only OD training program that provides this opportunity.

This certification program provided me with the resources and tools I needed to practice OD.  The structure and process helped me to be more confident and focus on helping the client achieve their goals.

The practical experience I learned during this program gave me the confidence to support organization change management initiatives.  I used the skills to transfer my knowledge immediately after each session.


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