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Who is HR Business Partner?

Who is HR Business Partner?
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Many resumes these days of HR professionals have at least one mention of HR Business Partner; they term it as HRBP. I recently had a chance to...

Many resumes these days of HR professionals have at least one mention of HR Business Partner; they term it as HRBP. I recently had a chance to interview a fairly senior HR person over the phone and he too mentioned his present role as HR Business Partner. I then asked him the following questions:

What is the role of HRBP?

  • Are you convinced that HR is truly a business partner?
  • How does HR add value as a business partner?
  • What does it call for to be an effective HRBP?

Of course, I didn’t get satisfactory answers for some of these questions, but it kept me thinking and here I am sharing my thoughts on HRBP.

How is the HR function structured?

HR department is structured in many different ways depending upon the nature of the business and complexity of the organisations. In such organisations where they adopted HRBP concept, HR usually has a combination of centre of excellence (CoE) and Business Partner roles.

CoE is the centralised function that specialises in one specific area of HR. For example, there can be a center of excellence on compensation & benefits, learning & development, performance management & organisational development and so on. These teams focus on their area of specialisation and usually are centralised for the entire organisation. On the other hand, HR Business Partner focusses on servicing the HR needs of a particular business unit of the organisation.

Role of HRBP

HRBP is expected to be the link between the business and the CoE. They need to understand the changing business needs on the people front and constantly provide support. For example, depending upon the business plans, HRBP needs to arrive at a manpower plan, prepare a organisational structure that facilitates business functioning, communicate with employees and address their needs, facilitate goal setting across the business and so on.

Opportunities for HRBP

There are many areas of business, which can benefit from the expertise of HRBP. Some of the examples are given below. Organisational Structuring: It may not happen frequently; but when it is required, HR professionals can come up with alternatives to structure the organisation so as to facilitate smooth business functioning with specific accountabilities. A well-designed organisational structure can go a long way in facilitating business performance.

Manpower Planning: This is another area where HRBP can add tremendous value. It is not only about the head count and cost optimisation but also the profile of people to suit the business needs. A poorly conceived or ill-executed manpower plan can directly impact the business performance.

Performance Management: In line with the business goals, an effective performance management system has to be put in place by the HRBP. The primary objective is to cascade the business plans to different departments within the business and then to each individual. A business-aligned goal setting process can significantly facilitate the drive for performance.

Career Management: A critical role for HRBP will be to mesh the succession planning for business and career planning for the individuals. By doing so, HRBP can balance the interests of the business and the aspirations of the employees. Employee Engagement: Another important value addition from HRBP is in the area of engaging employees. Finding innovative ways to pep up the work place and create greater engagement with the organisation will go a long way in sustaining performance and retention of talent.

HR as a business partner

When you go over the role expectations of an HRBP, it does look interesting and rich in content. There is certainly scope to add value and facilitate business performance. Even Professor Dave Ulrich formally captured ‘Business Partner’ as an important role of HR that focusses on futuristic needs of the business.

However, same conviction is not seen consistently among those who play the role of HRBP. I am not sure what could be the challenge; but it could be that there is role erosion because business people take over most of those people issues or the person who plays the HRBP could not measure up to it. Any person aspiring to excel in HR Business Partner role needs to acquire specific competencies. Let us discuss them next week!

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