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What is an HR Business Partner?

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Human resource departments can significantly improve key performance indicators, including increasing employee performance, engagement, and revenue. The HR business partner uses HR expertise to form a strategic partnership and guide these efforts.   

What does an HR Business Partner do?

Organizations hire HR business partners to work directly with an organization’s executive leadership rather than the internal human resource department. The HR business partner is critical in aligning the organization’s talent strategy with the organizational objectives and goals.  

HRBP is the most senior professional in the HR department and may also sit in on board meetings of larger organizations. In fact, it’s a commonplace for smaller businesses to enlist the expertise of an external provider to fulfill this role.   

As a key player, the HRBP acts as a consultant and liaison between the HR department and the board of directors.  

The goal is to drive business success by using HR data and functions.  

Therefore, the HRBP needs to understand the ins and outs of the business, its financial position, the current company culture, and competition.   

HR Business Partner vs. HR Manager

The distinction between the two titles is often blurred as businesses use both terms interchangeably. However, the roles and responsibilities they have in an organization are different.  

An HR manager is involved in managing HR programs and policies. It oversees the work of the HR department and is responsible for systems like recruiting, payroll, performance management processes, and more.   

While HR managers are more internally focused, HRBPs are more externally oriented. They provide a broader view of the organization, and their roles have a higher emphasis on strategy development. HR business partners need to be visionaries, analyze trends in their industry, and embrace new systems and processes to improve the organization directly.  

They collaborate with the C-suite and the HR department managers and direct HR agendas that support organizational goals.   

What Competencies, Skills, and Qualifications Do an HR Business Partner need?

HRBP’s role and career path emerged as companies identified the need for greater employee engagement. As a well-paid and desirable senior position, it left many professionals wondering what qualities are necessary to become an HRBP.   

An HR business partner must possess the basic HR competencies to perform their role effectively. Although there is less focus on the administrative function of HR in the day-to-day job requirement, an HRBP must have the proper foundation, experience, and knowledge of the basics to focus on the big picture.  

For example, when recruiting, an HRBP may analyze HRIS systems to develop a plan for the type of candidates they want to hire, bring professionals with new skill sets into the company, or plan ways to increase diversity. 

1) Competencies

Some key competencies that an HR business partner is expected to have: 

  • Strategic Advisor 
  • Cultural Steward  
  • Recognize Emerging Trends 
  • Labor Law Compliance Procedure 
  • Performance Management 
  • Employee Facilitator 
  • Employer Brand Management 
  • Compensation Compliance Procedure 

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2) Skills

An HR business partner must possess specific technical and soft skills. These essential skills include: 

  • Strategic Decision Making   
  • Business Acumen 
  • Communication Skills 
  • Interpersonal Skills 
  • Problem Solving 
  • Negotiation Skills 
  • Data Analytics Skills 

3) Qualifications

The qualifications needed to become an HR business partner include a bachelor’s degree in a related field and experience in various HR roles. While becoming a business partner without experience or education is possible, pursuing formal education and qualifications improves a candidate’s job opportunities.   

HR Business Partner Career Path

Professionals interested in pursuing this career can take a junior or back-office HR position to develop the skills needed to progress to various CoE (Centers of Excellence) and move to senior HR business partner roles.  

Below is a model that shows the three different levels of HR business partners and possible career progressions, as derived from an SHRM paper.   


Seniority level 

Strategic Roles 

  • HR Generalist  

  • Associate BPs  

  • CoE specialists 

  • HR graduates 


Follow and support business conversations 

  • HRBP 

  • Senior CoE specialist 



Contribute to business conversations  

  • Senior HRBP 

  • VPs HR 

  • Strategic HRBP 

  • HR director 



Lead business conversations 

Written by Shortlister Editorial Team
Written by Shortlister Editorial Team