Positioning HR as a Business Partner

November 12, 201410:00 am3249 views

Human Resources. HR. An industry elusive to many – including CEOs, hiring managers & employees. Who is HR and what do they do for your business, compliance and for the employee? HR has a PR problem, but in truth it’s more than that. It’s a branding and communication problem brought on by the complexities of the industry.

The role of HR Business Partner is less of a generalist or manager, but someone who takes a more consultative role working in HR. Human resource business partners have clients within the organisation they provide resources and build relationships with, focusing on the missions and objectives set forth by the organisation.

There is less focus on compliance and administration. An organisation instead typically has a HR Services Center or central department to help provide support in the form of policy development and enforcement, benefits and compensation. The HR business partner is both an operational and strategic resource for the region or area in which they support.

HR Generalists

HR Generalists or Business Partners (as they’re now called), are highly in demand across a spectrum of industry sectors. Taking on a partnership position in the firm, they aim to be closer to the business in order to develop effective recruitment, succession planning and retention strategies. As HR adopts a more strategic role in a company, there’s an increased desire to raise the level of professionalism in the HR role from administration to business partner.

With new emerging markets opening up for organisations, there’s a need for HR to undertake preliminary studies on current HR practices and adapt them to the cultural environments of the new operating terrain. This has resulted in HR generalists setting up departments focusing heavily on designing, developing and implementing various HR procedures, tools and processes.

Bruno Marchand, the Manager of Human Resources & Business Support Divisions, Robert Walters Singapore, comments:

HR professionals are dealing with internal clients and external vendors in countries across the region. From a soft skills perspective, they need to be highly articulate. The ability to put a point across clearly and concisely so that everyone can understand is very important.

It can be a juggling act for many HR professionals. Conveying and implementing the head office’s general guidelines and policies must be balanced with the need to be continually aware and conscious of significant cultural differences within each country under their portfolio. What works in Thailand and the Philippines may flop in India and Bangladesh.

There is always an operational element to a generalist function. However, recent trends have seen strategic elements being added to the role. Clients are more interested than ever to know how involved HR generalists would be in developing and implementing strategic initiatives.

Some questions raised are ‘How are these strategies being executed?’, ‘What is the impact they will have on the business?’, ‘What will the outcome be?’ and ‘How can these successes be measured?’. Businesses are increasingly data-driven in their policies, rather than intuition-driven. Metrics for gauging performance and evaluating policies require that fuzzy phenomena be operationalised and expressed as  facts and figures.

This shift towards the HR function taking on new and more strategic responsibilities often requires significant amounts of buy-in from the business. As a result, the industry is seeing a healthy growth in such partnership roles within HR. What do such trends ultimately mean for the HR professionals? Clients are always on the lookout for fresh ideas and methods to keep them competitive in the marketplace.

It’s important for professionals to constantly update their CV with any new HR initiatives they’ve been involved with. For instance, a HR generalist tasked with staffing responsibilities should highlight the recruitment methods employed and explain how different or innovative these tools are from the norm, as well as their benefit to their client.

Credit: HRM Asia Team. (2014). Position yourself as a strong business partner. HRM Asia.Image Credit: Workology

See: HR Marketing: Treating Employees like Consumers

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