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HR as Strategic Business Partner



Saurabh Agarwal - Manager, HR Business Partner, Landis+Gyr, Noida


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HR as a business partner works very closely with leaders by aligning people strategies with their functional priorities. It is a partnership that helps business in thriving talent management.

Are you aspiring to be an HR business partner? Today, there is a huge shift in the way HR’s role has evolved in organizations.HR as a business partner works very closely with leaders by aligning people strategies with their functional priorities. It is a partnership that helps business in thriving talent management. Here are some of the guiding principles that helped me in positioning myself as a strategic business partner. Since the foundation of this role is laid on mutual trust, one can always remember these guiding principles with the acronym TRUST:

Trusted Advisor – It is extremely important to focus on our business group’s success. Support them in taking the right talent related decisions with your thoughtful solutions keeping in mind their business goals and objectives. That is not all, support them further in implementing the solution in the right way by meeting commitments and playing your part well. Once the solution gets implemented successfully and the business leader experiences the value of it, you have established your credibility as a trusted advisor. Always remember, make them achieve their goals as your client success is your success! The second important dimension of trust is confidentiality. Once you start spending time with your leader, make sure the interactions stay within the room. This builds eventually and must be mutual.

Results – Nothing is more important to a leader than driving results. As an HR Business Partner, it is imperative to study data and important business metrics like function goals, achievement rate, attrition, diversity, employee engagement survey etc. and carve out specific interventions that addresses the areas of improvement for that function. Create business dashboards to measure and track progress. Numbers are facts and cannot be substituted. Collaborate with your business leader to socialize your people managers and employees for greater acceptability and actioning the interventions for expected results.

Understanding Business – Though in the acronym this falls at third place but ideally this is the first step that I would recommend. Spend time with your leaders and managers understanding the business model, targets, revenue, market strategy etc. Understanding how business operates will help you in crafting the right people strategy. It is also important to understand the business terminologies so that you can talk to your leaders and managers in their language. This helps in establishing better acceptability and brings you closer to them and their business meetings.

Stakeholder Management – HR Business Partner has multiple stakeholder relationships to manage. Primary group of stakeholders include Leaders, Managers and Employees. Spend time with your leaders to understand their strategic priorities and offer solutions. Support them in managing change by offering consultation and helping them uncover their blind spots. 

Support your people managers with right advise and coaching in executing the strategic priorities. Empower your managers to lead while staying behind the scenes. Guide them to manage instead of managing for them. For employees, create opportunities to connect with them and make yourself available and approachable.

It is equally important to collaborate internally with the secondary group of stakeholders that includes HR Specialists like Operations, Learning & Development, Talent Acquisition, Compensation, Benefits, Admin and Finance. It is important to understand when to bring in the specialist for executing the solution for your business group. Bring them onboard by giving them complete context and keeping them in loop. Enable them completely so that they can partner in implementing the solution efficiently and effectively. Trust me, this collaboration will strengthen your relationship further with business as well as with your HR colleagues.

Timing – While driving people strategy and positive results are important, HR Business Partner should also understand when to pull back. Schedule your strategic interventions in a way so that they do not clash with business deliverables.

For example - In the Sales function, it is important to be aware about their quota achievement % and keeping them focused only on making numbers specially around quarter end and year end. Similarly, in the R&D function, HR Business Partner should be aware about the product roadmap and delivery milestones to time the interventions appropriately. Do not forget, you are there to partner with your business for their success and not to push and execute your HR agenda.

Usually, HR business partner is aligned to specific functions that are considered as client groups where he or she acts as the face of HR, but one can be a business partner in any role. I consider business partnering as a mindset where you can align your goals with business goals and drive collaborative efforts for increased productivity, engagement, and outcomes.

The views of the author are personal and do not necessarily represent those of Landis+Gyr