Human resources business partners (HRBPs) accounted for 28% of HR head count and 19% of HR expenses in 2018 — the most of any HR subfunction. Not surprisingly, then, there is pressure on this group to keep pace with ever-evolving business needs and develop new skills that will help them better understand and contribute to business strategy and better serve their clients. But how will their role evolve?
HRBPs told us they want to spend 20% more time — one full day each work week — on strategic work
“Much of the new work HR professionals are anticipating mirrors the environment in which they’ll work — and in many cases, are already working,” says Meg Day, Senior Principal, Research at Gartner. “Automation will remove an increasing amount of tactical work, leaving room for HRBPs to focus on strategic activities driven by data insights.”
In a recent survey, HRBPs told us they want to spend 20% more time — one full day each work week — on strategic work. For that to happen, some of the work they currently do has to be automated, delegated or otherwise taken off their plates.
4 predictions for the HRBP role
Gartner research, based on a survey of more than 400 HRBPs and insights from in-person meetings with dozens more, surfaced four trends for the role between now and 2025:
- Technology accelerates the shift to strategic partner. Technological advancements will accelerate HRBPs’ progress toward the long-awaited “strategic partner” role. Automation will remove an increasing proportion of tactical work and support HRBPs’ remaining strategic work.
- HRBPs become stewards of the employee experience. HR functions will shift from expanding support for what employees need at work to expanding support for what employees experience at work. This shift will require HRBPs to identify the experiences employees value most and help eliminate the work that’s least valuable to employees.
- Careers in HR become “careers with (some) HR.” Historically, honing HR acumen and expertise had been a key way for HRBPs to differentiate themselves. Non-HR experience is increasingly important for HRBPs in the digital age, however, where employees demand effortless, timely, personalized interactions — creating a need for in-demand HRBP skills such as employer brand management, social media listening and customer experience-style management of the employee experience.
- HRBPs become product design experts. To keep up with changing workforce needs, HR professionals will need to change their approach to designing HR products (e.g., HR tools, policies, practices). HR must relinquish the quest for perfect, long-lasting solutions and instead create valuable, “good enough” products that evolve easily and are relevant and personalized.
What’s in for HRBPs
These tasks and attributes will increase in importance in future HRBP job descriptions:
- Do more with data. HRBPs will increasingly need to use data effectively and be fluent with HR technology and information systems so as to analyze and tell stories with data. Instead of relying on the formal employee survey, HRBPs will be asked to spot trends in employee email histories, health data, technology use tracking and other datasets to identify workforce issues and opportunities.
- Be predictive, not just proactive. Evolve from anticipating potential outcomes to being able to judge which outcomes are most and least likely to occur. Being predictive blends anticipation and prioritization in a way that proactivity alone does not — and contributes to a more strategic role for HRBPs.
- Assess risk in a different way. Compliance-focused risks, such as employee relations and misconduct issues, will be a mainstay, but HRBPs will also need to assess emerging risks, such as data privacy issues related to how organizations collect and use employee data.
Read more: The Future of Employee Monitoring
What’s out for HRBPs
These tasks and attributes will disappear from the HRBP job description in the future:
- Tactical responsibilities. In a recent Gartner survey, HRBPs said 21% of their work had already been automated, and they expect the amount to rise to 65%. Most often eliminated by automation are tasks such as benefits enrollment, applicant tracking and personnel files.
- Traditional compliance-focused risk assessment. An analysis of data from Gartner TalentNeuron™ shows that risk assessment was the skill that saw the greatest decline in demand (43%) within HRBP job descriptions from 2015 to 2018. As mentioned, compliance risk assessment won’t go away, but new types of risks will emerge.
- An HR-first, business-second mindset. HRBPs tell us they look forward to a work environment in which they are more deeply embedded in the business, with their primary focus on the business units to which they’re assigned, not HR. They also expect a greater proportion of individuals in the HRBP role to come from other parts of the organization, as success in the role will be defined more by business acumen than HR knowledge.