What Makes a Good HR Business Partner?

April 16, 2018 | Devin Morrissey | HCI
Share This

The definition of a human resources business partner (HRBP) has undoubtedly changed over the years. Originally the job was very different from traditional HR roles in that it dealt with more money-related issues, working with administrative heads of departments and not employees themselves. An HRBP was a less employee accessible role. They were HR professionals that specifically worked toward employers’ long-term goals.

However, that was much easier said than done, and over the years the definition of an HRBP has become vague and confusing. The job description currently tends to straddle the line between a businessman and an HR manager, give or take a bit either way.

This means that HRBP’s are still keeping the company’s financial goals in mind while resolving HR issues with employees and guiding HR policy. However, all of this is done with the bottom line in mind so when choosing an HRBP nowadays, there’s a diverse set of qualities you need to look for.

1. Well-Rounded Knowledge Base

Because the job description has become all-encompassing, the knowledge base of an HRBP must be as well. Basic knowledge of accounting and health administration is required for offering sound budgeting advice and for finding employees the best coverage. Similar to your typical HR manager, an HRBP should also understand the law so the company they work for doesn’t forget any legally required benefits they are to give their employees.

Additionally, some basic education in psychology and counseling is helpful for an HRBP to have, because of the more typical role HRBP’s are beginning to take in working with employees. They don’t just cover the business side of things anymore; they interact and work with the employees.

2. Business-Minded

The bottom line is important to a good HRBP. Originally, they were hired as someone who understood a company’s financial goals and worked to create solutions for HR-related issues that could also benefit a company’s bottom line. While a typical HR rep focuses more on employees than business semantics, an HRBP’s job requires knowledge of the ins and outs of financial affairs, even in our modern day.

Often, HRBPs will work with administrative heads and be knowledgeable about business transactions and bottom-line based decisions. It’s important for them to not only be present for these decisions but to understand them. Remember, without a business focus, an HRBP is just an HR rep.

3. Employee’s Best Interest in Mind

As the role has evolved, a strong focus on typical HR-employee relationships have become important for the HRBP as well. Writer Gili Brudno wrote a piece for Digitalist Magazine about the HRBP and wrote that their new improved role should be people-focused:

“HRBP’s should obtain the full visibility and involvement in their organizations, regardless of hierarchical structures. HRBP’s should act as role models of human touch and interact directly with people at all levels.”

How do you do this while keeping the business-focus being an HRBP demands? That may be the biggest question HRBP’s must face in this coming age. There may have to be some give and take, but a possible answer to this question is this: a good HRBP understands that companies offering the best benefits retain the best employees. Investing more in them will increase productivity and maybe even your wealth.

4. People Skills

Interacting with employees means enacting social skills. However, this doesn’t just affect an HRBP’s relationship with their employees, but everyone else in the company they work with as well. If someone doesn’t work well with others, the HRBP is not the right job for them.

Hopefully, the right person for the job has done their homework on how and under what circumstances people best perform as well. This will enable them to best encourage employees to feel safe and motivated in their workspace. Where knowledge meets empathy, an HRBP can thrive.

5. Experience Dealing with Insurance Companies

Due to the nature of an HRBP taking on multiple HR roles in today’s world, being knowledgeable of how insurance companies work and having experience with them is one of the most beneficial qualities they can have. Rarely do insurance companies actually have employees’ best interests in mind. And bad benefits mean higher turnover rates.

Now, since an HRBP works with the administrative side of things, it may not always be their role to work with insurance companies. After all, the job description changes wherever you go.