A human resources business partner working with a new employee at her desk.

What Is a Human Resources Business Partner? A Look at the Backbone of Business


Human resource departments are tasked with managing the most critical, unpredictable, and varied assets of a company: people. These teams oversee employee relations, compliance, payroll and benefits, staff onboarding and offboarding strategies, conflict resolution, and performance evaluations— all while aligning with company goals.

To help manage these processes, many businesses look outside of their company and bring in human resources business partners (HRBPs). But what is a human resources business partner, and what makes their consulting expertise such a valuable commodity? Individuals who are interested in a business leadership career related to managing an organization’s human assets should explore the following fundamental questions.

What is a Human Resources Business Partner?

The human resource business partner (HRBP) is a unique position because it typically works outside of a company’s internal human resources department. They can work directly with a company’s senior leadership to create, build, and direct various HR strategies that align with short- and long-term goals. They may collaborate directly with an organization’s C-suite employees, or act as a member of a company’s board of directors. The informed perspective offered by HRBPs has made the role increasingly valuable for developing human resources policies that fit with an organization’s goals.

The role of the HRBP is typically a consulting one. They are contracted to work with management to address various HR-related issues that directly affect management and employees. Tasks can include developing new employee management initiatives and programs, evaluating and implementing changes in workplace policies and laws, and solving complex issues among personnel. In some cases, they can help oversee international HR tasks.

The position’s underlying goal is cultivating and maintaining a strong sense of symbiosis among management and employees, both within each respective group and each other. Doing so can help improve work relationships, build a greater sense of morale, boost productivity, and ultimately create an optimized workplace.

Steps to Become a Human Resources Business Partner

Becoming a human resource business partner requires a solid understanding of human resources and management skills, gained through both education and real-world experience.

1. Education

Earning a degree commonly functions as a fundamental step to pursuing an HRBP career. Candidates for the role have at least a bachelor’s degree, although earning an advanced degree in human resources or a related field, such as a Master of Science in Leadership, may provide several potential benefits.

For instance, an advanced degree can help an individual stand out in a competitive field, as some employers may view such a degree as a sign of having acquired a deeper, more refined skill set. It may also open an individual to more job opportunities, as some employers may only consider hiring HRBPs with advanced degrees. Additionally, HRBPs may be able to leverage an advanced degree to earn a higher salary or a command a higher consulting rate.

2. Experience

Gaining experience in the human resource field is also important to prepare for an HRBP role. Working for several years as a human resources generalist or a human resources coordinator can help an individual develop skills in a real-world environment. It may also be beneficial to gain experience as a human resources manager to further hone managerial and leadership skills.

Essential Skills for Success

Companies can outsource the services of HRBPs to provide support in a range of legal, interpersonal, and administrative processes. As leaders in this role, these individuals must have certain essential skills and competencies for success.

For example, human resources business partners must excel at organization, strategic thinking, and performance management. They should possess strong communication and problem-solving skills to work alongside executives in creating goals and strategies for management and employees. These partners also must know best practices in human resources, recruiting, and workplace policies.

The Position’s Corporate Hierarchy

The position of a human resources business partner operates at a higher business level than standard human resources managers. As such, this hierarchy affects how human resources business partners approach their various responsibilities.

Compared to human resources managers, HRBPs focus on building strategies that align with the overall goals of a company. While managers may focus more on day-to-day administrative tasks such as payroll and recruiting, business partners typically introduce new initiatives that change or optimize the course of the human resources function. HRBPs often work with corporate executives and department managers to align their vision with business goals.

Salary and Job Growth Information

Human resources business partners earn a median annual salary of around $75,300, according to the compensation website PayScale. Certain factors such as experience, skills, and job description can influence the exact salary for this position. For example, an HRBP with years of experience managing a human resources team or holding a master’s degree may receive a higher salary than someone without these qualifications.

Compensation also may increase as the need and duties of human resources business partners change. A 2018 report from McKinsey & Company noted that CEOs are struggling to find effective human resources business partners. According to an article written for McKinsey by Neel Gandhi and Sarah Pobereskin, “Many business leaders today do not look to HRBPs as drivers of value via pulling talent levers; they continue to see them as personnel managers. This must change.”

As more business leaders see human resources business partners as crucial agents of change within an organization, job growth in this career should continue to increase.

Start a Career in Human Resources Leadership

As the nation’s oldest private military college, Norwich University has maintained a leadership position in innovative education since 1819. Through its online programs, the university delivers relevant and applicable curricula that empowers students to make a positive impact on their places of work and communities.

Norwich University’s online Master of Science in Leadership program can help a student build a career as a human resources business partner. With concentrations in human resources leadership and organizational leadership, the degree program develops the skills and knowledge to lead teams and inspire change, preparing participants to drive organizational success.


Recommended Readings

Career Outlook: Human Resource Managers
The Top 4 Careers in Leadership
Leadership Curriculum — Mapping Your Education


HR Business Partners: Enhancing Your Strategic Contributions, Society for Human Resources Management
What is an HR Business Partner? NaturalHR
HR Business Partner, BambooHR
Human Resource Champions: The Next Agenda for Adding Value and Delivering Results, David Ulrich
What is the Difference Between a HR Manager and a HR Business Partner?, LinkedIn
HR Business Partner or HR Director?, Society for Human Resources Management
Strategic HR Business Partner (sHRBP) Certification, Human Capital Institute
HR From the Outside In: Six Competencies for the Future of Human Resources, David Ulrich
Human Resources (HR) Business Partner 2.0, LinkedIn
Average Human Resources (HR) Business Partner Salary, PayScale
The Critical Importance of the HR Business Partner, McKinsey & Company
The HRBP’s Evolving Strategic Role, Gartner
Master of Science in Leadership, Norwich University

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