What is an HR Business Partner?

What is an HR Business Partner?

The role of the HR business partner is more important than ever. For example, higher demands are constantly being placed on the HR department to add real value to the business. The HR field has developed from an initially managerial role (personnel administration) to a supporting role (personnel management), to influencing (personnel management) and ultimately to a co-determining role (HRM). But what exactly does the term 'HR business partner' mean?

According to Ulrich, HR must take on more strategic roles within organizations so that programs are better implemented and more strongly support the company's objectives. An HR business partner has the most strategic added value by working closely with other managers who influence the strategy. And also to ensure that the people within the organization can provide the most added value based on their own strengths.

Basically there are two different business partner roles. In one position, the business partner has a combination role of advisor and business partner, which means that the role has an operational as well as tactical and strategic interpretation. In this case, the HR business partner is involved in overarching projects, such as talent management and sustainable employability.

However, in more and more organizations the business partner is given greater responsibility in the field of strategy. This mainly happens in large corporates, but also increasingly in smaller organizations that are professionalizing and digitalizing. In these companies, the business partner actively engages with the MT, management and works council.

In both cases, the HR business partner acts as a sparring partner for the organization. The business partner is the link between management and staff. What you see more and more these days is that the HR business partner contributes to an organization's profits. This is partly due to strategic personnel planning, harmonizing employment conditions, facilitating sustainable employability of employees and supervising takeovers and mergers.

What are the competencies of an HR business partner?

The most important competencies of an HR business partner are the following:

  • Developing a vision: formulating a vision and strategy based on the desired changes and set goals
  • Persuasiveness: being able to convince others of your own ideas and taking into account possible resistance from others
  • Enterprising and proactive : do not wait for developments, but take action yourself and provide (un)solicited advice
  • Judgment: drawing the right conclusions based on available information
  • Analytical: recognize problems and possible causes and see connections between different subjects while maintaining an overview
  • Result-oriented: achieving results and goals and adjusting actions if necessary to achieve goals
  • Interpersonal effectiveness/sensitivity : being aware of others, their needs and expectations and adapting one's own behavior accordingly
  • Environmentally aware: being aware of developments within one's own field of work and being able to respond to these and also having an eye for developments within the sector of one's own organization

The difference between an HR advisor, HR business partner & the HR manager

What you often see is that the different HR functions (HR advisor, HR business partner and HR manager) are used interchangeably. The difference between these positions is mainly in the tasks and responsibilities. What exactly are the differences between these three functions?

HR advisors and managers share their knowledge and the challenges the organization faces – for example regarding learning & development or reorganizations – with the HR business partner. The business partner then draws up improvement projects and investigates to what extent these improvements will have an impact on cost savings, organizational culture or other business interests. He then sets out the strategy and shares it with the HR advisors, who are responsible for its implementation.

As an HR advisor you are mainly concerned with operational activities. An HR business partner sets up strategic projects, monitors the progress of processes and reports the results to a manager or the MT. The HR manager has final responsibility and communicates with the CEO. The HR manager also often acts as the main point of contact.