Becoming the HR Business Partner They Need

picture of a hand shaking

by James K Hopkins

Having that seat at the table, especially if you are their HR Business Partner, is essential to their success. But when the seat is empty and they don’t miss you, then you might not be the business partner they need. When was the last time you assessed what you need to provide to the business to meet their needs? Have you recently solicited feedback on how well your department is doing or are you just winging it? Be sure, be strong and be the best HR business partner they’ve ever had!

Before you take the necessary steps to evaluate how well you are meeting the needs of the organization, stop and document well what you are doing. Then document what you could be doing, and document what you should not be doing with your resources.

By taking the time to write down the services you provide, you are gathering a list of the items you evaluate against. These are the things that most likely your management team and employees know about you because you are doing this work. Craft questions in a survey that allow you to pinpoint how well you are hitting the mark.

No two HR departments provide the same exact set of services, nor do they offer the same level of service. Having a written list of what you do begins the process, but you now need to take each of these items and describe how it benefits the organization. While these are the items they are most likely to check off as being done, do they understand how it impacts their work? Do they understand what would happen if you did not perform these functions?

Your wish list…

Every HR Leader has a wish list of things they could be offering the organization if only they had the money, resources, time, or buy in from management. You may want to build a training function, or launch an online performance management platform, or maybe you wish you could empower managers to make more of their own performance decisions rather than HR making all the decisions.

Once again, we may have this list in our minds, but documenting it keeps many good ideas from disappearing. And when it comes to evaluating how well you are doing, you can now create questions that test the ideas you would like to implement.

Miscellaneous Assigned Duties

While we all have duties assigned to us that have little to nothing to do with our intended purpose, putting them on a list allows you to begin the process of moving them to someone else’s list. Too often HR lands up doing things only because it was convenient at the time and somehow became a part of the expectations.

While it may seem a natural for HR to be the party planners for the organization, if they are not the best suited they are using time setting up tables and ordering food when they could be doing something else. Yet for many HR functions, the routine or expectation of these other duties are entrenched into the organization. You must replace these extra duties with something that you are currently not doing but should be doing.

Evaluating Your Net Worth

Now that you firmly know what you are doing, what you want to be doing, and what someone else ought to be doing, it is time to evaluate and bring the organization in on the discussion.

Start with a survey that goes out to all employees and make it anonymous, online, and easy to complete. Checking for satisfaction of existing processes is important, but allow for a lot of comments for improvement. Constantly challenge employees to tell you how you could specifically be a better HR function.

Your second survey should be directed to all management. You have already assessed in the first survey how you could be a better HR function to the individual employee, but now you want to test how well or even if you are the HR Business Partner they need. Float you new ideas among this group and frame the questions toward how each idea on your wish list could affect their operation.

Sharing the Results

Nothing is more frustrating for people than to participate in a survey process and not learn the results, and how their ideas compared with everyone else’s. So once you are done evaluating the feedback, share it. You might want to start with a simple document that reports on the results and email to all employees. Talk about suggestions, and encourage feedback.

When it comes to senior management, conducting face to face meetings are a better way to begin conversations for changes. Lay out the results, and your recommendations. Step out there, reveal your expertise, and then ask for feedback. If you can get commitments for immediate changes, lock them down. If you get buying signals for other projects, then make sure you gather the names of your future champions.

And to remain at your best, follow this process annually. Having a seat at the table is important, but having everyone want your participation is vital.

About the author

If you would like to share your challenges in becoming a better HR Business Partner, email Jim Hopkins at [email protected] to schedule a telephone call.