Skip to Main Content
Filter By +
Topic +

10 Ways to Become a Better HR Business Partner

As the largest conference for the HR industry, the SHRM 2018 Annual Conference & Exposition had a lot to offer on the subject of HR strategy. Here are my top 10 takeaways on how HR leaders can become the business partners their organizations need:

1. Think ‘how’ instead of ‘no.’

According to Valerie Grubb, principal of Val Grubb & Associates Ltd., to meet your organization’s needs from a people perspective, HR should ask “how” instead of saying “no.” That doesn’t mean skirting policy or allowing management to run amok. Just ask yourself how you can solve people problems in a way that achieves organizational goals and mitigates risk.

2. Find and solve the people problems that cause business problems.

If your organization is experiencing a dip in productivity or revenue, it’s likely a people problem is at the heart of the matter. Dig deep to find the root cause of the issue. Work hard to resolve it. If it’s impossible to resolve, start replacing problematic employees.

3. Seek opportunities for improvement.

Some problems are so large, the few people who recognize them couldn’t possibly solve them on their own. Get comfortable with problems, ask your team to bring them to you, and work together to solve them.

 4. Help craft customer-friendly policies.

Organizations must have policies and procedures. Employees need to follow them. But employees always should have enough leeway to do the right thing for the customer. Remember that at the end of every policy, there is a human being with a problem your organization can help them solve.

5. Use technology.

This seems biased, but hear me out. Conference attendees cited a lack of time as their biggest roadblock to becoming a better business partner. In one session, the speaker asked the audience for suggestions on overcoming that roadblock. Suddenly, a clarion voice rang out from the front row and said, “If we would just use the technology we have, we could do everything you’re suggesting and more!”

6. Ignore Blockbuster’s fate at your own peril.

Throughout the conference, Blockbuster Video served as a cautionary tale for anyone resistant to change. Those who don’t adapt – no matter how successful – eventually will be left behind.

 7. Take the initiative to understand the business completely.

Educate yourself on business objectives. Study competitors. Learn how the business makes and spends money. Spend time with employees to understand how what they do helps the company achieve its goals. ­Seeing the business holistically will help you make human capital decisions that support company goals.

8. Speak your finance department’s ‘love language.’

If you’re not familiar with Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages concept, here’s the premise: To effectively express yourself to another person, you must understand how they best receive, understand and process information. Then adjust your communication style accordingly. Do that with your finance department. When you’re pitching initiatives, avoid HR language like “engagement.” Show how you will impact EBITDA, ROI, customer acquisition cost and more. When you present your ideas in a language the CFO can understand and appreciate, you’ll have a better chance at getting your initiatives moving.

9. Take culture from philosophical to practical.

Be honest with yourself about which company values will really help meet business goals and what that means for your culture. Then, use culture to hire and retain people whose skills, talents and behaviors will drive your business’s success.

10. Stop calling yourself an HR professional.

You’re more than that. Joe Rotella, chief marketing officer for Delphia Consulting, shared as much in his session, “How to be a Better Business Partner.” Rotella suggested all HR pros refer to themselves as “business professionals with a specialty in HR.” Why? Because you’re uniquely qualified to help an organization strategically leverage its biggest asset: its people.

Only one thing in HR is for certain: Change is constant. Generational fluctuations in the workforce, the evolving way we work and the uncertainty technological advances bring will require HR leaders to contribute to the business in a strategic way.

If the dynamic people I met at SHRM18 are any indication, they’re poised and ready to do that and more.