I’ve always disliked the term “business partner” in the HR field. You don’t hear about marketing business partners or finance business partners. It’s understood that these functions are PART OF the business, as in NECESSARY.
I also dislike the concept of “educating the business about the value of HR”. That’s like telling diners about the dinner you COULD serve them.
You want a seat at the table? Bring an entree.
Here are some tips for doing that:
1. Know your business. I don’t mean HR business. I mean the business you are employed in (or want to be employed in). Attend industry events, read up on market trends, know your competitors and your position in the market. Who are your customers and why do they choose you? What are the biggest opportunities and threats developing on the horizon? What’s your revenue, profit margin, and market strategy? Which revenue streams are over- or under-performing? Where in the life cycle are those products? To what extent is technology impacting your products or processes?
2. Know your organization. Understand each function, what it contributes and how it interfaces with the other functions in the organization. What is the strategy and how are you organized (or not) to support that strategy? What kind of culture is best to support the organizational goals and do you have that culture? Who are both the official and the unofficial decision makers? What kind of legacy systems, ideas and relationships exist? How strong is the leadership team? To what extent is there a shared definition of success and how do they help each other reach it? How would each department head answer the question: “What one thing if changed would make the biggest positive difference in our department’s ability to be successful?”
3. Know your talent. What are the key talent drivers given your industry and your organizational strategy and structure? Where is this talent? Can you grow it or do you buy it? How do you keep it? What’s its value in terms of total rewards (compensation, benefits, environment). Where is it going when it leaves you and why? What kind of management talent does your organization require? How do you ensure that it is in place?
4. Deliver the basics. The HR devil is in the HR details and if people’s paychecks, leaves, benefits or perquisites aren’t handled correctly, HR gets a black eye. If leaders and peers don’t see quick response and accurate execution, ditto. What are the basics in your organization? Are your processes efficient? Is your HR team clear on priorities and are you staffed to deliver?
5. Align your role with the business. It’s not just speaking the language. It’s understanding the business you are in so that you can support that businesses goals with sound HR planning and practices. It’s being able to responsibly and expertly advocate for your strategy with a clear connection to current organizational challenges.
6. Preserve integrity. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Honor confidentiality at all levels. Role model transparent and direct communication.
7. Say no. Say no to those activities that do not align solidly with clear and present business goals. Say no to anything that conflicts with the first six laws.
Would you add or change any?