An HR Business Partner is a professional who is highly experienced in human resources and works with the senior leadership of an organisation to create an HR agenda that aligns and supports the company’s goals. They manage and plan talent and help to attain any organisational goals. The very concept of HR business partnering can be traced back to the 1990s, where Dave Ulrich outlined a model of organising HR in his book “HR Champions”. Here, he stated the four key roles of an HR business partner; to be a strategic planner, a change agent, an employee champion and an administrative expert.  Whilst of course this may not apply perfectly to its modern role, after all it has been nearly 30 years since his book was published, the main focus of this job can still be boiled down to his list.

What does an HR Business Partner do? 

These people work alongside managers, teams and stakeholders to curate people and organisation capability whilst also designing people strategies and activities.  They ensure that the HR policies and procedures match the needs and goals of the organisation and those in leadership positions. Their job does not centre on administration or handling policy wording – instead they focus on the bigger picture, by directing the goals of the human resources team, and producing HR strategies. Most importantly, these HR strategies must fit the wider business strategy.

Most commonly, they are aligned to a specific area of the business and work alongside this area to execute a business strategy from a people perspective. To successfully work in this field, one must have sincere relationships with other people in their business area, as well as other teams in the company. Not only that, but they must have hard evidence to make accurate, well-informed decisions (such as data or metrics).

Common tasks that HR Business Partners carry out may include:

  • Giving advice on people practices (for example, succession planning)
  • Building relationships with and influencing those working in the business
  • Meeting key stakeholders to address any people challenges they are facing
  • Coaching key stakeholders to increase business efficiency and achieve business goals.

What is the definition of Business Partner? 

A business partner is a commercial entity with which another commercial entity has an alliance. These two parties could be individuals who chose to work alongside one another to create a business or may be separate teams/companies who have chosen to work together and cooperate for a shared goal.

What’s the difference between an HR Business Partner and an HR Manager? 

These are distinctly different roles and each specialises in different methods of running human resources within an organisation.

An HR Manager’s job in general, centres around developing policies and implementing procedures. They are also responsible for overseeing systems that include recruiting, hiring, processing payroll and system administration to name a few. They also manage the HR department.

Conversely, in general, an HR Business Partner does not take the same administrative tasks over a department, and instead focus their time on working alongside the organisation’s senior leadership team and department managers to optimise and guide company strategy. HR Business Partners are still heavily involved in the HR department, they just don’t take on the same administrative tasks that an HR manager may be involved in. Instead, they help to form HR strategies and initiatives which will have an impact on the entire organisation.

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