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Human Resource Business Partner (HRBP)

What is HRBP?

HRBP full form is “Human Resource Business Partner”. It refers to a human resources professional who acts as a strategic partner to the business, helping align HR practices and policies with the organization’s overall objectives.

Their role involves working closely with business leaders and managers to understand their needs and identify areas where HR can add value. They also help develop talent management strategies, design, and implement strategies for employee development, provide guidance on organizational and structural changes, and manage HR Information Systems.

HRBPs should have a deep understanding of the business, its goals, and its culture. In addition, they are expected to have a solid foundation in HR best practices and an ability to leverage their knowledge to drive positive business outcomes.

The difference between an operational HR role and an HR Business Partner is that while one looks at the basic job description for a particular role, the other looks at the skills and capacity of the individual to drive a positive strategic change.

What is HRBP Role: Is there a need?

With the change in narrative, the HR function is slowly moving away from merely a transactional role to a more strategic role. Here the role of HRBP gains prominence as they are more aligned towards driving business results and not performing mundane tasks.

Keeping this in mind, the HRBP plays a vital role in the following ways:

1. Aligning HR with Business Strategy

Aligning HR needs with the overall business goals and objectives to become more effective. HRBPs answer this need by acting as a bridge between the HR functions and the business, ensuring each HR policy and practice is designed to support the strategic business goals.

2. Understanding Business Needs

As the HRBPs are embedded in the business, they can better able to understand the challenges and opportunities of the business, allowing them to deliver tailored solutions for every business need.

3. Driving Business Results

An HRBP can effectively drive positive business outcomes by aligning HR practices with business outcomes. For instance, an effective talent management strategy that focuses on developing skills and competency ensures that the organization has the right people in the right roles.

4. Building an engaging culture

HRBPs are the key players in driving employee engagement initiatives that help build a high-performance culture. The programs focusing on employee development, recognition, and feedback, help HRBPs create an environment where employees feel valued and motivated and contribute to an organization’s success.

5. Mitigating HR-related risks

An HRBP can quickly identify and mitigate risks like compliance or employee relations problems as they work closely with business leaders. This helps minimize the impact of these risks and prevent them from being a serious business threat in the future.

HRBP: Roles and Responsibilities

In the HR book, ‘HR – The Business Partner,’ the author Dave Ulrich explains that HR can be look after day-to-day operations for a future-focused business-oriented vision. He thus describes the following roles and responsibilities:

  1. Strategic Partners: The HRBP must work closely with the business leaders, understand the organization’s goals, and develop strategies that align with the organization. This assists in training the workforce to develop skills that help achieve business objectives.
  2. Administrative Experts: The HRBP must thoroughly understand the day-to-day HR operations. With this, they can focus on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the HR processes and use technology to automate routine tasks.
  3. Employee Champion: In this role, HRBPs develop a positive work environment promoting employee engagement and development. They also aim to nurture strong relationships between employees and provide them with the necessary resources for their success.
  4. Change Agent: In this, the HRBP leads the organizational change initiatives, like structuring and restructuring. HR Professionals are focused on helping the organizations adapt to the initiated changes and ensuring the employees are well-equipped to succeed in the new environment.

An ideal HRBP changes the role according to the organization’s needs and dons multiple hats in times of need. So, they can either take the role of a strategic partner, an administrative expert, or any other role as and when needed.

HR Business Partnership Models 

A Business Partnership Model is a framework for how HR Professionals can work effectively with business leaders to create organizational value. It has several models. The prominent ones are discussed below:

1. The Service Centre Model

HRBPs work closely with the service center to ensure that all the HR practices align with the business needs. This model is characterized by standardization, efficiency, and consistency. However, it has a few drawbacks, like inflexibility and irresponsiveness to unique business needs.

2. The Embedded Model

HRBPs are embedded within business functions and work closely with business leaders to develop and implement HR strategies that support the organization’s goals. HRBPs have specialized knowledge of the function they are working closely with and can provide a customized solution to the specific needs of the business function. This model is characterized by flexibility and responsiveness to dynamic business needs. But it is criticized for being too focused on a specific need and ignoring the overall business needs.

3. The Consultancy Model

In this model, the HRBPs are internal consultants advising the organization on a wide range of HR issues. They are focused on building strong relationships with business leaders and understanding the strategic priorities and goals of the organization. However, this model needs to be closer to the day-to-day operations of the organization, and it is one of the main drawbacks.

4. The Strategic Partnership Model

HRBPs act as strategic partners and work closely with the business leaders to execute business strategies aligned with the organization’s overall goals. So, the HRBPs in this model possess a deep understanding of the business and the external environment and can anticipate and respond to the latest changes in the market. The main feature of this model is strategic thinking and alignment with business goals. But this model is criticized for being too focused on the senior leaders at the expense of the rest of the organization.

HRBPs adopt different models for different business scenarios. But the main aim is to develop strong and positive relationships among HRBPs and Business Leaders and align HR practices with the organization’s overall goals and strategy.

HRBP Skills: What makes an HRBP?

A behavioral framework for HR Business Partners outlines the key competencies and behaviors needed to be more effective in this role. The five key competencies discussed in this framework are as follows:

1. Delivering to the Business

In this HRBPs can translate business needs into HR initiatives that deliver value to the organization. They can strategically think and anticipate an organization’s future needs and develop the capability to cater to those needs. For this, they must possess the following:

  • Understanding the holistic view of the organization and its internal and external environment.
  • Performing multiple roles like expert guidance, advisory and supporting roles, according to the need of the business.
  • Creating a long-term perspective by keeping oneself updated on the latest trends and shaping the organization’s future roadmap.

2. Collaborating with Business Leaders

In this HRBPs build effective working relationships with managers and act as their trusted advisors helping them in making informed decisions. For this:

  • Engage key stakeholders in the decision-making process with practical collaboration tools.
  • Maintain strong rapport with a wide range of people and demonstrate empathy towards them.
  • Move the business towards a ‘win’ situation by avoiding unrealistic expectations and upholding political sensitivity.

3. Self-awareness and Impact

HRBPs must be self-aware and be able to reflect on their impact on the organization. This focuses on understanding their own strengths and weaknesses and continuously improving their skills. For this:

  • Constantly learning for self-improvement and seeking opportunities to move out of the comfort zone.
  • Maintain work-life balance and understand the needs of the business and customers.
  • Actively engages to uplift the employees by being a role model.

4. Creating and Leading Changes

HRBPs can lead and manage change initiatives to help organizations adapt to new business realities. They can quickly identify opportunities and develop and implement change plans. For this:

  • Anticipate obstacles to implementing organizational changes and effectively handle the emotional reaction.
  • Efficient in producing creative solutions to everyday problems.
  • Motivate employees to drive the business forward by being role models.

5. Maintaining a Business Focus

HRBP can prioritize business needs and constantly upskill oneself in the dynamic business environment. For this:

  • Develop a clear distinction between urgent and essential needs, so that they can prioritize accordingly.
  • Accept feedback with an open mind and implement the suggested changes in work.
  • Use data to demonstrate one’s impact on the business strategy.

Process to Develop an HRBP Function 

The HRBP is one of the crucial components of the HR department and plays a key role in partnering with business leaders to achieve business results.

The key steps an organization can take to develop an effective HRBP function are as follows:

1. Assess the Need:

This involves identifying the business challenges and opportunities, and determining whether the existing HR practices and processes align with the needs of the business. This helps ensure that the HRBP addresses the organization’s specific needs and adds value to the business.

2. Define the Service:

In this, the key competencies, specific responsibilities, and activities of the HRBP are identified. The main thing to remember is that the definition of the service should be aligned with the business strategy and goals and meet tailored organizational needs.

3. Test the Market:

This step involves engaging with business leaders and other stakeholders to understand their needs and priorities and gathering feedback on the proposed set of HRBP services. The feedback helps to refine the function to solve specific business problems.

4. Deliver the Service:

This involves hiring and training HRBPs with the necessary competencies and skills, and ongoing coaching and mentoring programs to support their constant development. In addition, the team should work closely with business leaders to ensure the process is aligned with the business objectives and provide continuous guidance and support on HR-related issues.

5. ‘Brand’ the Resulting Case Study:

This involves developing a communication plan to promote the HRBP function and raise awareness of the services they offer. It may include case studies, and success stories, using data and analytics to visualize their positive impact on organizational growth.

How to review the effectiveness of the HR Business Partnership Function?

Reviewing the business partnership function is important to ensure they have the right business focus and are constantly sharing knowledge and upskilling themselves. The following steps are followed to review the effectiveness of the business partnership function:

1. Define the goals and objectives of the business partnership function: It is critical to understand the purpose of the business partnership function and clearly define the goals and objectives. This can be done by reviewing the role, responsibilities and expected outcomes.
2. Review the performance metrics: Constantly review the pre-established performance metrics. They can be the number of successful partnerships, the number of projects completed on time, and the financial impact of the model.
3. Analyze the impact on business: For this, analyze the results achieved by the business partnership function and their contribution to the positive business outcome.
4. Evaluate communication and collaboration with other departments: Effectiveness of communication and collaboration between the business partners with every department of the organization. It can be done by reviewing other departments’ feedback on the function’s effectiveness.
5. Identify areas of improvement: Based on the data collected from the analysis, understand the gaps, and develop an action plan to improve those areas of the business function.

What modes of evaluation apply to Business Partnerships?

Evaluating business partnerships is quintessential to determine the effectiveness of achieving the pre-defined organizational goals. There are primarily two different approaches or models; traditional evaluation models and modern evaluation models.

1. Traditional Evaluation Models focus on financial indicators to assess the effectiveness, and the outcomes are compared against a set of pre-defined criteria. They include the following:

  • Satisfaction Surveys: It is a method of gathering feedback from all the stakeholders (both internal and external) about their satisfaction with HR services. This helps HRs identify the gaps in their process and bridge them.
  • Benchmarking: HR performance is compared against industry standards and best practices. It helps in setting realistic and achievable goals for HR practitioners.
  • The Balanced Scorecard: It is a framework that aligns HR strategy with the overall business strategy, with four key focus areas – financial, customer, internal processes and learning and growth. This makes HRs more proactive in supporting the business goals.
  • Activity Tracking: It involves monitoring the HR activities to identify trends, patterns, and improvement areas. This helps HRs track the key performance indicators (KPIs) and analyze their effectiveness.

2. Modern Evaluation Models focus on the social impact and collaborative impact of the partnership. They are more flexible and adaptive. They include the following:

  • Kirkpatrick’s Four Levels: This model evaluates the effectiveness based on four levels:
    • Reaction – how satisfied the stakeholders are with the function.
    • Learning – the extent to which the participants have learned from the program.
    • Behavior – the extent to which the skills have been practically applied.
    • Results – the impact on the organization’s performance.
  • KPMT Model: This model evaluates the effectiveness of the function based on the following factors:
    • Knowledge – participants’ understanding of the subject matter.
    • Performance – extent to which participants can perform the task.
    • Motivation – participants motivation to perform the task.
    • Transfer – extent to which the learned skills and knowledge can be transferred.
  • Responsive Evaluation: This model is a type of participatory model that stresses effective collaboration between evaluators and stakeholders. It includes:
    • Planning – Developing an evaluation plan.
    • Data Collection – collecting data from stakeholders.
    • Data Analysis – analyzing collected data.
    • Feedback – providing feedback to the stakeholders.

Thus, the HRBP role has evolved to become one of the key strategic partners for businesses. They play a crucial role in helping organizations achieve their goals through effective people management.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Q1. What are the four roles of HRBP?

HRBP (Human Resource Business Partner) has four key roles: strategic partner, change agent, employee advocate, and operational executor. They align HR strategy with business goals, drive change, support employees, and execute HR operations.

Q2. Difference between HRBP and HR Generalist?

HRBP (Human Resource Business Partner) is a higher-level HR role that focuses on strategic alignment and business partnership, whereas HR (Human Resources) covers a broader range of HR functions such as recruitment, compensation, and employee relations.

Q3. What roles are similar to HRBP?

HRBP-like roles include HR Manager, HR Director, Talent Manager, and Organizational Development Manager. These roles focus on aligning HR with business objectives and driving HR strategy.

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