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Can Human Resource Professional be a Strategic Business Partner?

In continuation of my on-going discussion on the latest HR trends of the year, I would like to take you all the readers through the trending profile of HR professional as a Strategic Business Partner to the businesses. It’s definitely been over a decade now that I personally have been witnessing the struggles in the Human Resource function to graduate itself to be a meaningful partner to the businesses. This is a struggle is very evident as for HR to rightfully take this position as the approach for the same should be top to bottom, this should be acknowledged first by the management. Management? Why am I talking about management here? Because the management, the businesses for years have titled the HR function nothing more than the so-called “the business support function”.
So what is a business support function?  Well, a business support function is actually a key enabler due to which the organization achieves success, so what is bad about it? They are the key contributor to the success of the organization but these functions are an “overhead “to the organization.  Yes, it all boils down to being a function that is vital to the success of the organization but merely an overhead. So the flip-side to this title is that no matter what activities (which do directly contributes to the organization to achieve their goals) the HR function performs, their activities are an overhead (i.e. cost) to the organization and they are needed to be justified from time to time. Hence, my sincere attempt will be to convince you all reading this blog that the perception that we currently have regarding the HR function to change. This is required in today’s business scenario and the sooner we do the better it will be. Many prominent companies have taken this leap of faith and have only reaped the benefits from this change in their perception.

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Firstly I will help you all understand the different aspect of the HR function.
Let’s begin from the start (always the best place to start) by understanding what an HR function is.
We all are well versed with the fact that every company has its own work culture and ethics. They encompass of vision, mission, values, working norms, systems, processes, and most important the people associated with the companies. Great, so what the HR professional has to do with this? Isn’t the top management entitled to implement this at the organizational level? Well firstly, an HR professional is surely a part of this management and secondly, a good HR professional will be the only medium through which all of these management aspects will be informed to all the existing employees and also to the new recruits. How will they do this? Definitely through continuous communication, also through various HR policies and processes, also the strategies like employee engagement, (definitely something I would love to discuss in one of my future blogs) training and development just to name few. It’s very simple to understand if one really wants to, the HR function is all about handling the most important asset of any organization and that is the Human asset. Hence all the strategies, policies and processes related to this asset is the major area of work of the HR professional. Taking a further look in the working profile of the HR it will be compensation & benefits, recruitment, induction/onboarding, training, retention, employee engagement, documentation, activities that will create a good work culture, a culture that promotes fair practices and enhancing the performance of the employees, which further can be accentuated through implementing an effective R & R programs (Rewards & Recognitions), polices for safety & security, employer branding – building a positive company image and lastly handling the  separation of the employee. The list of the various duties of the HR function is yet not even close to exhaustion. I hope now we do get a holistic view of the actual work of a company’s HR functions.

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Now let’s discuss the concept of a Strategic Business Partners/Partnerships.
A strategic business partnership is where two organizations are involved in mutual and lucrative benefit. It is not based on a short – term financial gains but a long – term business relationship which focuses on creating a joint value for the companies involved. The success of the strategies doesn’t depend solely on the financial gains but on the ‘values’ created by the organizations involved in the partnership. Hence a strategic alliance is not based on extraction or exchange from one organization for others.
There are however many benefits of strategic partnership let’s take a look on a few of them:
Assertively overcoming the changes: 
There is always a fear of change as the market is dynamics which keeps changing impacting the revenues or sales forecast. The major changes sometimes could be because of the change in the government policies, many times small and local businesses have found refuge with their alliances with professional employer organizations. The consequences are that there is a better scope for growth and faster recovery when have to face such unescapable scenarios.


Expertise and resources are increased:
Here you can consider a business aiming for better business development in a particular focused market and hence develops a strategic alliance with an association or an expert. Now through this strategic alliances, the budding businesses can gain a lot of timely and apt expertise advises which can indeed help them in overachieving their sales goals and/or reducing their product sales life cycle. 
Reduce cost:
There is no debate that all the businesses sole focus is on how to reduce the cost of its organization. For example, a larger organization will create a strategic alliance with their partners by sharing their company’s product as it happens in the IT industry where the product companies share their software products with their channel partners. Now their benefit in sharing their expensive technology is that they save the cost on their sales professional, they have limited sale overheads. Cost is saved on hiring, training and the product company only focuses on the customers need and support and is productively engaged in continuous improvement.
So I guess we are now clearer on the term Strategic Business Partners/Partnerships. A clear understanding of both the concepts i.e. HR functions and Strategic Business Partnership will help my attempt in establishing a logical association in them both. 

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Now let’s connect the dots, HR function as a Human Resource (Strategic) Business Partners.
So as per my discussion HR function is all about human management which is the most crucial resource for any organization and strategic business partnership is based on a long-term relationship where the success depends on values.
The all-time requirement of any business is to create an organization which is agile enough to survive through the dynamics of the markets. So how can this be done? Well creating a great quality product (definitely yes) which is customer-oriented and has the value for money. Creating a positive employer image (it’s a necessity and if you need more clarity on this please read my blog on Employer Branding), creating a loyal talent pool, most importantly customer alliance – this can be only created when we have a customer who is satisfied which in-turns create loyalty. I guess I have considered a few of the important factors that will create an organization which will not only help it to survive but smoothly sails through any business glitches.  
This brings us to questions like which is the function that will create a talent pool of employees that will be instrumental in creating that product which will prove to be vital in creating satisfied customers.
Also, help in creating a healthy and motivating work culture due to which the employees are engaged enough to perform to their maximum capabilities.

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And which function will directly contribute to a positive employer image by giving a pleasant experience to the potential employees (candidates) further attracting them to join the organization?
So considering all the above aspects we can now clearly see that it’s the HR function that has a direct impact on creating an organization which proves to be agile in this dynamic market.
Let me further strengthen my opinion, we all know the importance of a subject matter expert, a subject matter experts (SME) is crucial in many aspects of the business as they help in providing an insight which can be overlooked or be missed even by the top management. A subject matter expert has a holistic view on the area of his expertise and works on it relentlessly. Therefore HR function is the expert when it comes to handling the human assets of any organization and thus proves to be the ideal professional to provide the top management with their informative insights in their proven areas. How do they have such insight? Well, their work profile is all about Human Management and this as we discussed before can be worked through their effective HR policies and strategies. Moreover, day in and day out they work with, for and along with the employees further strengthening their bond and efficiency to influence the employee in a more positive way.
In closing my discussion I would like to add that looking at an HR professional as an effective strategic business partner can be positively achieved when the management will allow them to analyses, change (if required) and align the (existing and if not available new policies) HR policies as per the need of the business.

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