What is an HR Business Partner?

HR Business Partner definition

HR business partners are HR professionals who work closely with an organisation’s senior leaders in order to develop an HR agenda that closely supports the overall aims of the organisation. The process of alignment is known as HR business partnering and may involve the HR business partner sitting on the board of directors or working closely with the board of directors and C-suite.

The idea of HR business partners was popularised by academic and consultant David Ulrich, who sees HR business partners as part of a successful modern HR function, along with shared services and centres of expertise. HR business partners are often the most senior HR professionals within the department, with experience of putting points across to senior leaders on a regular basis.

Communication skills are very important for HR business partners as they need to communicate the financial value and future worth of person-centred HR policies to the company’s leadership, as well as communicate high-level decisions down to other members of the HR department and the whole organisation.

HR business partnering is becoming more popular as organisations become people-focused and see the value in aligning agendas toward a common goal. Commentators talk of a ‘breakdown of traditional silos’ and greater collaboration between departments, such as HR and marketing.

HR business partners are seen as important in this process as a progressive way to connect the HR department to other functions – since HR business partners often have experience in senior positions they are well-placed to communicate effectively with other senior leaders.

According to a report by Orion Partners, the very best HR business partners have:

  • Self-belief in their personal ability to make a difference to the business
  • Belief in the value of the HR function
  • Confidence to have a strong point of view and express it even if it proves unpopular
  • Knowledge and experience of the business and its intricacies and an ability to communicate in business terms
  • An ability to build long-term, trusting relationships with clients and with HR colleagues
  • A focus on delivering business outcomes through making best use of the whole HR function and acting as a strong role-model for the rest of the team

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