What is a HRBP and how they help your business!

To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.
– Eleanor Roosevelt

One of the people that I partnered with during my corporate leadership roles was my Human Resources Business Partner (HRBP).  People managers are not HR specialists, we’ve usually been promoted to a people management role as we’re great at our role, but leading teams is about getting work done through others, and it’s here where a HRBP can help coach and guide you through all things people.

In today’s newsletter, I wanted to introduce one of the best HRBP’s that I’ve worked with in my career and I’ve asked them to collaborate with me to share insights and experience on a range of people management and HR topics this year.

Let me introduce Amanda Barnard.  Tell us a little more about yourself Amanda.

I am an experienced Human Resources business leader who brings calm pragmatism and a creative mindset to the development and execution of innovative people strategy. I have broad experience working with leaders, teams and individuals to harness the power of human resources strategy, organisational culture and individual development to achieve success. I have worked in Australia, the United Kingdom, Europe and across Asia with multinational businesses and iconic Australian organisations.

Let’s start with the obvious, what is a HRBP?  

For some organisations it can be a HR professional who engages with the leadership team on people strategy. From a formal perspective they report into the HR business unit, sometimes called People & Culture or Employee Experience, however there is a strong linkage or dotted line with the leader of the business unit they are assigned to.  They come to the role with core HR skills that include leadership, development, succession planning, remuneration, performance, employee relations, HR specific legislations and health and safety. HR Business Partners tend not to get involved in transactions such as payroll or employee letters but they have ultimate responsibility for ensuring the people aspects of the business are working well.

Some organisations may mix up the role with some strategy and hands on support to people managers.  It all depends on the organisation and their needs.

Amanda, how do you see your role as a HR Business Partner?

It’s the HR seat at the business leadership table. I am ultimately there to listen to business strategy and to input my expertise, insights and ideas on how organisations, large and small, can leverage their people to achieve business goals. It can be as complex as determining organisation design, developing leaders of today and tomorrow, building out a team with recruitment plans, handling employee relations matters, steering the culture as it evolves. It can be all of things and more, sometimes all at once.

What are the top 3 strategic activities you would focus on when assisting a leadership team to help them empower and engage their team?

I always start with the business outcomes we are trying to achieve. What are the key priorities driving business decisions? Is it driving more revenue in a growth phase or maturing into a profitable business unit, or focusing on improving performance management. This focus will determine where the leaders and the team will ultimately put their energy and resources so it makes sense to start with goal alignment. My work outcomes need to help deliver to the business goals.

In terms of empowerment, having a good organisation design is crucial – is the team organised to allow the people to focus on the key priorities? If not, we would start there.

Lastly for engagement, I encourage leaders to give clear direction about the roles in their team, it might mean updating job descriptions if they have been sitting on a file for a while, or being very clear about priorities, outcomes and expectations on how the team operates.

What 3 recommendations would you make to people managers to do each week to obtain the most from their teams?

A weekly list is difficult to give because each organisation and team is unique so I will leave the cadence open – it could be daily, weekly, fortnightly or monthly depending on what you are working on.

My golden rule is for leaders to provide clarity in their directions to their teams – It could be “today in our retail store we want to achieve X revenue on Y product”, or “this month we want to complete Z number of customer engagements”.  People respond well to clear direction, this is not micro-management, but clarity on what we are working to deliver, by when, and importantly, why. Why is it important that we sell this product versus that one? or why do we need to stop doing this task and start that one?

Secondly, give feedback! Be honest, constructive and timely. It can be formal or informal, positive or negative – but it’s really important. Avoidance rarely helps. Your team might think they can read your body language or your mood but often they will assume and it could be an incorrect assumption that causes problems further down the line. Give them the truth about how they are doing and what needs to change – or not!  As a HRBP, I often coach leaders to prepare for feedback conversations – it can be helpful to talk it through especially if you are worried it will be a difficult conversation.

Lastly, give yourself time. Carve out a little space in your schedule to reflect, think, get out of the nitty gritty and think about the team and your work as a whole. Even if it’s on your lunch break or a morning a week where you work from home – take yourself away from your usual space and don’t read emails, just take a few moments to re-set. It is time well spent. Replenishment is important for everyone, and you have the opportunity to lead by example.

What recommendations would you give to those wanting to become a HR Business Partner?

There are lots of places to start. Firstly, talk with your HR team if you organisation has one, have a cup of tea with someone on the HR (or equivalent) team to hear about their experiences. For people managers who want to develop their skills in this area, many business schools or management development organisations have courses that focus on People Management topics.

There are formal courses through many colleges, business schools and universities. Each country has a national professional organisation such as The Australian Human Resources Institute or the Society of Human Resources Management (US). Gartner also has a terrific amount of information about the role of HRBP and how it is evolving.

We’ve added links to suggested HR societies and associations below.

Got a question about people management for your organisation? Send it in to PWL and we will aim to answer in our upcoming articles …

Don’t have an HR team?

There are many HR consultants out there – your national HR Professional organisation will have a directory of members or services. You can also ask for recommendations from your professional network.

PWL members can contact Amanda at March&Coach for a complimentary question to get you started.




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