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The HR Business Partner – Job Title or State of Being?

I have to admit it; I hate the title “HR Business Partner.” I see more often in the HR field that the use of this title keeps popping up. Perhaps it is replacing the HR Generalist title? (Not that I was huge fan of that one either.) To me an HR Business Partner is not so much a title as it is a state of being. It is the essence of what we do or should be doing – so why do we have to include it in a title or tell people we are being business partners? (My first guess is that it is the classic inferiority complex that HR seems to have.) My opinion is that being a “partner” is what we get paid to do! I mean, I don’t see the title of Sales Business Partner or Accounting Business Partner being flaunted around? What about I.T. Business Partner? How many of those jobs are out there? How come those professions don’t feel the need to title themselves as partners?

Business PartnerWhere I am really going with this is that I am finding there is a real risk to our HR profession of us being defined by our titles vs. what we actually do and deliver. I guess that is why the use of this “state of being” title irritates me. The other challenge with this is that I keep encountering so many people that use this title and then when I ask them what they do as a business partner, they end up giving me a laundry list of duties (mostly coordination and enforcement) in the form of some glorified job description – real “partner-like” for sure. If you don’t have the title of HR Business Partner, don’t despair! It isn’t a reflection of how good or valuable you are! What matters most is what you deliver to your clients and what value you bring to your organization, whether you are an HR Manager, HR Generalist, HR Coordinator, Recruiter, Talent Acquisition Specialist, etc. etc. etc.

To that end, I would like to put a stake in the heart of the business partner title and suggest that our HR profession focuses on partnering as a minimum job expectation. At the end of the day, if you aren’t partnering with your operations team, then you must be working “against” them. If you truly are a partner to your operations clients, than you need to make sure you are not one of the following types of HR “Business Partners” and are not engaging in these types of activities as part of your job:

1) The Policy Police – true HR business partners (I put that in lower case because I am not using it as a title any more) do not police and enforce policy as part of their day – that is the manager’s job. You can write policies to assist them achieve their goals, you can interpret policy and you can advise on the application of policy but you are NOT the policy police.

2) The Party Planner – you are not the sole source of planning and doling out organizational fun. It is not your job to plan all social events and make sure that everyone is attending and having fun. This is a function of your social committee – not HR.

3) The Amateur Lawyer – yes, I know, good HR pros have a solid grasp of employment law. This should be used to provide advice and counsel to your managers NOT as a hammer or to make veiled threats about the outcomes of their decisions. Remember, you provide advice and counsel based on your knowledge and experience.

4) The Negative Nelly – i.e. finding ways why something CAN’T be done – true HR pros that partner and add value, work with their operations clients to find ways why something can be done. Whether it involves finding a uniquely skilled candidate, improving performance measures or working on compensation issues, you need to find ways to assist and help move the business forward NOT reasons why something can’t happen or why it may violate some obscure law.

5) The Ignorant Ida/Ian – true HR Pros that add value to their organizations understand what their companies do. In other words, they understand what functions generate revenue and they know how their company makes money. They are familiar with their organization’s product and service offerings, the industry and the key players. Nothing discredits an HR Pro faster than to call themselves a Business Partner and then operate in a silo. Get out there and get entrenched in the lines of business. This way, your operations “partners” will seek out your counsel and advice because they WANT to – not because they HAVE to.

What about you? Do you have anything else to add to this list? How do you feel about the title HR Business Partner? Have I convinced you that it is not a title but a state of being for an HR Pro….a minimum performance expectation if you will? As always, I welcome your thoughts and feedback.

Image courtesy of bplanet/FreeDigitalPhotos.net


2 Responses

  1. […] scores. Simply put, if you aren’t a “business partner” than you ain’t much. I have previously blogged about this topic before so I won’t go on an additional rant; however, I think bloggers like Laurie […]

  2. […] for permission about what we call ourselves. I have written about this title thing in HR before here and here; however, I will state it one more time – let’s stop calling ourselves “Business […]

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