The Evolving Role Of HR Business Partners

Gili Brudno

The human resources business partner (HRBP) role has evolved significantly during the past few decades. Whereas previously most HRBP-related responsibilities dealt with administrative or transnational activities, today most of this administrative work shifts to the HR service center, leaving the HRBP to focus on strategic initiatives such as catalysts and talent identification and development, succession planning, organizational design, and strategic workforce planning.

Trends and implications

We live in a world where everything changes rapidly. Continuous innovation and technology advancements create huge competition among companies: who will invent and lead the next revolutionary technological improvement, who will follow, and who will disappear from the game altogether? All companies are dealing with the need to keep up with the changing market. The competition between companies is also translated to the people dimension with the hunt for top, scarce talents.

Technological tools impact the way we interact with our internal talents and support them. People, their motivation, ambitions, knowledge, skills, and competencies are the greatest assets companies have. We all acknowledge that, but often lose the human touch when connecting the people agenda primarily through technology, policies, and processes.

The diversity of our workforce is increasing. Multiple workforce generations are working together, coming with different backgrounds, needs, and expectations. Millennials will progress up companies’ hierarchies and start to shape the work environment and the organizational culture to align with their needs. The huge cultural challenges that came in the 1990s when globalization emerged are no longer relevant, as people have adapted or grew into it.

Reinventing the HRBP role

In my last blog, I introduced the concept of agility and its important impact on organizations and our lives. As we coach our leaders and employees to be agile, we (as the HR functions) must become agile in every aspect of our role and re-examine and reinvent our structures, processes, and mindset to be as agile as possible. We need to foresee, plan, and adapt simultaneously to the changes around us; master technology; develop talents and their potential; and allow flexible working environments and terms. Thus, the HR function needs to redefine its mission and reinvent itself. The role of the HRBP must change accordingly:

1. Talent development through an agile working environment and innovative ways of employment

On top of creating an internal smooth working experience and work-life balance, HRBPs can partner with other companies on talent building. Imagine the “European Union of Employment,” where organizations proactively develop the workforce’s capabilities by facilitating work experience in other companies.  Employees could do a fellowship in another company for a defined period without ending their employment in the original company. Imagine that, instead of intense competition between organizations for top talent, HRBPs lead cooperation between organizations to address individual companies’ talent interests and development. Imagine HR fostering “freedom of employment” and holistically managing the organization’s talents. Imagine that, instead of losing talent to other organizations, we could enable employees to gain experience in another company and come back fresh, knowledgeable, and loyal. Employees with strong identity and affiliation to the mother company, people who identify with its culture and trust its leaders, will always come back.

2. Back to basics with a people focus 

Growing organizations that can scale quickly, which is required in the global environment, adopt a mode of operation that relies on efficiency, standardization, and a systematic approach. This leads organizations to formalize their routine processes and policies and the way HR interacts with talent. If interaction is predominantly through HR ticket / automation (for example, How can HRBP engender employees to adopt company goals? How do we help them embrace our culture? What kind of service do we allow them to receive from HRBP? Is it based on their seniority and level of complexity?), HRBPs should obtain the full visibility and involvement in their organizations, regardless of hierarchical structures. HRBPs should act as role models of human touch and interact directly with people at all levels.

How do we do that in large organizations? We master technology; we do virtual round-table sessions; we make HRBPs more visible and available; we invest time in engaging directly with people. Let’s redefine strong employee involvement, commitment, and enthusiasm. Employees need to feel that they matter to HR, that the organization and HRBP care, that their views matter, and that they can make an impact.

3. The voice of our employees

Shaping the work environment requires opening channels to make the employees’ voices heard by decision makers and allow deeper, more frequent involvement. It’s not sufficient to conduct an organizational survey once a year; we need to develop dialogue mechanisms that are more frequent and robust and leverage Big Data to better utilize existing knowledge. HRBPs should listen to the people and involve them in designing this change – for example, using models such as crowdsourcing, where everyone’s voice is heard, considered, and influences decision-making and defining change.

Would increasing employee engagement and involvement be enough to keep our strongest talent in the organization? As technology continues to evolve, what’s good for our common workforce won’t necessarily be enough for our top talent. Therefore, HRBPs must create plans to help win top talents. We can create important partnerships to ensure our talents fulfill their full potential and make the changes needed to ensure our organizations are leading, rather than following behind.

As the needs of organizations, people, and society evolve, the HRBPs’ role should constantly transform. Being forward looking is about creating a unique culture, a competitive work environment, and a strong strategic talent acquisition program against the backdrop of complex and fast-changing business models.

For more on the evolving HRBP’s role, see How Emotionally Aware Computing Can Bring Happiness to Your Organization.

This originally appeared on LinkedIn Pulse.

Gili Brudno

About Gili Brudno

Gili Brudno is HR Lead of EMEA South at SAP, with more than 16 years of experience in the area of human resources. Prior to SAP, Gili worked for 11 years at Teva Pharmaceutical Industries in various HR leading position including Vice President of Global Organizational Effectiveness and HR M&As. Gili holds a B.A. in Behavior Sciences and an M.B.A. and is also Certified Group facilitator.