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The New HR Business Partner

Lucy Adams on February 28, 2021

The New HR Business Partner


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The HR Business Partner role has been evolving since the 1990s and is now firmly established and well understood within the HR function.  What is perhaps less well understood is what it takes to be an exceptional, high performing HR Business Partner. What are the skills, knowledge and attributes of the best? (And if you are an HRBP and want to see how equipped you are for the future – check out our Diagnostic!)

In our experience many organisations find that there is still a way to go before the role of HR Business Partner is operating as they would like.

The key challenges facing the HRBP role tend to be:

  • Lack of manager capability and the desire to compensate for this
  • A difficulty in challenging or disagreeing with managers when they are also ‘the client’
  • Lack of good data and insight  
  • Feeling they have to take the roles of nursemaid or compliance police
  • Too many initiatives, rules, process & complexity
  • Overwhelmed by transactional demands
  • One size fits all cycle of activity (appraisals, reward, engagement survey etc.) that don’t meet their business needs
  • Lack of external stimulation – trends, insight and innovation 
  • Archaic and clunky line manager self-service systems. 

Whilst significant, these challenges are not insurmountable. And when you find that great HRBP, they find ways of coping with, or getting around them – or making them go away!

We’ve put together an example job spec which you might find a useful starting point.

Job Description – People/HR Business Partner

Alternative titles: HR/People Account Manager, HR/People Consultant (remember what you deliver is more important than what you call it!)

Do you think you are someone who could equip our leaders to thrive in this new world of work and help us create the conditions for our people to do their best work?

Outcomes for the role:

  • Work with our leaders to define people priorities that align with the experience we want to create for our people
  • Provide business insight to HR and HR insight to business
  • Work with the wider HR team and business to co-design the right people products/initiatives
  • Plan, forecast, coordinate and broker HR activity (oversee delivery by calling upon the services of others)
  • Facilitate discussions around change and transformation
  • Deliver products that encourage our people to take ownership of their own performance, careers and learning, but providing them with a range of different options, resources and experiences 
  • Work with leaders to identify and develop their talent and ensure we create as many career defining experiences for all our people e.g. learning resources, peer to peer learning, mentoring, job shadowing, projects etc.
  • Own the employee life cycle and key People practices for the departments such as induction, workforce planning, reward and recognition, career progression, engagement survey action planning
  • Deliver Diversity and Inclusion interventions to raise awareness, encourage open and honest conversations and allow our people to be themselves at work
  • Position and market ideas so the business understands the benefits
  • Work with people managers to support them to identify, build relationships with and attract future talent
  • Build our insight in how our people feel and what’s important to them
  • Provide development for managers on how to facilitate team reviews, setting goals and measuring results and how to have regular and human conversations
  • Work to create a seamless employee experience (with HR team and other support functions).

Who you are?

We’re not interested in HR qualifications, whether you have a degree, what size organisations you’ve worked for or which sector you’ve got experience in. What we care about is that you understand how people tick and how to create innovative solutions that enable them to perform.

What matters to us is someone who demonstrates:

  • A real interest in what we do
  • A progressive, non-bureaucratic approach to HR
  • Experience of the latest HR trends but in practical terms – not just a theory
  • A focus on business outcomes
  • A view that too much employee relations activity is a fail for the organisation
  • An ability to work in an agile way 
  • They can challenge our leaders to make better decisions
  • Digital acumen
  • That they enjoy delivering as part of a team!
  • Excellent relationship building and communication, with the ability to move between listening to, guiding and coaching others at all levels
  • The ability to make quick, sound decisions based on knowledge and judgment
  • Common sense – always spots opportunities to simplify and improve processes to drive better results
  • Marketing, communication and presentation skills to facilitate projects and initiatives
  • Understands what’s not important to keep us focused on our strategic people agenda

The Disruptive HR Programme

Do you feel that traditional HR training programmes are not equipping you for the world you’re actually working in? Our unique virtual training programme will give you something that we guarantee you won’t find anywhere else!

Check out the Programme here!

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