Leading HR in the future: The HRBP view

Two HR business partners gave their views on the skills and characteristics HR talent will need to reach the top in the future

Nick McPhee, HR business partner at Southeastern Railway, says:

“I think HR leaders should unequivocally come from the HRBP world. And if we’re doing that role right then what’s to stop the HRD then becoming CEO?

But for the most part from what I’ve come across, I think a lot of HRBPs are still transactional and still there as hand-holders and order-takers. But we have to be the unpopular opinion and have strong values and morals. We have to be influencers now because we have to challenge for the right reasons. We need to look externally and say ‘our neighbour across the road is doing this better’, and use data to say ‘they’re doing it this way and have seen this increase’.

Whether businesses have the resources to develop HRBPs in this will all depend on the value that an HRBP is seen to bring. When you look at my industry, HR is still seen as a support service to the business, not necessarily as a strategic partner. For there to be the investment needed in HRBPs, HR needs to prove its worth in driving and delivering strategic change at the same level that its operational counterparts do.”

Ami Bartrip, HR business partner at Financial Times, says:

“I think a lot of HRBP roles aren’t HRBP roles; they’re HR managers or senior generalists. If you’re an advisor people often see their next step as becoming an HRBP. But I disagree; an HRBP role is very different. I came into HR from a psychology route because I wanted to work in business and always wanted to be a business partner; that’s what makes me good as an HRBP, as opposed to my earlier roles in HR.

So we need to make sure that HR professionals know that they can progress their career without necessarily becoming an HRBP. So much is around relationships, influence, negotiation and commercial understanding, which is a different skillset to many traditional HR roles. I think HR in the past has been bad at developing its own. So I think BPs need to own their own development.

In my organisation HRBPs are part of the leadership team and report to the global HRD, so there’s only one role above us. The HR leader of the future needs to be really assessing everything that’s going on internally and externally and how the people agenda can support the business agenda. So adaptability and resilience will be crucial; it’s about continually driving change.”

Further reading

Anatomy of a future HR leader