Updated October 1,2020

What Is an HRBP?

HRBP stands for Human Resource Business Partners. These individuals are HR professionals whose job is to partner closely with a company's senior leadership to develop an effective HR agenda. The agenda should support the organization's overall aims.

Human Resource Business Partnering is otherwise known as alignment. This process may involve the HRBP working closely with the C-suite or the company board of directors, or even sitting on the board. David Ulrich, an academic and consultant, popularized the idea of HRBPs; he views HR business partners as a vital part of today's HR functioning, along with centers of expertise and shared services. To summarize Ulrich, he says that HR professionals greatly benefit organizations due to their positions as change champions. This fits in with the increased pace of change that affects every part of our lives today.

The most senior people in HR are usually the HRBPs. They have the experience of routinely presenting information to senior leaders. It's critical for HRBPs to have good communication skills as part of their function to lay out the future worth and monetary value of people-centered HR policies to the organization's leadership. They must also relay high-level decisions downward to others in HR as well as to people across the entire organization.

The popularity of HR business partnering is growing as more companies take a people-focused approach and see how important it is for agendas to align with a common goal. There's an increase in collaboration between departments, such as marketing and HR. Because HRBPs usually have backgrounds in senior positions, they can be effective in communicating with senior leadership. Their work is a progressive approach to connecting the HR department to other functions in an organization.

A report by Orion Partners says that the best HRBPs:

  • Believe in their personal capability to make a difference in the organization.
  • Are confident in expressing their strong views, even if those views are unpopular.
  • Believe in the Human Resource department's value.
  • Are strong role models for their team and make the best use of the entire HR function.
  • Build trusting, long-term relationships with HR colleagues as well as clients.
  • Communicate in effective business terms using their expertise and knowledge of the company and all its intricacies.

Responsibilities of the HRBP

The responsibilities of a Human Resource Business Partner include:

  • Analyzing metrics and trends with HR
  • Resolving complicated issues of employee relations as well as addressing grievances
  • Providing guidance to HR on a daily basis and communicating with line management
  • Watching and reporting plans on workforce and succession
  • Providing guidance on HR policy
  • Being able to identify training needs for individuals and teams
  • Working closely with employees and management in order to build morale, improve working relationships, and increase retention rates as well as productivity
  • Evaluating training programs
  • Making suggestions for new HR strategies

HRBP Requirements

To be a successful HRBP, a person should have:

  • Proven experience in the role
  • Outstanding skills in people management
  • Analytic and goal-oriented skills
  • HR metrics experience
  • Complete understanding of labor legislation
  • A thorough understanding of HR best practices and all functions of the department
  • A BS degree in HR or a related field

How to Make the Role of the HRBP Work

HRBPs are employed across many organizations, but there are different levels of success and various interpretations of how the role works. HR focus is generally on downsizing and cost-effectiveness, but an organization's concerns are often on talent management. Companies also have a continuing demand for:

  • Leadership development
  • Succession planning
  • Team building

It can be difficult for HRBPs to be successful because while companies recognize the need for these individuals, there's often no clear definition or understanding of what an HRBP actually is or does.

It's important to identify what traits or elements can determine the contributions and eventual success for an HRBP, but what are these elements? The answer isn't straightforward, but at a minimum, a person in this role should be able to demonstrate behavior that influences a strategic agenda. This person also has to apply a skill set that makes HR services more effective and improves the quality of these services.

HRBPs can't be successful all by themselves. This position relies heavily on its place in the whole HR function and its relationships with centers of expertise and HR service centers.

How to Be a Strategic HR Advisor

In order to provide strategic advice to senior management, an individual should understand that the person who's receiving the advice probably has a plan that doesn't just focus on immediate concerns. This person is looking five years into the future and isn't only focusing on the next 12 months.

To be a successful HRBP, an individual understands he or she must show appropriate behavior in that role. Effective HRBPs must act from the right values and beliefs because they ultimately want business leaders to view them as peers who they can confide in. While it's important to have a firm grasp and understanding of a company's landscape in order to get your foot in the door of the management team, you need to employ these skills and behaviors so that your work is impactful.

How can effective HRBPs behave and influence agendas?

  • Find out what drives the business and learn what the numbers are.
  • Develop HR credibility personally and professionally; do this by employing courage, initiative, and integrity. Give business leaders the challenge they need.
  • Develop a strategy for HR and people by putting emphasis on processes that are most beneficial.
  • Build key relationships in the organization in order to prove that HR can be a valuable contribution to the business. You can influence the strategic agenda this way.
  • Instead of only responding to requests, be proactive in promoting HR interventions that will have a positive impact on the company's bottom line, now as well as in the future.

If you need help with understanding more about HRBPs, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.