Know the Business

Having fallen into Human Resources by accident from several other departments, I am often confused by how many of my HR colleagues approach partnering with their leaders. Typically I see HR business partners just show up; provide relevant HR updates, deliverables, deadlines; answer a few questions; and then leave – if they show up at their leaders’ staff meetings at all. I had thought that the updated title or HR Business Partner, would help HR professionals understand that HR is a BUSINESS. This is clearly tied to my question of Who Does HR Serve? Ironically, my HR colleagues are puzzled by how I’m able to insert myself into client groups quickly and get things done. Here are some of my tips…

  1. Approach how you support your clients from a BUSINESS point of view. How do you want to set-up your shop? If you were working for yourself, how would you approach partnering with your leader? Once I answer these questions, I am able to dive in…
  2. Meet with your leader(s) and ask them the following:
  • What are your biggest business concerns now? (90/180/365 days out)
  • What are your business goals this year? What will you be focusing on as a group?
  • What are some of your critical milestones from last year that are still relevant?

3. You’ll see that in my above questions, they were not about people. Your people questions are important, but should only be asked once you have an understanding of what the business pressures/goals are.

4. Attend all of the meetings that you are able to – especially at the beginning. However, I caution you… do not simply sit in the room. If you are attending a business meeting, ASK QUESTIONS. Really, you can learn a lot. I know, I know – this is where my HR peeps usually freak out. “I don’t really need to know about XX;” “I’ll appear dumb if I ask these basic questions;” and so on. None of these things are true (or bad) – asking questions to better understand what your clients are working on, concerned about, facing; will better help you integrate with them as a team member, and you’ll earn a lot of respect by showing that you’re more than just an “HR lackey.”