How do HR Business Partners work strategically? - A case study of HR transformation and strategic HR work in Göteborgs Stad Master Thesis
Over the last decades, the focus on strategic work within HRM theorists and practices has been increasing. Largely because of the global trend to transform HR organizations in larger companies where also divisional HR practitioners, in the role as HR business partners (HR BP), are supposed to work “more strategically”. Though, previous research implies that the strategic transition of HR practitioners work is unclear, and that it is often an uncritical adoption of the strategy concept within HRM theory and practice. Through a case study of the municipality of Gothenburg this paper explore problematize how HR Business Partners work strategically. The methods for data collection were in-depth interviews with different HR practitioners, line managers and trade union representatives, observations of meetings and document reviews. The different ideas of strategic HR work within Göteborgs Stad are discussed in relation to Ulrich’s (1997) four-role typology and the prevalent ideas of strategic HR work within the HRM scholarship. The result is then analysed in relation to three general theoretical strategy approaches. The findings show diverse ideas of HR BP’s strategic work where they imply to be strategic in what Ulrich’s model suggests to be operational. However, the adoption of the strategy concept by Ulrich and within the SHRM discourse, seem to be mainly based on classical strategy arguments, emphasizing organizational diagnosis and formal strategy planning and implying a division between strategic and operational work. By adopting a Strategy-as-Practice perspective together with a Processual strategy approach, other aspects of HR BPs work could be regarded as strategic. Hence, this paper suggests a more multi-paradigmatic view of strategy and strategic HR work in HRM scholarship and practice, at least in the context of HR BPs.