What is a Human Resource Business Partner and How Can I Become One?


What is a Human Resource Business Partner and How Can I Become One?

By:  Antionette “Toni” Ford

In the digital world we live in, acronyms are often misplaced, misunderstood or used interchangeably.  If the lack of clarity around terms isn’t confusing enough, adding to the confusion is the fact that the function of the HR Business Partner, or HRBP, is changing.  If you are currently an HRBP or if you are looking to advance your career in that direction, understanding and clarifying the HRPB role and its functions will assist you in charting your path forward.  There is a distinction between being someone who operates in a transactional HR function and being a partner in co-creating and helping drive the HR Strategic Plan throughout the organization.  In order to do so, we need to clarify what the HRBP function is and how the role can impact the overall success of the organization.

First, the Bottom Line – the ROLE of HRBP:  The HRBP is not just about being in “relationship.”  It’s about establishing a true partnership with leaders and managers of the organization and working in concert to jointly solve business issues.  The HRBP is instrumental in focusing on the people side of the business.  HRBP’s understand the business and its strategic plan, and can utilize people, technology, and business acumen to achieve desired results.  They know the importance of statistics and metrics as a tool for measurement and make the necessary changes based on data.  A top-notch HRBP is not only willing and able to help, they also ensure that all HR activities are strategically aligned with the business objectives.

Next, the Top Line – the FUNCTION:  To be a successful HRPB, the functions can vary, depending on what actions are required.  There are four basic functions, one of which is overseeing the Management side of Human Resources.  This function is involved in measuring and monitoring existing policies and procedures.  The second function, Emergency Responder, seems to take up a large chunk of time.  It can be viewed as “putting out employee-related fires” that require immediate attention. The third function is that of an Employee Champion, someone who is the voice of the employee to management on key challenges the employees are facing.  The final function is that of a Strategic Partner.  This function demonstrates understanding the connection between the organization’s strategic plan and knowing how to design, execute, measure and sustain those strategies by utilizing the people side of the business.  If you spend the majority of your time putting out fires or dealing with policies and procedures, you have missed what is rapidly becoming the most valuable function; that of the Strategic Partner!

What are the Characteristics of a Human Resource Business Partner (HRBP)?

Usually a college degree in human resources, business, marketing or equivalent is required.  Some HR Professionals enter the field by becoming a valued expert in a particular aspect of human resources.  Some HRPB’s serve as a HRPB Manager and typically have people reporting to them.  A senior HRPB professional understands the needs of the organization and are pro-active in developing, sharing and planning people related statistics, offering insights into how to resolve key issues regarding people strategies that align with the organization’s strategic plan.  Top-notch HRBP’s possess an understanding of the business, knowledge of the organization’s strategic plan, and can have courageous conversations on behalf of the employees.  They can navigate through various levels of the organization, achieving organizational objectives while enhancing and empowering the employee’s understanding and ability to grow and sustain the organization.  They possess both emotional intelligence and can utilize analytics and metrics to measure success.  They know who the stakeholders are, can work with various levels of management, and are willing and capable of utilizing technology and digital integration to achieve the organization’s objectives.


How Can I Gain Value as a Human Resource Business Partner?

The first step in the process is to discuss your career goals and aspirations with your supervisor.  If you are not currently in Human Resources, you may want to set up an informational meeting with Human Resources to discuss the HR roles within your organization.  You can also join member organizations as a source for networking. It is equally important to gain the knowledge necessary to fulfill this increasingly changing and important role.

Obtaining a certification is becoming increasingly popular as a way to enhance your qualifications and help you achieve your career goals!  The Institute of Organization Development’s international and widely recognized HRBP Certification Program is designed to help you learn, develop and enhance your ability to take the leap from providing information, to a becoming a valued HRPB.


Toni Ford is a HR Strategist and talented facilitator with IOD.  She facilitates the HR Business Partner Certification Program (HRBP).  She can be reached at info@instituteod.com.

Learn more by visiting our website at https://instituteod.com or contact us by email at info@instituteod.com.


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