The title HR Business Partner can be extremely confusing. It has many of us thinking that our partnership is limited to the business, but it is just the beginning. The role of an HR Business Partner is to bring order in a world of chaos -much of which is the result of our own doing.
Let me begin by asking you to think about this question: How often have you told your CoEs how to plan or execute something for your business, versus asking for their partnership and support?
While most business partners take the bit about partnering with the business seriously, they do not partner with the CoEs with the same vigour or enthusiasm. We often believe that we know the solution to a problem due to our vast knowledge of the business. But before you think about cutting a specialist mid-sentence, stop! It is best to let the experts do the talking. Our role as HR Business Partners is not to provide solutions but rather to give input to help tailor solutions for the business. We are consultants; our role is to ensure any solution a specialist CoE provides addresses the needs of the business. We have the business expertise, and specialists have field expertise; by collaborating, we are able to craft the most effective solution.
There are two concrete steps required to work efficiently with a CoE.
Step One: When facing a business challenge, think of the specialist who can best address the need. What is the most relevant topic? Take the problem to the necessary CoE and provide all of the context you can. Allow them to suggest solutions and then collaborate to find the best option and approach. This all sounds simple, but it is so rarely practiced. When faced with a business challenge, many HRBPs spend hours trying to find a myriad of solutions. We consult with CoEs to get data to support our hypotheses, rather than allowing the data to pave the way to the solution. Sound familiar?
Step Two: Connect. A segregated HR structure results in many boundary dispute challenges, often due to a lack of coordination and communication between teams and division. This commonly happens because everyone assumes that the other parties are doing their portion and there is a clear understanding of roles and expectations. It is our responsibility as HR Business Partners to close the loop. I have been caught in this mess and speak from experience. No matter what the job – if you are involved, make sure you close the loop.
As the world is becoming increasingly volatile, uncertain and complex, HR Departments are under pressure to deliver solutions with fewer resources and in shorter timelines. To be able to do this, HR Business Partners need to break out of the siloed structure and nurture critical partnerships. Our partnership with CoEs is one of many that provide us access to best practices in HR and deeply specialized knowledge. Like with any cog in a wheel, we won’t get where we want to go if we don’t have piece this working right first.