I’ve learned over the years that there is one thing every successful HR Business Partner does in their role. I’m going to tell you what that is in this post.
Before the wide embrace of the HRBP/COE model in HR teams, most of us were HR Generalists. There were a few Specialists, mainly in compensation, learning and development, and benefits. However, a vast majority of us were Generalists and we had at least basic knowledge of all functions across the HR spectrum.
Then HR departments started moving to the HR Business Partner/Centres of Excellence model, where a core group of HR Generalists would be the liaison between the business and the Centres of Excellence (previously known as Specialists). The unfortunate reality is that while this model was widely popularized by Ulrich et al, there was never a training manual for HR Business Partners. The COEs had their respective designations, conferences and other avenues to perfect their craft, but nothing for HRBPs.
And so, the unfortunate consequence of this became such that there was never a standard for HRBPs to work towards. Never mind that recruiting HRBPs has become a nightmare at best because no two HRBPs have the same skill set or expertise. Some have knowledge of all areas of HR, some are more like Account Managers to the business with no special knowledge aside from translating business objectives to HR action plans. I’m not saying one is better than the other, just that there is no consistency is how HR Business Partners operate.
As I had mentioned in a post earlier this year, HR has a reputation problem. And a big part of that comes from the fact that the group that is most client-facing has no playbook. I think Ulrich has since come out with theoretical approaches and consulting firm, Gartner, has come out with playbooks and guidelines for HRBPs, but these are largely for companies that are big enough to afford them. Small and medium sized companies, without deep pockets, are mostly left to figure things out for themselves. LinkedIn Learning has a couple of HRBP courses, and the HR Professionals Association in Ontario has a course.
In my mind, this is a glaring gap for which our profession desperately needs a solution, but in the absence of a fulsome solution, I’m writing these blog posts to help HR Business Partners with the day to day execution of their job. Today’s post highlights one thing HRBPs can do to almost guarantee their success. With this one thing, we can immediately get our finger on the pulse of our organizations, and quickly see gaps in leadership, policy, employee experience, and process. This one thing has helped me learn more about my client groups’ business and helped me learn more about the leaders of those client groups.
Yes, it’s Recruitment.
I’m not sure when exactly Recruitment separated from the HR Business Partner role, but I see it more and more. Perhaps it was always that way. Managers and Directors and even VPs of Talent Acquisition are hired to lead teams of recruiters. It has become a sort of mini-agency model. There was only one problem. Recruitment agencies, unless you’re looking for a very senior executive or someone you’ve worked with for a long time, are rarely effective.
I remember the days when I used to work with agencies. I was always frustrated with the model. I would speak to the account manager and explain everything we needed in the candidate. The account manager would then relay that information to their recruiters. More often than not, the account manager would not meet with the candidates and would blindly forward resumes from the recruiters. The end result would be candidates that were not a fit for the organization for various reasons, and a supreme waste of time for me.
I see a similar trend with this new Talent Acquisition team within HR. They’re perhaps slightly better because they’re in-house and have more knowledge of business needs. All that aside, even when the Talent Acquisition team is amazing and high performing, with this model, HR Business Partners are never involved in getting people into the company. Which becomes a problem when they’re then trying to deal with employee relations issues, motivating people, helping leaders with their team, and providing insight into the person. Plus, you can’t support leaders in executing on their objectives without knowing who is coming through the door.
Recruitment takes a lot of time… but it’s worth it
Now, I understand that recruitment can take up a big chunk of time. Over the years, I’ve calculated that it takes, on average, approximately 20 hours of work over a 6-week period to bring in one person even with my 15-minute phone interview process. A little more for senior roles, and a little less for junior roles. And if you have even 5 open roles at a time, that’s 15 hours per week over and above your day-to-day job. That’s a lot of time by anyone’s standards, but, in my view, the benefits far outweigh the cost. Keep reading, I promise you, it’s worth every minute you spend on it.
You learn the business faster
When I joined Oxford Properties back in 2012, they had a Talent Acquisition Adviser to support recruitment activities on the team. Having come from a generalist role, the concept of “outsourcing” recruitment was foreign to me. Almost all the other HR Business Partners let the Talent Acquisition Adviser manage their recruitment for them. I would have too, had it not been for sound advice I received from an HR Director at the time. He said, “Take on recruitment. We have a fabulous recruiter on the team, but my advice is to do some recruitment for your client group, at least for a little while. You’ll learn the business much faster and you’ll get unique insight into your clients.”
It was the best advice I received in those early days of my new job. I did indeed learn a ton about my clients’ business and got closer to my business leaders in less time than if I hadn’t done recruiting for them. The best compliment I got from a leader about four months into my job was that he thought I’d been there for years!
You know exactly who your clients are hiring
A big part of a leader’s job is to bring in the right talent. HR Business Partners have unique insight into the company’s corporate objectives and how well their clients’ goals align with the business goals. The people your clients hire have a direct impact on their success. It bears arguing then that hiring good people is the cornerstone of achieving business objectives. This is especially true in the knowledge economy where the success of a company is more reliant on people rather than machinery.
Aside from measuring your client’s success, the added benefit to being involved in your clients hiring is that you can help them shape their team. A big part of the HR Business Partners role is to help their clients with strategic workforce planning and be clear on the client’s goals to then help them staff and structure their organizations. If you’re not involved in hiring their people, you can’t influence hiring decisions.
Let’s face it, hiring is only a small portion of the employee life cycle. As an HR Business Partner, chances are, you’ll be seeing and hearing about new hires long after onboarding ends. This is one of the primary reasons I suggest HR Business Partners get involved in recruitment. You need to know what exactly, and who exactly, you will be working with in the future. As custodians of the company’s culture, it’s HR Business Partners’ responsibility to safeguard that culture.
You get a broader perspective of the industry and market
This is by far the best side effect of doing recruiting. Sure, it takes a lot of time, but when you’re hiring candidates from the outside, you inevitably have your finger on the pulse of the industry. You start to speak in an educated manner not just with your clients, but also with your COE partners. Whether you’re trying to help your compensation partners match jobs inside salary surveys, or help your L&D partners develop a specific program for your clients, you will have a much better idea of what your client group does when you’re involved with recruiting for their team. Plus, how cool is it to meet someone at an event and immediately know whether they’ll be a good fit for your client’s team.
It’s certainly a tall claim to say that Recruitment is the one thing that all HR Business Partners must do to succeed. Yet, I see the most successful HR Business Partners not only have immense knowledge of their clients’ business, but also have a huge network of people that they can match up with the right job. And it’s those HR Business Partners, the ones who incorporate recruitment into their roles, who climb to the senior-most HR positions and become industry leaders.
It takes effort to incorporate Recruitment activities in your day-to-day and the payoff is definitely worth it in the end. Next week I’ll be talking about how to stay sane while managing recruitment activities. I’m going to share my own process plus some tips on how I have consistently managed 10+ open roles along with a full HRBP job.
Now, I’d love to hear from you. Let me know what you think about my claim that HRBPs must do Recruitment to succeed. Comment below and share your thoughts.
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