5 Tips for Effective HR Business Partnering

 Posted by Jean      

HR plays a key role in the success of an organisation. It is responsible for the most important resource of all – people.

HR is required to work more closely with the business than ever before. Even if your role does not literally say “HR business partner”, assuming a partnering state of mind when working with the business is probably a good thing for you to aim for.

The interesting thing we see in our work with HR teams is that a partnering approach is good not only for the business that’s receiving the services – it is also a good position to be in psychologically for HR. One of the key aspects of partnering is consulting. From our experience, when HR teams use a consultancy framework in their work, they are able to bring real value and they also feel more confident when delivering that value.

But why a consultancy approach? To explain that, let’s go back and describe the challenge HR face here. The main risk is related to the way HR is located in the organisation. HR provides core support and service to the business, however they are seldom directly responsible for delivering to client. Not being in the front line of the business may mean being perceived by management as an ‘overhead’. Almost all HR teams we have been working with tell us that it is not uncommon for them to feel undervalued and feel the pressure to prove their worth.

Regardless of how professional the people involved are, this is often a real problem in organisations. It is also quite a unique one for corporate functions, such as HR, IT or Finance. Everybody experiences pressure at work from time to time. However the position they are in affects this particular group in a distinct way.

Changing the way the business works with HR is difficult. But changing the way HR work with the business is achievable. Where they are coming from, their state of mind and their motivation – all affect how the business will interact with them. Instead of providing ‘technical’ service to the business, we can start talking about partnering with the business, consulting to the business. A consultancy approach can make a real difference to their experience and increase the value they bring to the business.

Here are a few tips on how to start working in a different way and become more effective as an HR business partner.

It’s not about you

First, remember that you are part of a system with its own dynamics. It’s not all about you so don’t take it personally. Don’t let the organisation culture affect your professional self-esteem. Know how to separate the organisational pressures from what it triggers in you personally. When the heat is on and the pressure rises, it helps to direct your attention outwards, away from yourself. Try to notice other people and the relationships between them. Asks yourself, what motivates them and how they operate in the world. This will not only release pressure from thinking about yourself, it will also put you in a better position to consult to the business.

Consulting means being external

See yourself as a consultant to the business. The most basic definition of consulting is trying to change or improve a situation where you have no direct control over the implementation. You are external to the system that you are trying to influence. Pause and think about how being in this state of mind actually puts you in a much more powerful position, than just giving support. You are external and this is what gives you the power to really influence, and do it in a way that would not affect you.

Simply listen

When consulting, listening is perhaps the most important skill you need. Invest in learning how to give someone your full attention. Really understand what they mean by what they tell you. Listen to what they are saying but also to what they are not saying. This will put you in a better position to consult to them. It will also help them really think about what they need, and be clear about it. That will further enable you to deliver for them what they really need. It will also put you in a better position to influence them and deliver on an even higher level to the organisation.

Build relationships

It’s not so much about the task you will deliver. It’s about the relationship through which you will deliver it. When we work with people, we normally tend to focus on the task, on what needs to happen and how does what. But we will get better results in that task if we focus on the relationship. This means nurturing, maintaining and developing the relationship, through good conversations. Relationships with your peers will make a huge difference to your influencing efforts.

Be strategic

One of the most important elements of business partnering is strategy. On the high levels of the organisation, an effective business partner connects HR to the business and that means aligning HR strategy with the business strategy. But there is room for putting on a strategic hat more often on all levels of the organisation. Think about the people you provide service to – what do they care about, and how can you provide to them what they need in away that would also fulfil your objectives in your role? How can you work together for both sides’ benefit?

And finally, a big part of being successful in your role is linked to the soft skills you have, not only to your professional knowledge. Developing in your role requires a learning curve of self-knowledge as much as it does educating yourself on the latest processes and regulations. Good luck with your job!


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