What Does a Senior HR Business Partner Do?
A senior HR business partner is a key role that’s responsible for aligning human resources goals with organizational goals. Gartner reported that effective HRBPs increase employee retention by 24%, improve employee performance by 22%, boost profitability by 9%, and enhance revenue by 7%. It is hard to deny the importance of senior human resources business partners in improving the effectiveness of the human resources department.
Effectively creating a partnership and alignment of business units and HR functions. Partnering business and HR is the main job of a senior HR business partner. Let’s find out how exactly it is achieved and what a senior human resources business partner does to meet both organizational and HR objectives.
Senior HR Business Partner Role
A senior human resources business partner is a strategic liaison between the business and the human resources department. The senior human resources business partners are in contact with line managers to understand the business, process, and challenges. This firsthand knowledge is then used by the human resources department to set realistic goals and priorities.
It is a diverse role that requires knowledge of human resources, industry sector, and business acumen and the salary ranges between $78,080 to $121,09 per year. They're responsible for developing and shaping HR agenda that aligns company’s long-term objectives:
For example, a training program initiated by HR to train employees in the operation department. This training program will fail if HR doesn’t understand and know everything about operations, how it works, the challenges the operations team is facing, and what type of skills and training they need.
This is the job of the HR business partner to collaborate with the management to better understand how they work and what are their requirements. In large multinational organizations, multiple HR business partners work with different business units and they all report to a senior HR business partner who then works with the decision-makers for strategic alignment between HR and business objectives.
Line managers are the main source of relevant data for senior HR business partners and that’s how they create a link between management and HR.
Types of Senior HR Business Partners
Senior human resources business partners have two types based on their roles and responsibilities. The job titles in both types remain the same but job responsibilities are different.
- The most common types of senior HRBPs are the ones who are extremely experienced and qualified professionals. They have already served as an HR business partner for a few good years. Companies prefer hiring experienced senior human resources business partners so bypass training and since these are experienced professionals, they're hired as senior HRBPs (seniority in terms of experience).
Here is an example job posting:
They are asking for 10+ years of experience as an HRBP to qualify for the senior HR business partner position.
- There are large-scale companies that hire a senior HRBP to manage and overlook HR business partners to streamline the process. Here is an example job posting:
In this case, you'll be responsible for managing other HR business partners and HR professionals. This role is commonly used in large organizations with massive workforces such as the manufacturing industry. Large businesses usually hire more than HR business partners to manage different HR sections and business units. In such a case, a senior HR business partner manages all the human resources business partners.
Senior HR Business Partner Responsibilities
Gartner has identified 4 key roles that an HR business partner has to perform. A senior HR business partner, irrespective of its type, performs all these roles simultaneously:
- Strategic partner
- Operation manager
- Emergency responder
- Employee mediator.
These roles come with great responsibilities and they're not just challenging but intertwined. This makes the senior HR business partner’s job difficult.
Let’s explore these roles and their responsibilities:
1. Strategic Partner
It is the main role and responsibility of a senior HR business partner. It requires becoming a strategic partner in addressing business challenges and key issues throughout the organization. This involves a clear understanding and knowledge of the business units and processes so you can help in developing and implementing business strategy.
Similarly, strategic partnering in human resources is also a key responsibility of the senior HR business partner.
Here are the key responsibilities of a senior HR business partner for this role:
- Understanding the strategic needs of the company and talent requirements
- Tweaking and aligning HR strategy to meet business needs
- Working closely with business units
- Identifying talent needs for different business units and creating an appropriate strategy to meet talent requirements
- Representing business units and senior leaders throughout the organization as their representative
- Measuring HR performance in accordance with business strategy and needs.
2. Operations Manager
This is a monitoring role where a senior HR business partner needs to act as an operation manager. This role asks for getting in touch with the employees, monitoring them, and collaborating with them on their challenges and how HR is trying to fix them.
Here is the list of the major responsibilities:
- Working with operation managers to understand how the business operates
- Understanding and tracking employee behaviors
- Identifying operational challenges faced by employees
- Communicating and collaborating with employees constantly
- Sharing organizational policies and procedures with employees
- Guiding employees on HR initiatives and what HR is doing to address their operational issues
- Creating human resources programs that align with culture and operations.
3. Emergency Responder
This is an important role where the senior HR business partner has to provide immediate solutions to challenges faced by managers and employees. These include both HR and non-HR severe challenges that require instant resolution. The senior HR business partner should be the first responder in case of any emergency.
The main responsibilities that cover this role include:
- Responding to complaints and issues of line managers and employees as quickly as possible
- Addressing and answering queries of the managers and employees
- Understanding and responding to the immediate needs of managers and employees
- Having a contingency plan of action for emergency
- Preparing managers for all types of complex situations
- Defining SOPs for handling emergency issues
- Creating a long-term strategic solution for these issues so they aren’t repeated.
4. Employee Mediator
Not all the challenges in the workplace are operational or organizational, a good chunk of employee challenges are conflicts between two or more individuals. It is the responsibility of the senior HR business partner to address and resolve such conflicts among employees. Conflicts, whether personal or work-related, impact performance, productivity, culture, and environment negatively, and therefore, must be addressed immediately.
The main responsibilities under this role are:
- Working as a mediator to solve conflicts
- Managing and resolving employee and management conflicts
- Understanding employee personalities for better management of the workforce
- Addressing political challenges
- Identifying and fixing negative politics that ruin productivity and damage organizational culture.
Senior HR Business Partner Qualification
It is a crucial and high leadership position that comes with lots of responsibilities and this is a reason why this position requires a lot of skills and experience. The main qualifications are:
- Experience working as an HR business partner for a few good years
- Minimum 5 years of relevant experience in HR preferably in a leadership position, HR manager, or related job titles
- Understanding of human resources operations, business structure and functionality, and industry-related knowledge
- Bachelor’s degree in human resources or business administration or a relevant field
- Leadership, management, communication, interpersonal, people, and analytical skills.
Best Tips for New Senior HR Business Partners
It isn’t easy to work simultaneously for all 4 roles for new senior HR business partners. At one extreme, you have to do strategic planning and execution for HR and the organization while at the other end, you have to resolve day-to-day employee issues and act as a mediator. Such diverse roles require some serious planning.
If you have activated job alerts for the post of a senior HR business partner, the following practical tips will help you kickstart your career:
Get Acquainted with the Organization
If you have joined as a senior HR business partner in a new company, the first thing you need to do is familiarize yourself with the system. This includes HR, operations, workforce plans, processes, and employees. The more you know about the company and how it works, the better. This needs to be done quickly within a few days (not in weeks)
Evaluate Strategy and Metrics
The main role of a senior HR business partner is strategic so make sure you evaluate and review organizational and HR strategies. Check metrics and review current performance. Figure out where the company wants to go from here.
A clear understanding of the strategy and metrics is essential to become a successful senior HR business partner
Meet the People
The role involves dealing and interacting with people including managers and employees across all levels.
So, a senior HR business partner must interact with the employees to understand their needs and challenges. This also helps the business partner in developing relevant HR programs that address employee challenges.
Early meetings and collaboration with the workforce also help you identify loopholes, behaviors, and political involvement. This information proves handy in cases of employee mediation
Join Hands with Line Managers
Managers are the most valuable asset of any senior HR business partner as they provide you with firsthand data on operations and challenges. A senior HR business partner might miserably fail in the absence of this interaction and linkage.
Surround yourself with managers, allow them to contact you directly in case of issues, and start understanding the way they work
Challenging jobs require an aggressive and risk-taking mindset. In your early days, you need to take risks and steps that the previous HR business partner hesitated to take.
For example, tweaking HR strategy, closing HR programs that aren’t performing well, creating a new system for handling emergencies in operations, addressing employee conflicts that were unheard of for ages, and so on.
Anything that ruins alignment between organizational and HR strategy should be addressed immediately.
Yes, senior HR business partner is one of the most challenging roles. And this is due to two reasons.
First, it isn’t easy to effectively switch between different roles on a daily basis. One day you are sitting in the board meeting on strategic planning and the next day you are resolving a personal conflict between two employees.
Second, aligning business and HR and bridging the gap between leadership and employees has always been tough.
But once you get rolling, you'll fall in love with your job. The value a senior HR business partner brings to the table is matchless. If you love challenges, this is the best job for you. Activate job alert for this position.
If you are new to Human Resources and are looking to break into an HR role, we recommend taking our HR Certification Courses, where you will learn how to build your skillset in human resources, build your human resources network, craft an excellent HR resume, and create a successful job search strategy.
Josh Fechter is the founder of HR.University. He’s a certified HR professional and has managed global teams across 5 different continents including their benefits and payroll. You can connect with him on LinkedIn here.