The new & improved role of the HR business partner

Gwen Lim, Manager of Human Resources Division, Robert Walters Singapore, shares her thoughts on transforming the traditional HR business partner into a strategic management resource

The demands of today’s businesses are constantly evolving, and with it, HR leaders must first understand that they have to be business partners who manage the organisation’s most valuable asset – the human capital. For this upgrade, the old HR business partner or even generalist skill sets need developing. They play a crucial role in strategising and improving the complex business model in any company with an aim to be closer to the business in order to develop more effective and relevant HR solutions.


Marking the road map

As business partners understand the unique circumstances in which their firm operates, this enables them to work more closely with the business on key decisions within the organisation. These new and improved HR leaders are commercially aware and able to more accurately predict and anticipate their business challenges. They are also assertive enough to stand their ground and implement radical HR solutions when needed. Talent development is a high priority on their agenda and coming up with innovative ideas to attract and retain talent to the firm has become paramount, especially in recent years amidst the talent war we face in Asia. The challenge increases when the business is not well informed or resistant to changes, and hence these HR professionals have to understand that they play a consultative role and need to be highly confident in their delivery and execution of HR initiatives.


Outlining key responsibilities

HR business partners act as a point of contact for both employees and managers in the organisation. This requires close liaison with business leaders to deliver customised and forward-looking solutions, programmes and policies to tackle issues faced by the company. A HR business partner has to act as the performance improvement driver to influence positive changes in the business environment. This enables them to manage complex and difficult projects and take a consultative approach and act as a key advisor to the leadership team.


Making the difference with HR

In the recent years, we have seen an increase in strategic elements being added to the role. Companies are now more interested than ever to consult HR business partners in developing and implementing their business strategies The role now requires an active involvement in all preplanning work, which includes how they are being executed, the impact they will have on the business, what is the expected outcome and how can those successes be measured. This shift towards the HR function taking on new and more pivotal responsibilities often requires a significant amount of buy in from the business, and as a result, the industry is seeing a healthy growth in such partnership roles within HR.


Working with the business, not just HR

The HR business partner aligns business objectives with HR initiatives and solutions to both employees and business managers. Always keep in mind that the position serves as a consultant to the management on HR related issues. A strong candidate would possess good knowledge of multiple human resource disciplines, such as talent acquisitions and development, employee retention, labour relations, organisational effectiveness, compensation practices and diversity. To top off the list, business partner professionals have to maintain strong, effective and transparent delivery of communication with different stakeholders in the organisation, be it the shareholders, senior management, mid managers or employees. These open channels will foster better cohesion and effectiveness between the HR organisation and the business.


This article was written by Gwen Lim, Manager of Human Resources Division, Robert Walters Singapore. She specialises in the recruitment of human resources professionals across various multinationals, local SMEs and Fortune 500 companies.


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