Why Does Your Company Need An HR Business Partner?

HR Business Partner (HRBP): Let's Make History

An HR business partner (HRBP) can not only change the way your organization is built but the way it runs, too. What is an HR business partner, and what makes them so effective? If you’re an organization interested in unlocking your productive potential, investing in an HRBP should be your next big move.

What does it take to become an HR business partner? Is there a model for success? What skills do they need to succeed? We’ll answer all of these, and more, in the following article.

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What Is An HR Business Partner (HRBP)?

HR business partners are human resources professionals who help align an organization’s ‘people strategy’ with their ‘business strategy.’ They help senior leaders envision, develop, and execute an HR strategy that supports their growth, performance, and future objectives.

What Makes For A Great HR Business Partner?

It’s all about facilitating a place for them at the table of senior leadership, A great HRBP needs to be involved in high-level discussions, in order to help a business fulfill its business goals through the lens of their ‘people goals.’ When the role of HR is elevated to this position, that is the definition of an HR business partner.

What Is HR Business Partnering?

This is the model by which we can understand and realize HR’s role as a strategic force within an organization. In order for this to happen, an organization needs to rethink the way they position their People Team and how they are viewed in the greater organization.

How Can An HR Business Partner Add Value?

An HR business partner is an HR manager who has freed themself of administrative chaos. Instead of working as an HR service provider, they take on tasks of strategic importance for the company (such as HR planning or strategy). This allows them to strategically influence and grow an organization from within.

Let’s take a recent example and explore it: the Covid-19 pandemic. In a traditional organization, an HR person may have functioned in a purely administrative role. But, almost overnight, they were expected to:

Ideally, they would flourish, mobilize previously-unknown strengths, and uncover their hidden potential. Or, due to the amount of administrative work on their plate, they may flounder.

For an HR business partner, strategic work and crisis scenarios like these are second nature. In a time like the pandemic, they’d have both the mental capacity and time to understand what’s happening in the business, where leaders currently stand, and what decisions they need to make (and how to make them).

When done correctly, each of these decisions can add immense value in a time of crisis. This is because they are not simply trying to keep their head above water, but playing their part in business success.

What Does an HR Business Partner Do?

As early as in the late 1990s, the US American professor Dave Ulrich claimed that the conventional approach to HR management needed to be updated: HR management should be redefined by the following:

  • A business partner to senior management.
  • Given new, extended duties and responsibilities.
  • Actively contribute to value creation.

This is how he coined the term “HR business partner.”

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What Does It Mean To Be An HR Business Partner?

The difference is that an HRBP isn’t just a partner in name alone. While they continue to work as points of contact for employees, they also serve as sounding boards for executive management.

An HR business partner’s expertise provides valuable and reliable management input, and they need to be involved in all major management decisions. Basically, being an HR business partner means being a senior leader in your own right.

What sort of opportunity does this new status of HR create for companies? HR business partners work collaboratively with executive management, proactively contribute to the creation of value, and help to achieve ambitious corporate goals.

What Are An HR Business Partner’s Core Tasks?

1) Strategic Control of HR Processes

Employees are a company’s most valuable resource, and the current shortage of skilled professionals constitutes one of the greatest challenges in HR. HRBPs are equipped with the strategic vision to identify bottlenecks early on and run efficient, smooth recruiting and hiring processes.

Beyond that, HRBPs manage employee retention from a basis of sound people analytics data: After all, high turnover rates are one of the major cost drivers within most companies.

2) Staff Development & Coaching

Once the right employees have been brought on board, HRBPs ensure that they stay on course and help to move the company forward.

For this, it is crucial that HR provides tailored professional development and training initiatives for managers and employees. These not only drive productivity but are also essential for the company’s ability to add value.

Employees who feel appreciated and whose development is supported within the company are much less likely to search competitors’ recruiting pages.

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3) Close Collaboration With Executive Management

As an HRBP, your role goes well beyond that of an internal service provider. Instead, you are executive management’s direct point of contact for anything to do with planning and meeting HR requirements.

You work with razor-sharp management accounting tools and reliable data to support the executive management team in major decisions such as:

  • How many new employees will need to be recruited?
  • Which skills are lacking within the team to maintain an edge over competitors?

You are the one who keeps a clear view and actively helps to shape the company’s future.4) Taking Control of Change Processes

The ever-increasing number of challenges people in HR are confronted with is clear evidence of just how important it is to digitalize. Professional roles need to be reconsidered, a new dynamism needs to be injected into established working structures, and processes such as recruiting and onboarding need to be made accessible online.

Interested in learning more about change management processes? Click here to read our definitive guide, with examples to help illustrate how to do so effectively.

This is where HRBPs are essential drivers of digitalization, working closely with executive management and confidently taking control of change processes.

5) Employer Branding

And last but not least: As an HR business partner, it is up to you to bring your company’s corporate culture to life and ensure that it supports growth.

At the same time, it is also your job to communicate your corporate culture and everything to do with it to the outside world. Why? This is strategically essential if you want to recruit the best available employees, both in today’s highly competitive market and in the future.

HR in Times of Change – From Staff Administrators to HR Business Partners

“HR management must seek to become a business partner to top management and contribute to the creation of value.” Dave Ulrich, 1997 While Dave Ulrich ushered in a paradigm shift in HR over twenty years ago, things still look different in practice even today. Many companies are still far from viewing HR as a strategic partner to their executive management. Medium-sized companies in particular often continue to view human resources management as dealing with nothing more than administrative tasks.

How Can You Become An HR Business Partner?

First of all, by developing a new mindset. The attitude toward human resources must change – from viewing it as an internal service that administers staff to appreciating it as a provider of added value that actively shapes HR processes.

This step requires courage, a commitment to change, and a readiness to step away from well-trodden paths from all stakeholders. Digitalization is both necessary and here to stay – and HR can do so much more than just deal with ad hoc issues. It’s time for HR to evolve as a business partner with:

  • Greater decision-making powers as an important sounding board for the executive management
  • Increased financial resources and efficient HR tools as digital assistants
  • An updated image as a department that actively shapes rather than merely administers HR processes

How Can Companies Benefit From HRBPs?

To put it concisely, with HR as a business partner, HR management becomes a business division that contributes to optimizing the creation of value. As a result, HR is no longer a rigid administrative body and pesky driver of costs, but contributes proactively to increasing the company’s profits.

Let’s have a brief look at HR business partners in times of the Covid-19 crisis to illustrate this even more clearly. The consequences this pandemic will have on individual companies aren’t yet foreseeable, but we know that we’ll definitely emerge from the crisis at some point.

Suspended recruiting processes, delayed onboarding, chaotic HR planning, and intermittent external communications won’t do anything for successful employer branding or a company’s business goals. HR teams that work strategically and use smart digital HR tools, in contrast, will be effective drivers of both branding and growth.

HR Business Partners in Everyday HR Practice

The following three aspects are essential if HR is to take on its role as an HR business partner successfully:

  • The executive management’s determination to undergo a paradigm shift
  • The future HR business partner’s assertiveness and commitment to take on responsibility and familiarize themselves with new tasks and tools
  • Thorough planning and consistent implementation

A haphazard approach to a paradigm shift won’t work. If HRBPs are to leave the domain of routine administration behind and start working strategically, they need time to do so, above all. They can make this time by “outsourcing” operative tasks to digital assistants, i.e. smart HR software solutions.

After all, HR teams still spend an incredible 42% of their time on administrative tasks. It’s high time that HR business partners be taken seriously in their new role as valuable formative forces and be put at the helm.

If the right environment is created, vast benefits can be reaped, both for corporate success and employee satisfaction, let alone for you as HRBPs – in times of crisis and beyond.

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