Previously, the Human Resources department used to be relegated to mundane administrative tasks like recruitment, payroll, training, and grievance handling. However, modern businesses are now recognizing the critical role HR plays in driving overall business strategy. This shift in perception has given rise to the HR Business Partner (HRBP) position – which enables HR to be more closely involved in corporate decision-making and planning.
What is an HR Business Partner?
An HR Business Partner (HRBP) is a a key member of the HR team, working closely with business leaders and managers to drive effective people management that contributes to the achievement of business goals. They act as a liaison between HR and the business, whose role is to offer advice and support on HR matters that can have significant impact on the organization.
In addition to advising business leaders, HRBPs also play a crucial role in developing and implementing HR practices that align with the company’s vision. By doing so, they ensure that the organization has a strong HR foundation that supports long-term success and growth.
The HRBP is a vital link between HR and the broader business, ensuring that HR is responsive to the needs and goals of the organization – and helping to build a culture that values and supports its employees.
What Does an HR Business Partner Do?
Unlike traditional HR roles that focus solely on administration and compliance, HRBPs work closely with the management board to grasp the bigger picture. Their job is to frequently attend meetings that involves discussion about the company’s future, mission, goals, and strategy. Their opinions and insights are valued – and contribute significantly to the organization’s direction and growth.
Rather than being involved in day-to-day administrative tasks, HRBPs’ main concern is Organizational Development (OD) activities. For example – when it comes to recruitment, they help recruiters understand the job requirements, potential candidate sources, etc. During the hiring process, they collaborate with hiring managers and recruiters to assess candidates’ suitability based on management-level requirements and corporate culture.
When it comes to coaching and training, HRBPs’ role is to guide the Learning & Development (L&D) in identifying the training needs of employees, determining the skills required for their career development, and developing strategies/ action plans accordingly.
Here are some of the key roles and duties of an HRBP:
- Assessing the current and future HR needs of the business – to ensure that the organization has the right people in the proper roles at the right time.
- Collaborating with the HR and recruitment teams to plan and execute talent acquisition and retention strategies that help attract and retain top talent.
- Developing and maintaining positive relationships with business leaders and managers – to ensure HR has a seat at the table, and is responsive to the needs and goals of the organization.
- Coaching and mentoring employees and managers on performance, career development, and employee relations issues – so that they are enabled to reach their full potential and contribute to the organization’s success.
- Creating and delivering training and development programs that enhance the skills and competencies of the workforce, improve overall productivity and effectiveness.
- Evaluating the effectiveness of HR initiatives and programs – while providing feedback and recommendations – to ensure that HR is delivering value and meeting business needs.
- Staying updated on HR trends/ best practices to ensure that HR policies and practices are up-to-date and legally compliant.
An effective HRBP is not just a strategic partner, but also a coach and mentor who helps the company’s employees grow and thrive.
Why is HR Business Partner Important?
As the business landscape continues to evolve, HR Business Partners have become more critical than ever before. These people are essential for helping organizations achieve their goals and objectives through effective people management.
According to McKinsey & Company, companies that invest in HR Business Partners tend to have better financial performance and employee engagement – specifically, they are 1.3 times more likely to outperform competitors in terms of total returns to shareholders, and 2.5 times more likely to have a highly engaged workforce.
Below are a few reasons why HRBPs play a significant role in the growth of organizations these days:
- Strategic advice & solutions: HR Business Partners provide strategic advice and solutions on various HR matters, helping organizations adapt to changing business needs and challenges. By working closely with business leaders and managers, they can identify and address workforce-related issues and opportunities that impact the bottom line.
- Talent initiatives: HRBPs are instrumental in driving talent initiatives that enhance the performance, engagement, and retention of the workforce. By creating development programs, performance management systems, and recognition and reward programs, they contribute to building a high-performing and engaged workforce that is aligned with the organization’s goals and values.
- Compliance: HRBPs enable organizations to stay compliant with legal and ethical standards – by ensuring that HR policies and practices are up-to-date and legally compliant. They also foster a positive and inclusive culture that values diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Evolution of the HRBP Model
In the 1990s, Dave Ulrich proposed the HRBP model, which recognizes the pivotal role of the human resources department in managing change and direction for the entire organization, especially in today’s rapidly changing world. According to Ulrich’s work ‘HR Champions’, HR has four main roles:
- Strategic partnership
- Change agent
- Employee role model, and
- Administrative expert.
“What’s the most important or best thing HR can give an employee? The answer is a company that WINS in the marketplace.”
Over the past 20 years, there have been notable changes to expectations for the HRBP role. Nowadays, businesses are in need of HR professionals who can bring value to stakeholders like customers and partners. HRBP’s role is not just to manage employees – but to aid in securing and maintaining a competitive edge for the organization in the marketplace.
As a result, the HRBP model has become more popular – with most of the highest positions in the HR department now (e.g: HR director, HRM) concurrently holding the role of HRBP too. These experienced individuals consult with senior leaders to determine the future value of HR policies, and make sure that people are always a main focus of the management.
These days, HRBPs serve to ensure seamless connection and collaboration between different parts of the organization. Thanks to their strong communication skills and deep understanding of the business, they act as the “bridge” between leadership and HR with other departments (e.g: sales and marketing).
HRBPs vs HR Managers/ Generalists
The main concern of an HR Business Partner (HRBP) is strategy and business outcomes – for this reason, they are less involved in daily tasks and other administrative functions typically observed in HR department. Unlike traditional HR executives, they require more business and financial acumen – and generally possess more influence and authority to drive talent initiatives that generate value for the business.
On the other hand, an HR Manager and an HR Generalist are more focused on operations and administration; hence, they are more involved in daily tasks, and require more HR knowledge and skills.
|Influence and Authority
HR Business Partner Skills & Competencies
HR Business Partners require a unique set of skills and competencies to work effectively with business leaders and align HR solutions with organizational goals. Here are some essential skills and competencies that HRBPs need to have:
Business acumen refers to the ability to understand the business context, strategy, objectives, challenges and opportunities, and apply HR knowledge and skills to support them. This allows HRBPs to develop HR initiatives that align with the overall business strategy.
HRBPs are expected to collect, analyze, and interpret data and metrics to measure the impact of HR initiatives and programs on the business performance and outcomes. Based on the analysis of such information, they may be able to make data-driven decisions and adjust their strategies accordingly.
The ability to leverage technology and digital tools to enhance the HR processes, systems, and practices, and improve the employee experience. HR Business Partners need to stay up-to-date with the latest HR technology and digital tools – so as to come up with innovative solutions to their organization.
Being people-focused is at the core of HRBPs – they need to represent the voice and interests of the employees, and be able to foster a positive and inclusive culture that values diversity, equity, and belonging. This requires certain interpersonal skills from them – including empathetic leadership, approachability, and active listening.
The ability to provide effective advice, guidance, and support to the business leaders and managers on various HR matters, such as talent management, succession planning, organizational design, change management, employee relations, etc. For this purpose, they need to possess a broad understanding of HR practices that can be applied to various business scenarios.
Cultural awareness and diversity training
HRBPS are expected to understand and respect the different cultural backgrounds, perspectives, and preferences of the employees and customers – so that they may design and deliver training and development programs that enhance the skills of the workforce, and nurture a diverse and inclusive workplace.
Successon planning include identifying, developing, and retaining high-potential talent for key roles and positions in the organization. In order to perform these activities, HRBPs need to have a deep understanding of the skills and competencies required for different roles – and are able to identify and nurture talent accordingly.
The ability to build and maintain positive relationships with internal and external stakeholders, such as HR colleagues, business partners, vendors, consultants, etc. For this purpose, HR Business Partners are required to be excellent communicators who can build trust with stakeholders to achieve their goals.
The ability to communicate effectively with the business leaders and managers using clear, concise, and relevant language that demonstrates mastery of the business context and objectives. This helps HR Business Partners to communicate their ideas and recommendations to leaders more effectively.
Last but not least is self-belief – i.e, confidence in one’s own capabilities and value as an HR professional and a business partner. Specifically, HRBPs need to have a strong sense of self and be confident in their abilities to build strong relationships with business leaders and drive HR initiatives that deliver value to the organization.
How to Become an HR Business Partner
To excel as an HR Business Partner, HR professionals must cultivate a unique set of skills that enable them to be valuable strategic partners to senior management. It’s essential to understand that business strategy should not only address immediate concerns – but also look years into the future.
In order to build trust with business leaders and contribute meaningfully to the organization, one should follow the steps below:
Develop a strategic mindset
As an HRBP, one must demonstrate the ability to think beyond the present and align HR strategies with the organization’s long-term goals. For this purpose, you need to anticipate future challenges and opportunities – by gathering and analyzing data on current and projected workforce trends, industry trends, economic trends, and other relevant factors. This will allow you to identify potential workforce gaps or surpluses, predict changes in employee preferences or demographics, and forecast shifts in market demand or regulatory requirements that could impact the organization’s workforce.
For example, an HRBP for a technology company might identify a potential talent shortage in data science and analytics due to increasing demand for these skills across the industry. To address this, the HRBP could work with hiring managers to develop targeted recruitment strategies, partner with learning and development teams to design and implement training programs to upskill existing employees, and collaborate with business leaders to develop succession plans that identify and develop high-potential employees for leadership roles in this area.
Build strong relationships
Successful HRBPs are trusted advisors to business leaders. To achieve this, you must develop excellent communication and interpersonal skills – as well as work to build strong relationships based on mutual respect, trust, and empathy. This means being reliable, honest, and transparent in all interactions, as well as demonstrating a willingness to listen and emphathize with the perspectives of others.
In order to establish long-lasting relationships with business leaders, HRBPs should be skilled in active listening and providing constructive feedback. This involves listening attentively to the concerns of others, asking clarifying questions to ensure understanding, and giving effective feedback that is specific, actionable, and supportive.
Demonstrate business acumen
Another success factor for HRBPs is a thorough understanding of the organization’s business model, its industry, and its competitors to be able to align HR strategies with business goals. Some ways to achieve this include:
- Participating in cross-functional meetings and collaborating with other departments to gain insights into business operations, objectives, and challenges.
- Analyzing financial reports, such as income statements, balance sheets, and cash flow statements, to identify trends and patterns that may affect HR decision-making.
- Studying market research reports and industry publications to stay up-to-date on industry trends, customer preferences, and competitive strategies.
- Conducting internal surveys and focus groups to gather feedback from employees on the organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, and using this information to inform HR strategies.
By accumulating a deep understanding of your organization’s business operations, goals, and challenges, one may be able to come up with meaningful insights and recommendations to business leaders and contribute to the organization’s success.
To make informed decisions and develop effective HR strategies, HRBPs must be able to collect, analyze, and interpret data on various HR metrics, such as employee turnover, engagement, absenteeism, and productivity – in order to map out patterns/ issues that need to be addressed, as well as develop predictive models and forecasts that aid in anticipating future HR needs and risks (e.g: talent shortages, skills gaps, and workforce diversity).
For example, if an HRBP notices a high turnover rate among employees in a particular department, they may use data to identify the underlying causes, such as low pay or poor working conditions, and recommend solutions to address them.
In addition, HRBPs must also be proficient in using data analytics tools, such as Excel, Tableau, or Power BI, to visualize and present data in a meaningful way that can be easily understood by business leaders and managers.
Foster a positive work culture
HRBPs must be champions of diversity, equity, and inclusion and work – who contributes to creating a positive work culture that values employee well-being, engagement, and development. This involves developing policies and practices that promote work-life balance, employee recognition, and career growth – such as flexible work arrangements, time off for family obligations, mental health resources, employee of the month awards, etc.
Aside from that, they should spend tiem working with managers to develop career growth plans for employees, provide coaching and mentoring, and offer training and development opportunities. This will help employees feel valued and invested in their careers, which can lead to increased engagement and retention.
Be a change agent
As an HRBP, one is responsible for managing and leading change initiatives to support the organization’s growth and evolution. Some key details and examples to consider include:
- Change management: HRBPs must have a solid understanding of change management principles – and be able to lead change initiatives from start to finish. This involves assessing the need for change, developing a plan for implementation, communicating the change to stakeholders, and monitoring progress to ensure successful adoption.
- Communication skills: Effective communication is essential for leading change initiatives. HRBPs must be able to articulate the rationale for change, provide clear guidance on what is expected of employees, and address any concerns or resistance that arise during the change process.
- Stakeholder engagement: HRBPs must engage stakeholders at all levels of the organization to ensure successful change adoption.
- Flexibility and adaptability: Change is inevitable, and HRBPs must be able to adapt to changing circumstances and adjust their plans accordingly. This requires a flexible mindset and the ability to pivot quickly when necessary.
- Conflict resolution: Change can sometimes lead to conflict, and HRBPs must be equipped to handle conflict and resolve issues that arise during the change process.
Examples of change initiatives that HRBPs might lead include:
- Implementing a new performance management system.
- Introducing a new benefits program.
- Restructuring the organization to improve efficiency.
- Launching a new product or service.
- Adopting new technology to enhance HR processes.
Continuously learn and develop
Staying current with the latest HR trends and best practices is essential for HRBPs to ensure they are providing the most effective solutions and strategies for their organizations. For example, as technology continues to impact HR practices, HRBPs need to stay informed about emerging HR tech solutions – and how they can be used to enhance HR processes and employee experiences.
Pursuing professional development opportunities, such as attending conferences, workshops, and training programs, is also crucial for HRBPs to expand their skills. Attending industry conferences and events is a great way to connect with other thought leaders and learn about innovative approaches to HR. Additionally, earning HR certifications, such as the Certified Human Resource Business Partner (CHRBP) provided by ITD World’s HRD expert, Mr. KC Yan – can help HRBPs demonstrate their expertise and commitment to the profession.
What are the HR Business Partner roles and responsibilities?
As an HRBP, you will be responsible for overseeing various HR functions, such as:
- Analyzing HR metrics, analytics and trends to identify opportunities for improvement.
- Implement HR software/ tools/ systems that automate and streamline HR processes (e.g: recruitment, performance management).
- Managing changes that occur within the organization – such as restructuring, mergers, or acquisitions.
- Handling complex employee relations issues – and resolving internal complaints to ensure a positive work environment.
- Providing guidance to the Human Resources department and effectively communicating with Line Managers.
- Monitoring and reporting on workforce and succession planning to ensure the organization has the right people in the right roles.
- Guiding the development and implementation of the company’s HR policy to ensure compliance with regulations.
- Analyzing training needs for individuals and departments in the organization to improve employee skill sets and productivity.
- Working closely with employees and management to build morale, improve working relationships, and increase employee loyalty.
- Evaluating the effectiveness of training programs to continuously improve training outcomes.
- Consulting on internal training strategies to enhance the organization’s talent development.
- Making recommendations for new HR strategies that align with the business goals and objectives.
HR Business Partner Job description (sample)
How much does an HR Business Partner make?
The role of HR Business Partner is a highly demanding and multi-faceted position that requires a broad range of skills, including excellent communication, networking, and relationship-building capabilities, as well as extensive knowledge of human resources. However, the compensation for this role is highly competitive and commensurate with the level of expertise required.
Generally speaking, the salary of an HR Business Partner vary depending on a number of factors – including their location, industry, experience, and qualifications.
What are the challenges faced by an HR Business Partner?
The HR Business Partner role present various challenges – some of the most common ones include:
- Capability shortfalls: HRBPs need to have a broad range of skills and competencies beyond traditional HR knowledge, including business acumen, data analysis, digital integration, and consulting agility.
- Reactive – not proactive: HRBPs are expected to be proactive and anticipate future HR needs, but many get bogged down in responding to immediate requests and putting out fires – rather than planning for the future.
- Not focusing on real value: Many struggle to measure and communicate their impact on business performance and outcomes.
- Assumed unreal needs: One pitfall many fal into is making assumptions – without conducting proper diagnosis and analysis to understand the real needs of their stakeholders and provide tailored solutions.
- Change fatigue: HRBPs are expected to lead and manage change effectively, but employees may resist change and experience fatigue from too much change too quickly.
To cope with the above challenges, here are some of the best practices for HRBPs to strengthen their effectiveness and value proposition:
- Leverage digital tools: Use technology to automate HR processes, gather and analyze data, and enhance the employee experience.
- Adopt coaching in relationship building: HR Business Partners may want to refine their coaching skills to support and influence business leaders on HR matters, build trust and rapport with them, and empower them to find solutions.
- Establish a competency framework: To optimize their professional growth, HRBPs may consider utilizing a competency framework to evaluate their current level of skills and competencies. This enables them to recognize their development gaps and requirements, and create a plan for advancement while tracking their progress.
- Be proactive and agile: HR Business Partners should anticipate and address current and future HR needs, as well as adapt to changing environments and challenges. They should also plan and implement strategic initiatives that create value for the business.
What are the HR Business Partner metrics?
As an HR Business Partner, it’s essential to measure your performance and impact on business objectives and outcomes. Here are some possible metrics that can help you evaluate one’s effectiveness:
- HR-related goals: Track your progress and achievements in achieving HR-related goals that align with business priorities.
- Retention rates: Measure the retention rates of the areas you support to assess the effectiveness of your talent management and employee engagement strategies.
- Employee engagement: Assess employee engagement levels using surveys, feedback tools, or metrics such as eNPS, and track activities and initiatives to enhance the employee experience and culture.
- Strategic initiatives: Evaluate the impact and outcomes of strategic initiatives, such as talent development, organizational design, change management, etc.
- Cost per hire: Measure the cost per hire to assess the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of your talent acquisition and retention strategies.
How to evaluate HR Business Partner effectiveness?
Here are some ways to evaluate the effectiveness of HR Business Partners:
- Trust equation: Using the trust equation to measure the level of trust that HR Business Partners have built with their business partners and stakeholders.
- Input and output metrics: A combination of input and output metrics may help evaluate their alignment with the business goals and priorities.
- Feedback tools: Collect feedback from various sources, such as surveys, interviews, and focus groups, to assess their performance and impact.
- Self-assessment tools: Using self-assessment tools to reflect on their own strengths, weaknesses, achievements, and challenges, and to identify their development needs and plan their learning activities.
What is the future of HR Business Partner?
The future of HR Business Partners is a hot topic among professionals and experts – with possible trends and scenarios as follows:
- Technology will enable a shift towards strategic activities and value creation – by automating processes, gathering and analyzing data, and improving employee experience.
- HRBPs will focus on employee experience and become stewards of it, identifying and eliminating the least valuable work and fostering a positive, diverse, and inclusive culture. They are expected to become experts in designing “good enough” HR products that are personalized, easily evolving, and relevant to employees’ changing needs.
- HRBPs will need to accumulate experience in other domains besides HR – and develop skills such as employer brand management, social media listening, and customer experience-style management of the employee experience.
- HRBPs are predicted to face more challenges in the ever-changing business environment; hence, they will need to overcome capability shortfalls, reactive behaviors, value misalignment, and change fatigue. However, they will also have more opportunities to demonstrate their impact, influence, and innovation as strategic partners.
Best books for HR Business Partner
As an HR Business Partner, you want to stay on top of your game and continuously improve your skills. Luckily, there are plenty of books out there to guide and inspire you:
- HR from the Outside In: Six Competencies for the Future of Human Resources – by Dave Ulrich, Jon Younger, Wayne Brockbank and Mike Ulrich. This book outlines the six key competencies that HR Business Partners need to develop to be effective and impactful in their role.
- The HR Scorecard: Linking People, Strategy and Performance – by Brian Becker, Mark Huselid and Dave Ulrich. This publication introduces a seven-step framework that helps HR Business Partners align their HR initiatives and programs with the business strategy and objectives.
- Victory Through Organization: Why the War for Talent is Failing Your Company and What You Can Do About It – by Dave Ulrich, David Kryscynski, Wayne Brockbank and Mike Ulrich. In this book, the authors challenge the conventional wisdom that talent is the most important asset of an organization – and demonstrate how HR Business Partners can help create a winning organization.
- HR on Purpose: Developing Deliberate People Passion – by Steve Browne. This book is a motivational and inspirational guide for HR Business Partners who want to find passion and meaning in their role.
- The Talent Delusion: Why Data, Not Intuition, Is the Key to Unlocking Human Potential – by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic. In his book, Tomas explores the science and practice of talent management and shows how HR Business Partners can use data and evidence-based methods to identify, develop and retain high-potential talent.
In conclusion, the role of HR Business Partner has become increasingly crucial for organizations that seek to thrive in today’s competitive business environment. By serving as a strategic partner to the business, HRBPs can help organizations achieve their goals and objectives by aligning their HR initiatives with the overall business strategy. With the right competencies, tools, and resources, one may enhance their effectiveness and make a positive impact on the people, culture, and performance of their organization.
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