What Makes HR a Good Business Partner?

It’s been said that over the past decade Human Resource Professionals have made a great deal of progress becoming a business partner and adding value to the business.

If you know what it takes to be a good business partner then you can build the skills and capabilities you need to be that partner. It is because Human Resources has so much more to offer than hiring, firing and paying people you must continue to make the effort to develop your capabilities, especially if it means you ‘get a seat’ at the business table and become the ‘go to’ resource for creating change.

Let’s look at some examples of what makes a good Business Partner:

1. Remove distractions (transactional work) – This is not easy since a lot of data is required to manage the various people systems and much of it needs to come from an employee or their manager. But, if you look hard enough there are probably things that could be eliminated or simplified to reduce time and effort. Often the additional transactions can come from process that aren’t connected and require the same information. Remember Sales people are employed for the primary purpose of selling – not to spend a disproportionate amount of time doing administration.

2. Simplify the work in HR – This will help you make more time to be the business partner you need to be and help the balance of the organization. How long since policies have been reviewed for consistency and relevance? Do you have consistent single processes (like the concept of the single sales forecast) for activities such as recruiting, training, etc.

3. Be the expert – It’s hard to front up as a credible business partner if you are not the expert on the policies, processes, programs etc. within the HR Function. That does not mean you need to know everything, you do need to know where to get the right answer from in situations where you don’t. Make it easy for the business to come to you for advice and information.

4. Help them be better people managers – The most pressing needs in an organization are typically lack of engagement, poor communication, ineffective performance management and lack of awareness about easier ways to do their work. Eventually the results of all of these issues will end up in your lap to ‘fix’ so why not get ahead of the game.

5. Understand the Key Business Drivers – This is a basic requirement. You must understand what the business is, it’s goals, the key strategies and measures and they they work together to deliver the business, etc. So that you know how you can best contribute. An earlier newsletter on Finance Skills discussed this in more details.

6. Be a ‘mirror’ – Being a good business partner does not mean always agreeing with them. Sometimes it’s your role to say No or disagree because often no one else will. This is about being respected, not about being liked (that would be a bonus!). You have to be aware of what is really needed, not just what they want.

7. Understand the concepts of Sales and Marketing – The core concepts of sales and marketing (negotiation, positioning, brand identity, messaging etc.) all apply to HR. Understanding and applying these will not only make you more effective it also demonstrates you can ‘walk and talk’, the language of the business. This gives you credibility as well.