A New Agenda Drives the HRBP-Business Leader Discussion

hrbp business partnerIssues of globalization, technology innovations, intensified competition, scarce skills, mobile devices and social tools shape today’s business landscape. These challenges require organizations to focus on increasing their value, fast-tracking organizational capability, fostering a culture of innovation and action, and creating competitive advantage.

Similarly, HR functions must demonstrate business savvy, act in alignment with business strategy, be a change catalyst, and enable business leaders to achieve business goals.

In Brandon Hall Group’s 2015 HCM Technology Trends Study, 56% of organizations said that HR service delivery is extremely important to organizational performance, brand and employee engagement, yet 17% said their HR delivery strategy offered zero strategic value to the organization. To improve that statistic, one element of the HR reinvention that I introduced in my last post is the new conversation that HRBPs must have with senior business leaders.

Yesterday’s HR Leader Conversation

HR Leader: “I got your note that Sally is leaving.”

Business Leader: “Yes, her last day is Friday.”

HR Leader: “You’ll need to collect her badge and computer and alert IT to turn off her intranet and CRM access.”

Business Leader: “Got it covered. Thanks.”

HR Leader: “Call or email me if you have any questions. And don’t forget to have her sign the exit interview document.”

This chat can be described as policy-driven, transactional, reactive, tactical, no strategic value to the business.

Today’s HRBP Conversation

HRBP: “I understand that Sally might be considering options outside of our organization.”

Business Leader: “Yes, we have been chatting about her career aspirations and their alignment with our business goals. Our development plan for her readies her for movement into the Sr. HRIT Programmer role by late next year. She is eager to move more quickly than that, though, and so is considering some external options.”

HRBP: “In reviewing the talent calibration meeting results and our succession plans, we have identified this role as critical to our 3-year business goals. Further, the role requires skills that are very scarce in the external market. Perhaps we can work together to fast-track her development. By re-assigning her for the next three to four months to work next to Jeff in the HRIT Programmer role, we can accelerate her learning and experience at the same time. This development approach will prepare her for a transition to the Sr. HRIT Programmer in about half the time – a plan that brings together her expectations and desires while meeting the needs of the business simultaneously. Let’s talk to Camille (SVP in HRIT) tomorrow and see how quickly we can implement our recommendation. Are you in?”

Senior Leader: “Yes – sounds great. Will need to do some contingency planning to cover Sally’s current responsibilities in the short-term, but this approach should yield retention of Sally and close this gap in our longer-term succession needs. I have time next week to talk about the contingency plan.  .”

This chat is characterized as strategically aligned with the needs of the business, and sensitive to organizational retention, engagement and succession goals. It is based on business and job performance.

Characteristics of Today’s HRBP

HRBPs should have keen insight into the organization’s existing talent supply and future demand and should make recommendations to close the gap between the two — always in the spirit of improving organizational performance, employee engagement, talent retention, and business targets. This chart summarizes the contrast between yesterday’s HR leader’s approach and today’s HRBP’s approach:

 Talent or Business Dimension Yesterday’s HR Leader Today’s HRBP
Performance Consulting React to a request Business and job performance questions and actions
Taking Management Action Procedure-Based Based on business need
Leadership Engagement Customs and norms Mission and values
Talent Processes Ad Hoc Integrated
Speed of Change Slow Fast
Employee Relations and Respect A tool – expendable and replaceable


An asset – strategic lever and competitive differentiator
Talent Acquisition Interviews, testing, background checks, college and university relations Workforce planning and analytics, employer brand and candidate experience, employment value proposition
Learning & Development Training courses, new hire training Learning organization and talent mobility, strategic onboarding, career planning and management
Performance Management Evaluation look back Developmental go-forward planning
Succession Management CEO replacement planning Closing gaps between talent supply and demand in all critical roles and segments, leader and non-leader
Rewards Compensation administration, benefit administration, executive compensation Alignment of results to reward, rewarding employee contributions for their value against business goals

Source: Brandon Hall Group 2015

CEOs expect their HR teams to address strategic issues of organizational agility, competitiveness, performance, and sustainability. Senior leaders expect their HRBPs to:

  • Be credible – know the business and act like a business leader
  • Understand financials – explain the implications of talent decisions and actions on the business unit budget and organizational balance sheet
  • Interpret talent analytics – use research and tools to forecast “what-if” leadership requirements
  • Enable talent management – engage leadership and build talent capability through coaching, frameworks and tools
  • Influence change – be intimate with transformation approaches and considerations and manage stakeholders and mitigate risks
  • Communicate business impact – influence talent decisions and actions by understanding and articulating a well-defined business case for talent investment
  • Balance responsibilities – resist immersion in operational workforce management activities
  • Have a business point of view – be empirically informed about talent challenges, trends, and transformations and share it with senior leadership to inform decisions

What conversations are your HRBPs having with business leaders? Are they value-add? Are they driving organizational performance? Are they well informed and demonstrative of business savvy and keen insights?  What is your organization doing to distinguish tactical HR versus strategic? How are you measuring it? How are you investing in HRBPs to develop them as value-add business leaders, not support figures?

Until next time,

Laci Loew, VP and Principal Analyst,
Talent Management, Brandon Hall Group

Like what you see? Share with a friend.

Related Content