More and more HR professionals seek to operate at the level of a strategic business partner. In order to make the leap, HR professionals must understand the organization’s strategy, identify its approach to talent managment, and then pursue HR strategies that add value through people and produce measurable results. Here are some ways to develop as an HR business partner:
Acquire Business Acumen:
- Learn the language of business: Learn how the organization makes money and how these activities are reflected in key financial reports, ratios, and elements such as balance sheets, income statements, cash flow, return on investment, budgeting, and financing. If this sounds like a foreign language, seek out books, reference materials, and/or a mentor (such as the CFO or Controller) to help you build expertise.
- Understand the key performance metrics that drive your organization: Each organizational function contributes to overall success. Understand the key metrics that each functional area uses to measure its success. For example, Operations may measure productivity and cost while Customer Service may measure customer satisfaction and retention. HR initiatives need to help each function reach its goals through people, thereby providing value to the organization. An HR initiative, for instance, may analyze the cost of turnover and what is driving it or the impact of training on productivity.
Approach HR with a Strategic Mindset:
- Align HR goals with the goals of the organization: Identify your company’s top priorities and concerns. Based on an understanding of the business, achieve outcomes that impact what matters most to the organization.
- Build a solid business case: Provide senior management with solutions backed by analysis that supports your initiative. The business case presents a compelling reason for the HR initiative and supports it with measures of success, projected results, and return on investment. A solid business case helps transform the perception of HR as tactical and process-focused to strategic and business-focused.
Build Positive Relationships with Key Stakeholders
- Foster trust: Before HR can influence and collaborate effectively within the organization, it needs to be seen as credible and trustworthy. Deliver on your promises and give others the benefit of the doubt. Develop self-awareness, avoid defensiveness, and show positive intent by investing in relationships with others.
- Walk in their shoes: Help your organization meet goals in a way that balances with risk management and legal compliance. Avoid being seen as “law enforcement,” using HR jargon, or saying “no you can’t” when talking to management. These actions reinforce the perception that HR lives in a bubble and doesn’t understand the real challenges facing the organization. Instead, be solutions-oriented, welcome management’s questions and concerns, and listen from a place of understanding and balance.
In 2016, MSEC is launching the HR Business Partner Program, a developmental, applied-learning curriculum to help HR professionals develop as HR business partners. To request information, please contact HRBP@msec.org.