Essentially, according to Dave Ulrich, HR business partners are professionals who work closely with an organisation’s senior leaders in order to develop a HR strategy that closely supports the overall aims of the organisation. The concept of HR Business partnering stems back to the 1990s and Dave Ulrich’s model of organising HR outlined in his book “HR Champions” identifies four roles of the HR professional: Strategic partner , change agent, employee champion and administrative expert.
We interviewed a few HR Managers to get their understanding of HR Business partnering and their roles in making the HR function a success in organization, and this is what they had to say
What is your understanding of HR Business Partnering :
Sharon Kisire : Strategic HR is about HR getting the opportunity to contribute to the strategy for the company. Being able to be at the strategy table, being part of the decisions that are made for the company in terms of where the company is heading, it’s strategic thinking, it’s strategic planning, then the HR business model becomes very key to ensure that HR is represented at the units, departments, and all the way down to the divisions.
Jackson Ongoji : I look at strategic management from three angles. Stakeholders, employees and the customers. These three pillars are the ones that hold the business firmly. Business partnering comes in when these three pillars work together with a common aim of profitability, that is measurable.
Is it True that HR is not given the same level of respect as its peers
Christine Wachina : Depending on the business, industry and the environment, there is a little bit of difference. Some organisations have embraced the HR function and have been given it’s space. However some organisations still treat the HR function at an operational level. Some challenges we experienced back in the day was the lack of regulation. When a profession is not regulated, it ceases to get the seriousness it deserves.
As a HR practitioner, it is more about what you give the business. If you place yourself strategically and understand the business needs and support the employees to achieve that, I believe you should get a seat at the table.
Joshua Karani : The HR person needs to think about how they are accepted into the business. Acceptance means, how well can you articulate the business. Some say they sit at the table and some say they are not even close to the door. I have been seating at the table for the last 18 years. Sometimes it is based on individuals and how they relate with the business. When people have that basic understanding of the HR, then there are people who are able to mentor them in the process, but to a greater extent, HR is self driven. You have to build competencies, that can enable you to communicate across the business, and you have to be a strategic thinker.
What challenges do you face in trying to become a HR business Partner
Christine Wachina : With due respect most organisations in Kenya are still in the old HR target model of the HR generalist. So you end up doing a little bit of all the functions in the organisation, so becoming strategic 100% becomes a challenge. If there is a distribution in the HR pillars, I believe that HR would move to the next level, to have the practitioner in the area that they are best suited.
Sharon Kisire : One of the challenges that HR managers face
1. Their own knowledge about the business. You cannot contribute strategically, if you don’t understand the business in which you are operating in
2. The thinking of the external people who see HR as payroll processors and nothing else
3. We are bogged down a lot with operational work. For instance, employees would come and talk to a HR manager than an officer, because they feel their issued will be heard more on senior level, which makes it hard to be a part of strategy
What advice can you give to upcoming HR Professionals
Sharon Kisire : They must understand the business within which they are operating. 2.th ey must understand the law – the employment act – the regulated act that comes by that – and they also have to improve a lot on their interpersonal relations. People look at HR managers and they make conclusions about how they look. They need to improve their communication skills. The letters you write, every single word communicates something to the employees. 5. Create time. Employees Value the time they spend with their HR director.
Jackie Ongoji : They must ask themselves “what can I bring to the table” and they need to help the business to grow in it’s revenue. If it is through people, they need to set strategies and targets to achieve that with the people in mind. They need to go a notch higher, and understand what the business wants. Contribute to the business, and having their own P&L, that shows, you are building on the business
Christine Wachina : They need to know this is not a one time affair and that it has its own challenges. Most importantly, they need to be patient, and with time and the effort they put in, you will have time to grow in the career. Do not start the career today and hope to be the HR manager tomorrow, appreciate that it is worth taking a step at a time, as you build capacity and gain experience which is key in the HR role.
Joshua Karani : There is a lot of development but we are still chasing the tail on operational issues. Understand the business, the in and outs of the business. – competitors, market, audiences – Think like a business person, and not as an administrator. If they think as a business person, then they will be respected by the business community!
HR Professionals Interviewed Christine Wachina – Head of HR, Hotpoint Appliances Ltd Jackie Ogonji – General Manager Human Resources, Liquid Telecom Sharon Kisire – General Manager, Human Resource & Administration, Kenya Pipeline Company Joshua Karani – HR Director, AON Kenya
HR Professionals Interviewed
Christine Wachina – Head of HR, Hotpoint Appliances Ltd
Jackie Ogonji – General Manager Human Resources, Liquid Telecom
Sharon Kisire – General Manager, Human Resource & Administration, Kenya Pipeline Company
Joshua Karani – HR Director, AON Kenya