Partnership 101: Prequisites for Business Smarts

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Author: Ankita Poddar | Source: HCI | Published: March 6, 2015

The season has changed and 2015 brings with it an increased focus on creating a more humane workspace. It is now obvious that the differentiating factor between companies that survive and companies that don’t, are their people practices. With the talent gap reaching disturbing numbers, the following oft quoted line is now true; ‘The war for talent is over and talent won.’

As someone who has had to delicately balance all of David Ulrich’s four roles on a daily basis, I root for talent winning the war. But, it is worth noting that this approach makes the job of an HRBP all the more challenging. The business asks for more, the talent continues to be hard to find and catch, and we’re pushed every single day to get more agile and innovative with our processes and ideas. Who would want to live in another time?

As HR Business Partners, one of our most important jobs is to build relationships. We must establish - relationships with employees, partnerships with Centres’ of Expertise, connections with the outside world, and most importantly, relationships with other business functions. But here is where we meet our biggest obstacle.

There’s an inherent presumption that lies within the business – a presumption that the HR professional just doesn’t know enough about what the business does. This presumption has been partly encouraged by the HR community over the decades, perhaps due to our love of soft theories and gut feelings over numbers, statistics and well researched facts. This needs to change.

Wouldn’t it be great for HR to drive business, instead of the other way around? This will happen only when we become decision enablers and valuable consultants for business leaders. And we’d make truly poor consultants if we didn’t know how the business is faring, what its future plans are, what it’s looking for, and how our advice helps.

It’s time to arm ourselves with two immensely important weapons – in-depth knowledge of the business, and talent data to nudge decisions. That information allows us to truly become partners. We must present valid business cases for every initiative pitched and demonstrate the predicted value-add of each. We need to communicate in a language that the business understands, and be able to articulate the numbers behind every project. 

When organizations are in a race to adapt to the changing business environments and outrun one another, they are more likely to make decisions focused on short-term business goals rather than a long-term people strategy. It is in turbulent times like these then, that it becomes even more important for HR to become a true partner in the business:  partners that may not solve problems in the way the business wants, but by contrast, partners that stop business leaders from crossing certain lines, pulls them back when necessary, and steers them in the right direction.

As HR Business Partners, the business is our single most important client. So, I have to ask: Do you know enough to drive the business yet? If not, it’s time to get your hands dirty and get started.

This is the first of a series of blogs featuring Ankita Poddar and her HRpartnerstory.