5 Roles for Today’s Strategic HR Business Partner

October 15th, 2019

HR Business Partners are at the frontline of today’s talent strategy. They represent the fastest growing role in the profession and, in many organizations, the most pivotal. Great HR Business Partners must balance strategy and execution. They must have an intimate understanding of the business challenges their teams are working to solve and be able to reframe those challenges in terms of talent and employee experience. They must ask great questions and design creative solutions.

Our new Program, The Strategic HR Business Partner, looks at the evolving job of the HR Business Partner through the lens of five different roles HR Business Partners have to master in order to excel in their evolving position:

The Strategic Advisor: Great HR Business Partners begin and end every project or assignment with a single question: What is the business goal we are trying to achieve? It’s a simple question to ask, but the answer is usually more complex. In order to help solve business problems, HRBPs must have an intimate understanding of those problems and the complex set of factors that influence them. In most cases, that knowledge won’t be just sitting somewhere waiting to be opened, HRBPs will have to go find it. That means asking great questions, thinking holistically about problems, and above all, being curious about what’s really driving a particular problem.

The Data-Driven Problem Solver: In the past, HRBPs were often consulted on specific questions that had clear, privileged answers: How much salary can we offer this candidate? What is the onboarding procedure in this market? In the digital age, much of that once exclusive information is broadly available and accessible to people outside of HR. Now, HRBPs are being asked more complicated questions: How can we leverage data about our people to solve strategic problems? How can we improve the employee experience? These questions have no easy answers, no codified processes. HRBPs have to seek out conclusions by finding the right data, formulating and testing hypotheses, and designing novel solutions.

The Influential Storyteller: HR Business Partners rarely have the authority to make major business changes on their own. We have to work with and through the members of our team, both on the business side and the HR side. And as the size and scope of our responsibilities and networks of people increase, that can become a challenge. Great HRBPs manage that complexity through a combination of clear communications, relationship building, and proactive management of our networks. The result is a high level of influence over key decisions regarding talent and people, even in the absence of direct authority.

The Trusted Coach: Because of HRBPs’ unique position at the intersection of strategy, organization, and talent, we are often called on to give advice, coaching, and mentorship to an array of team members. HRBPs’ coaching responsibilities can range from giving strategic coaching to executives to helping new hires plan a career path. To do this well, HRBPs have to earn teammates’ trust with sensitive information and we must have a clear sense of empathy for our teammates’ situations—regardless of their position on the org chart. More often than not, these conversations won’t be easy. HRBPs have to be comfortable navigating difficult discussions and complex, interconnected relationships.

The Independent Voice: HRBPs have to constantly navigate between the needs of our business unit and the overall needs of the organization and HR. This tension is designed into the HRBP role: We are always both inside and outside the teams we support. As our organizations confront and manage a rapidly changing economic, political, and social landscape, that tension can be a major challenge for HRBPs. But it’s also an opportunity. Maintaining an independent perspective and voice within the teams we support allows HRBPs to proactively support key strategic initiatives and shape the direction of our teams in a way no one else can.

To learn more about what it takes for HRBPs to succeed in today’s nonstop business environment, check out the Academy’s newest Program The Strategic HR Business Partner.