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  • Prof. Andy Charlwood
    Prof. Andy Charlwood

    Research Launch: How do HR Business Partners Make Decisions?

    Back in 2017, I interviewed 22 heads of HR analytics functions for an HRTT report [link to report] One of the interesting things that struck me when I was conducting that research was how many examples I found of super smart and talented HR analytics teams doing great work in providing high quality analytics to their organisations, but then finding that the HRBP community wasn’t really making much use of their analysis. As one HR analytics leader put it “HR think we make great dinner party guests, but they don’t want to talk to us in the office the next morning.”


    A common explanation for this situation is that “HR managers don’t like numbers” and there may well be some truth in this, but this also set me wondering whether the sorts of standard metrics and benchmarks that get put into HR dashboards actually add value to the role of HRBP? The point of data is to help make better decisions, but what decisions do HRBPs make and what sort of data would help them to make these decisions better?


    My hunch is that if we want HR to make better use of HR analytics, we need to understand more about HR business partnering as a decision making (or decision advising) activity so that we can make sure that HR analytics tools and analysis actually add value to the decision making process. To try and see if this hunch is right my next HRTT research project is going to be looking at what decisions HRBPs make, how they go about making those decisions and whether the tools and analysis their HR analytics teams provide them with are useful for these sorts of decisions.


    To do this the HRTT team aim to interview up 15 HRBPs per organisation in up to six different organisations. We will ask them to recall decisions they have made and how they went about making those decisions. We will also present them with a scenario and ask them how they would approach making a decision about it. We anticipate that each interview will take around 40 minutes. We hope that the research will generate lots of insights into how HR analytics teams can better engage with and promote the use of analytics among their HR stakeholders.


    To find out more about this research project or any of the other ThinkTank projects, please contact megan.butler@3nstrategy.com


    Project background 
    A key role of the HR business partner is to ensure that HR is addressing the strategic priorities and needs of the business unit they are partnered with. What decisions do HRBPs make in carrying out this role and what role does data and analytics play in the decision making process? The HR Analytics ThinkTank, led by Professor Andy Charlwood from the University of Leeds, will be researching the role of data and analytics in the way HR Business Partners (HRBPs) make strategic and operational decisions. 


    The research is aimed at developing a better understanding of how data and evidence is used and how to support the development of HR and people analytics as a practice. The findings will be published in ThinkTank reports and for academic purposes.


    This research, which will be conducted to an academic standard, will help us to:

    • Improve the understanding of the decisions HRBPs make at both operational and strategic levels.
    • Assess the role of data in HR decision making.
    • Increase our understanding of how HR and people analytics functions improve the quality of services that meet the HRBP decision-making needs.


    Our findings will be written up into an academic publication, to be published by the HR Analytics ThinkTank, and will inform the development of analytics practices that better serve HR functions.


    Top Questions addressed within Report

    1. What types of decisions do HRBP professionals make? Operational? Strategic? 
    2. How do they make decisions? What type of data/evidence do they access to make decisions? 
    3. How can HR business partners and HR analytics teams work better together?


    Why participate?
    Participants have an opportunity to take part in research where the findings will be shared with both industry and academic outputs. Many participants in these types of projects often report enjoying the interviews and find that the discussions often help them reflect on their practices regarding topics discussed. 

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