Partnership 101: More than an Observer

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Author: Ankita Poddar | Source: HCI | Published: September 22, 2015

Individual employees are the front line first partners that should come to mind when talking about partnerships for any human resource professional. Yet, for an HRBP, the average hours spent per week intentionally interacting with employees is disturbingly low.

HRBP’s are in a way the eyes and ears of the business on the ground but this can sometimes lead to a self-perception of being a spy rather than being part of the team. I recently came upon this realization while at the movies with an HR colleague as we both related alarmingly well to Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible 5. How often have you viewed yourself as being an observer as opposed to an integral part of what takes place around you? We spend so much time wrapping our heads around the multitude of data available that we spend far fewer hours collecting first-hand anecdotal feedback. These informal data points are far more valuable than we would like to believe.

The first step to any fruitful partnership is to open channels of two-way communication. It is important to consciously increase interface time with people across different levels and functions of the organization. This can take place through multiple forums – through one on ones, many to one, town halls or brown bag lunches.

A good way to take this interaction to the next level is to adopt the trend of crowdsourcing solutions from employees. Increasingly organizations are adopting this for the multiple benefits that it has to offer. Not only does it help to give multiple perspectives to an issue, it also makes the employee feel valued because he or she is now a contributing member in the decision making process. While like every idea, it does have its pitfalls and challenges, the benefits of successful implementation will far outweigh the cons.

The intention behind opening the lines of communication is to get inputs directly from the workforce without filters. Not only does this form the basis of building trust but it also gives a realistic picture of how HR and business practices affect its the employee. Often discrepancies exist between desired and actual impact. These connects go a long way in bridging the gap.

Building trust is another crucial step. This is a far tougher task than opening lines of communication.   If only there were a simple 3-step formula to build trust instantaneously but this takes time and concentrated effort. Transparency in dealings and fairness are key ingredients that go into building trust. An HRBP must be wary of perceptions of bias and opaqueness that can emerge when things are swept under the rug. This damages credibility on the floor and like in any other relationship, it takes longer to regain trust once lost. It is important to understand that HRBP loyalties lie not with the business nor the employees but rests upon a very tricky middle path. A successful navigation will ensure that an employee sees value in building a trusted partnership with the HRBP.

The most important part however lies in appreciating the value of employees. The raison d'etre of the human resource function is to increase discretionary effort put in by every individual in the organization. We aren’t going to get anywhere close if we maintain a hands-off approach. We shouldn’t run away from interactions but value each instance for it is here that we learn just as much or even more than we would learn from any other partner.