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What is an HR Business Partner?

What is an HR Business Partner?

HR Business Partner depicted as a businessman joined by two business women shaking hands across a table.

Last Updated January 30, 2019

Human resource operations continue to become more sophisticated and complex. Part of that evolution involves HR leaders playing a more strategic role in the organization. As experts in recruiting, training, and retaining employees, HR professionals have become more active players in aligning the human capital with business goals at forward-thinking companies. One of the signs of this is the emergence of the HR business partner position.

What Does an HR Business Partner Do?

The human resources business partner serves as the link between HR and the business by aligning people management activities with organizational strategy. In essence, the HR business partner serves as a strategic consultant. It’s critical that individuals in this senior-level role understand the organization’s short- and long-term goals so they can help achieve desired outcomes through human resources initiatives. The duties of an HR business partner vary depending on the organization’s goals and business sector, but often include:

  • Collaborating with human resources employees to help meet the needs of the executive leadership team.
  • Monitoring the HR budget and advocating for the redistribution of funding of salaries as needed.
  • Restructuring the distribution of roles and the organizational hierarchy to align with business objectives.
  • Identifying and leading the hiring process for high priority roles that must be filled for the business to meet its goals.

HR Business Partner vs. HR Manager

HR was once a department solely focused on the administrative tasks and compliance issues involved in the recruitment, hiring, management, and termination of employees. An HR manager continues to focus on these critical issues – overseeing the internal human resources department and primarily focusing on policy implementation and other day-to-day administrative responsibilities. Whereas HR managers oversee the entire HR department, HR business partners work with department managers on developing a plan to hire the right people with the skills needed specifically for a job opening in that area. It marks a shift from the traditional way of running HR to a newer, more integrated role within each function of the business.

By working closely with department managers on a hiring strategy, an HR business partner has a better idea of the context surrounding each job opening. Rather than listing a generic job opening for an accountant, they understand the specific job duties as well as the goals a manager has for that position.

Their work is directly related to current and future business success. They are concerned less with administration and compliance issues and more about how a strategic plan for employee recruitment and retention can improve the effectiveness of a business unit.

In short, rather than being an administrative support position on employee issues, the human resources business partner is an operational and strategic resource position.

It’s important to note that the lines between an HR manager and HR business partner can be blurred depending on the organization. Not all businesses have individual people in these separate roles.

Why The HR Business Partner Role Has Emerged

Proactive HR departments have moved into a business partnership role for the simple fact that they see value in aligning human capital efforts with the strategic goals of the business.

Years ago, the manager of a department may have requested that HR recruit someone for an important job, and HR would manage the process of recruiting and hiring that person.

With the shift to a business partner role, HR professionals are more active in working with that department manager on an overall strategy for hiring personnel. They know, in detail, what the manager hopes to achieve with the employee in that position and how it serves overall department goals.

HR Business Partner Education

As the role of HR continues to evolve, so will the need for HR business partners. With the right education, HR professionals can position themselves for success in this challenging and innovative career field. Expertise in the following areas is critical for the HR business partner role:

  • Employment Law
  • Financial and Human Capital
  • Training and Development
  • Total Rewards including Compensation and Benefits

Knowing the need for those specifically trained for the role of HR business partner, Villanova University offers an HR Management Certificate to help prepare learners to leverage HR functions in support of overall business goals. The program is designed for current HR professionals and anyone aspiring to position themselves as an expert in the area of human resources.