Across industries and company sizes, HR pros are becoming better business partners and operating in an advisory capacity to the stakeholders they serve. Unfortunately, many of us are up to our eyeballs in alligators with the daily grind of critical, detailed work that needs to be expertly handled. Being a business advisor can easily morph into simply identifying what leaders want handled, rather than pivoting to a proactive talent partner. All too often, we hear our stakeholders and respond with the minimizing question — “How can I help?”
HR pros are in a pickle. Initially, stakeholders are happy because someone asked what they need. But the tradeoff can be career-deadly: when branded as the person who needs to be told what to do, you’re seen as replaceable and not adding enough value.
Transitioning to a true business partner requires shifting your mindset and approaching your calendar differently. Your HR acumen is important, and how you choose to invest your time will ultimately drive your success.
To become a better HR business partner, do these four things:
- Learn and be insatiably curious about the business , not just the people (and inter-personal dynamics). This knowledge enables you to connect more dots and add meaningful data to conversations
- Proactively detect and share both problems and opportunities based on facts and your own discovery– don’t wait to be asked. As you listen (truly listen) to what’s happening in the business lines, formulate ideas and offer insights.
- When innovating options and creating solutions, offer options. Importantly, be ready to offer your point of view on both the advantages and tradeoffs of each option– and what you’d recommend (and why).
- Advise by helping to separate the important from the urgent. Many talent issues can seem to be time-sensitive, but actually, they’re just annoying or difficult. Successful partners can calmly prioritize where focus is required.
If you’re genuinely uncertain how best to help a stakeholder with a sticky talent need, at the very least, rephrase the question with an important qualifier: “How can I best help you right now?” Over time, answers to those questions will reduce your need to ask the question again.
Catherine Malloy Cummings is a breakthrough human resources strategist known for her ability to transform HR teams into champions of revenue and agents of business growth. She is also a speaker and author, serving as a passionate advocate for HR’s potential to drive corporate strategic advantage. Follow her on Twitter at @ChiefHRChampion