‘All I Want For Christmas is You’ sings Mariah Carey. When talking to other senior HR professionals, the one thing their Christmas wishlists have in common is to find superstar HRBPs. It’s amazing how much debate there has been about this particular role in the HR function since its introduction.
After several years of being a HR Business Partner, and then managing teams of them, I’ve often been asked what makes a great HRBP. What many don’t realise is that there are so many HRBP roles out there, but sometimes they are ill defined or just rebranded job titles. It’s really important to acknowledge that this role is one of the most difficult positions in our function– you’re constantly changing hats. The HRBP role I’m referring to is the strategic partner, change agent and talent expert.
I have no doubt that when you have a team of aligned, successfully performing HRBPs, tangible cultural change within your organisation takes place. Based on my experience, I’ve reached the following conclusions about what makes a great HRBP:
Grey is this function’s colour and we should wear it proudly.
In my mind, grey is a beautiful colour: sleek and sophisticated, yet tough, like iron; similar to the way some of the best HRBPs operate. However, in a world where black and white is preferred, grey is the creative sweet spot of our profession. Being able to live with ambiguity, make connections and innovate is a critical skill I worked hard to develop, and is what I sought in my teams.
Influencing those stakeholders.
I was promoted to my first ever HRBP role ‘off the back of’ (a phrase I hate) exceptional stakeholder management. I was dealing with a high profile ER case that had the world and its wife involved at a very senior level. Aside from managing the case and the pressure that came with it, I learnt how to manage the various stakeholders involved and what, then and how to communicate at this level. In addition, I built confidence in my ability to influence a senior group of people. Building trust and credibility is crucial, and another quality that I always keep an eye out for.
Some of the best HRBPs I had the pleasure of working with were gifted at the art of surprise. They knew how to surprise and delight their clients. This involved anticipating needs, looking beyond the internal organisation and knowing their business and its market very well. The combination of these elements led to new initiatives that solved specific business issues, or challenged leadership teams to think differently about how things were done.
Courage is a prized virtue.
It’s also linked to other ‘C ‘words such as confidence and challenge. But boiling it down, what HRBP’s need is courage. One of my best managers said to me that if my clients weren’t agitated or upset with me at times, I wasn’t doing my job well. Those uncomfortable conversations, constructive challenges and ‘holding the mirror’ come from courage. Steeling yourself through those experiences, and recognising and embracing the risk attached is important, along with operating with integrity. I was asked to have one honest, challenging conversation per month, as practice makes perfect, and developed my confidence as my own career progressed.
So that’s what makes a great HRBP, in a nutshell. I’ve purposely not stated the obvious such as deliver successfully, influence effectively, etc. as these are fundamental attributes for any role, let alone HR.
I’d love to hear your thoughts! What do you think makes a great HRBP?
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