Quiz: Are You an HR Business Partner?

HR Business Partner Meeting

Quiz: Are You an HR Business Partner?

A longstanding complaint of HR managers is that senior leaders view them as transactional administrators, not key business partners.

Sometimes, however, it can be hard to tell where you stand. Fortunately, we have this simple, five-question quiz that will help clear it up for you.

  1. Do you regularly attend your client groups’ staff meetings, strategy discussions, and brainstorming meetings?
  2. Do you regularly touch base with the leaders of your client groups?
  3. Do these leaders ask for your advice?
  4. Are you asked to share or present your ideas about how the departments you support meet their business objectives?
  5. Is your calendar full of more client group meetings than HR meetings?

If you answered “yes” to all five questions, congratulations, you’re most likely considered an HR business partner.

If you answered “yes” to two questions or less, you’re likely not an HR business partner, but you have an opportunity to transform your role and become one if you follow the tips in the next section.

Three Tips for Becoming an HR Business Partner

If the results of Mercer’s 2016 Global Talent Trends Study hold true, chances are you haven’t achieved HR business partner status. According to the study, “only 4% of HR professionals report that HR is viewed as a strategic business partner in their organizations.”

Our experience is that many HR managers believe themselves to be doing the work of HR business partners, but that senior leaders don’t recognize it. These HR managers tell us that senior leaders aren’t engaged in their conversations, or are constantly canceling their meetings with them.

If these stories sound like what you experience, try following these three tips to raise your profile and influence in the organization and become a valued business partner.

1. Get the HR Basics Right. Every HR pro we know or with whom we come in contact tells us if don’t do the basics right, you don’t get to do the good stuff. In this case, you need to show you can effectively manage and perform transactional tasks—such as payroll, benefits, employee relations, hiring, and firing—to sell yourself as a potential business partner.

2. Meet David Ulrich’s Definition of an HR Business Partner. Ulrich, a professor and HR and leadership expert, introduced the HR business partner role in his 1997 book “Human Resource Champions,” then updated his definition in 2012. He said HR business partners serve a variety of key functions, including:

  • The strategic positioner—You can translate business knowledge into organizational action.
  • The credible activist—You can build relationships of trust and influence.
  • The capability builder—You can discern the organizational culture and molds it to its desired state.
  • The change champion—You can initiate and sustain organizational change.
  • The HR innovator—You can integrate best practices, new technology, and new ideas into sound HR practices that drive the organization forward.

If you focus on serving these key functions, you’ll provide great value to the organization, and raise your profile in senior leaders’ eyes.

3. Shift Your Mindset. To be seen as a business partner often requires a shift in your own mindset about what the role of Human Resources means to the business. Only with that shift are you able to serve in the consultative role that in turn shifts senior leaders’ mindset about what HR means to the business.

What mindset do you need? You must think of the business’ needs first, and then be able to talk about how HR can support those needs. If the conversation focuses on anything other than how HR supports, enhances, and adds critical value to a business process or solves a key business problem, then you lose another opportunity to “be at the table.” So don’t focus too much on topics that leaders won’t see as needing much of their time or attention (e.g., the latest update of the PeopleSoft system, a new applicant tracking system, the updates of the executive compensation process, or the reworking of the performance management process). No, focus on what matters to them: the business.

Accomplishing this mindset shift is easier said than done. You’ll need to carefully think about and prepare for the interactions that you have both with individual leaders and the larger leadership team. But if by shifting your mindset, and your actions as a result, leads leaders to see you as a true business partner, it will be time very well spent.

Back to the Quiz

Go back and look at our quick quiz again. Instead of merely answering the questions, let them help you start to think about how you’re positioning yourself in the organization. Then after you make changes, take the quiz again. Perhaps you’ll find you rate as a true business partner. Good luck!

To learn more about great coaching and onboarding, read the book “The Talent Selection and Onboarding Pocket Tool Kit,” written by our managing director Erika Lamont and coauthor Anne Bruce.