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The Role of the Business Partner in HR

In the past, the role of human resources within a business was primarily as a support function for administration, ensuring the company was compliant with the law and dealing with personnel issues. It was often not viewed as an essential function of an organisation, but rather ‘a nice to have.’ The role of human resources has developed substantially over the years and it is now considered as a key function within any business.

Most companies, whether small or large, will have HR representation of some kind. Large companies need the support of an extensive HR department, whereas small businesses often use HR outsourcing companies as an alternative, as it gives them the flexibility of ensuring they are being compliant with the law, but without the overheads associated with permanent employees. There are more people than ever graduating with degrees in HR or business degrees which incorporate HR, such is the importance held on it these days. There are many different parts to HR these days, including the increasingly popular role of the HR Business Partner.

The Development of the HR Function

If you mentioned HR in the past, not many people would know what you were talking about. In fact, HR is a relatively new term, evolved from, what was previously known as, the ‘personnel’ department. The reason for the change in title is a direct result of the change in the role of those employed in the HR function. HR now covers a wide range of aspects and most HR functions within large companies will have one or more employees to cover each function. The HR administrator, who deals with the paperwork, such as inputting sickness and holiday leave, keeping files up-to-date and taking minutes for meetings. There are also HR Consultants who are generally responsible for supporting managers with staff issues and providing representation for disciplinaries and grievances. Those involved in recruitment are also categorised under the HR branch and this can sometimes be a role of its own, or may be part of the HR Consultant’s job, depending on how heavy the recruitment is. The HR Manager will usually oversee the HR function and then there is also the role of the HR Business Partner, which is continuing to grow in popularity.

The Role of the HR Business Partner

Most career driven HR professionals will aim to secure a role as an HR Business Partner at some point and this will often be a good path to becoming an HR Director; top of the chain for most HR departments. The HR Business Partner is a title you have probably heard quite often, as it is one which seems to be growing in popularity and the role is of great importance and value to any business. The HR Business Partner would work directly with senior management within the organisation, developing an HR agenda and HR systems which will help the business to meet their objectives. A good proportion of the role is forecasting the future of the business, in order to help drive it forward and building strong competency frameworks. These frameworks would include developing key talent, through firstly identifying where the talent is and through careful succession planning. One of the reasons many businesses fail is that they don’t have a proper plan in place to develop their key talent and this can result in them walking out the door, which can then cause projects to be interrupted and the loss of clients; which is obviously the worst thing that can happen to a business. Although the HR Business Partner role is one which acts primarily as a driving force for the rest of the business, it is also one which is very involved within its own function. This would include managing consultants and developing other HR team members.

Importance of the HR Business Partner

Any business, whether small or large, wants to grow; that is a given. In many respects, HR departments can support this through their daily activities, such as recruiting new staff members and helping to solve staff issues. It would be wrong to say that the HR Business Partner role is the most important, as all functions of HR have their place. However, there is a strong emphasis placed on the role for the future success of the business. It is important for organisations to think ahead and plan for the future, such as taking resources into consideration and how they will fill roles in the future. Many businesses only focus on the here and now, but that can be a big mistake, when it comes to building a future. Employing someone who can focus on the future of the business and who has the expertise for planning future resources, can prove invaluable for an organisation.

Becoming Successful in this Role

A passion and belief in the potential of the HR department would be prerequisite elements of this job, as well as extensive knowledge and understanding of the business. The HR Business Partner would be someone who is capable of driving the business forward and someone who has the ability to build strong and lasting relationships. To become successful in the role of HR Business Partner, it would take a great deal of commitment, knowledge of the business and the capability to build rapport. It is not simply about meeting short terms goals, but also looking at long terms plans of the business and sustainability. Some useful qualities for this role include, excellent communication and negotiation skills, with the ability to solve problems effectively. A genuine desire to succeed and a passion to watch the business grow, is essential for this kind of role. The HR Business Partner is a good role for gaining a better understanding of the business and to gain more experience for future roles such as that of the HR Director. It is a role which can open up new paths and can be a really exciting and challenging prospect for those in the industry.

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