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What is a HR business partner (HRBP)?

6min read
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Business growth is always exciting – there are endless possibilities and real potential for long-term success. However, growth also usually means that time is at a premium, and with everyone in the team working on keeping things going, no one has much time to stop and strategise.

For medium and large-sized companies, it pays to invest in those strategic positions that can take a step back and really ensure that the business is on the right track to continued growth. A HR business partner is one of those roles that can make a significant difference to the business, ensuring a seamless employee experience without losing that focus on the larger business objectives.

What is a Human Resources Business Partner (HRBP)?

A HR business partner is a HR professional who works directly with a company’s senior leadership to ensure that the organisation’s people strategy aligns with their business strategy. Their role is to make strategic human resources decisions that contribute to business success.

How does a HR business partner differ from a HR manager?

A HR manager looks after the day-to-day people operations, from onboarding and talent acquisition, to payroll and benefits processing. A HR business partner is responsible for the ‘big picture’, analysing and developing HR strategies that contribute to the company’s overall goals. They should have strong business knowledge, including finance and market trends, as well as HR expertise.

The HR business partner role is common in large companies – 60% of HRBPs work at companies with over 10,000 employees. However, medium-to-large businesses with smaller headcounts can still benefit from their insight and expertise. Two men stand looking at a laptop, discussing what is on the screen

Key responsibilities of a HR business partner

The role of a HR business partner will vary depending on the size of the company, but generally their responsibilities will include the following:

Collaborating with senior management

A HR business partner acts as a link between the HR team and business leaders, ensuring that the overall strategic goals of the company are being funnelled down into everything that the HR professionals are doing.

They’re also in charge of reporting to the senior leadership, to give them clear advice and direction about the company’s needs. A HR business partner is there to support big decisions, such as the number of employees who need to be recruited, succession planning, or how employees can be upskilled to stay ahead of competitors.

Implementing process improvements

Every HR team has those tasks that take up valuable time but in reality, could be easily outsourced or automated. A HR business partner has sufficient distance from the day-to-day admin to identify gaps where processes could be more efficient or where bottlenecks have cropped up.

They’re also in charge of finding solutions for those issues, whether that’s increasing the team size or bringing in HR and payroll software that can automate a lot of those manual HR processes.

Planning staff development and coaching

Learning and development is a key part of employee retention – in our 2023 Talent Insights Report, one of the top reasons employees gave for leaving a company was a lack of career opportunities. HR business partners should be across the opportunities that employees are getting in the company, and improving upon them where needed.

This isn’t just beneficial for the employees themselves, but for the future growth of the company. An engaged team can take a company to new heights, and the HR business partner should be working to ensure that.

Change management

Making big changes in a large business is never easy. Whether it’s implementing a new payroll software or introducing a different performance review structure, any big changes in people management need a savvy person at the helm. If a change isn’t managed properly, it can significantly affect the success of whatever has been introduced.

A HR business partner can be the champion when these changes happen, ensuring that the correct education sessions are being held, that any issues raised are being followed up and that communications are super clear.

Overseeing company culture

33% of respondents in our 2023 Talent Insights Report named poor company culture as their top reason for why they would leave a company. Getting culture right is absolutely crucial to ensuring employee retention and happiness. However, for those in HR who are busy maintaining processes and keeping everything on track, it can be difficult to find the time to step back and identify culture improvements.

A HR business partner has the space and oversight to investigate company culture and make wide-ranging recommendations for improvement. With a strong working relationship with the leadership team, they can also ensure buy-in of any new culture initiatives from the top management levels.

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What are the benefits of hiring a HR business partner for your business?

Making a new role in a business can be daunting, especially when you’re appointing a new senior team member. Here’s why bringing a HR business partner on board is worth the investment:

They can take your company to the next level

Having a HR business partner doesn’t just improve your company – it can give you the edge over competitors. With added strategic planning and innovative thinking, adding a HR business partner to your team can transform your HR team and your company as a whole.

Old habits are replaced with new thinking

It can be easy to get into a routine when it comes to operating a business. After all, the old adage, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, exists for a reason. Sometimes though, even if a process or a way of doing things isn’t ‘broken’, there’s still room for improvement. Bringing in someone who has a holistic view of HR and the business can identify those spots where changes could make a huge difference.

Company culture and employee experience is improved

Investing in your company culture and employee experience isn’t just nice for your team, it makes business sense. Did you know that happy employees are 12% more productive than their peers? One way of working toward elevating culture is through bringing in a HR business partner, who can offer ideas and strategic direction when it comes to creating a kick-ass workplace.

Your team benefits from expert guidance and insight

A HR business partner should be an individual that is at the top of the HR game, and knows how to apply HR strategy to benefit a company as a whole. Bringing in top talent always makes a company stronger and the expertise that a HR business partner offers can really support the wider team and leadership.

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What role do HR business partners play in day-to-day HR management?

The role that a HR business partner plays in day-to-day HR management should be fairly minimal – they’re not there to file payroll, conduct interviews or onboard new hires. Instead, they should be observing and listening to those completing the daily tasks, and creating strategic objectives from what they’ve learned. They should also have their finger on the pulse when it comes to how the business is complying with local legislation, to prevent any legal issues further down the line.

In an ideal world, both the HR business partner and the HR team should benefit each other. The partner should be there to address and work on wider issues that the HR team is having, while the HR team should be acting on strategic objectives introduced by the partner.

When should a business consider hiring a HRBP?

Generally a HR business partner is introduced when a business has reached a large size, and there’s a requirement for greater strategic oversight and management. However, it really does vary from business to business, and it’s up to those in leadership to identify when their HR function needs that bridging role between their functional operations and the larger business strategy.

What skills should candidates have to succeed in a HR business partner role?

HR business partners are generally expected to be a fairly high-level hire, with a relevant degree, extensive experience as a HR professional (some companies ask for 10 years or more) and additional business education or knowledge.

According to leading jobs board, Indeed, candidates for a HR business partner should have the following key skills to be successful:

  • Competency in written and verbal communication
  • Interpersonal communication expertise
  • Skills in active listening
  • Conflict resolution knowledge
  • Proficiency in analytical and strategic thinking
  • Knowledge of talent acquisition
  • Business acumen
  • Heightened cultural awareness
  • Capacity to plan and implement organisational change
  • Proven ability in building strong relationships
  • Utilisation of a data-driven approach

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The better way to manage your HR department

Is your business ready for a HR business partner? There’s all sorts of ways to level up your HR department in your company, whether it’s bringing on a strategic leader like a HR business partner or implementing innovative software to automate key tasks. No matter what size your business is, there’s an option for you.

Here at Employment Hero, we’re here to make employment easier. Talk to us today to find out more about how our software solutions can support your team and your leadership, so that your business is ready to grow in the future.

For more information on effective HR management, download our guide.


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Intro to HR Management

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