HR typically started as a business function by having its roots in administration, filing, personnel and compliance. HR is an ever evolving value add area of a company, and presently has more impact than ever before for a core business. With this change over the past decade, has changed the nature and structure of HR teams, the titles, skills and attributes of those working in this dynamic field.

Today, I was discussing the many differences between a HR Manager Role and a HR Business Partner role with a HR professional who has held both positions within companies. After what was a very interesting conversation, I decided to attempt to outline and simplify the fundamental differences between the two titles/roles.

HR Business Partner

Human resource business partners have clients within the organization that they support. They provide resources and build relationships with focusing on the missions and objectives set forth by the organization. With the main bulk of administration being centralised, there is much less focus on compliance and administration. In addition, HRBP’s tend to be supported by Centres of Excellence eg Compensations and Benefits, Learning and Development etc. This person is seen as more of a strategic resource for the region or area that they support. Business Partners work to develop a HR agenda that closely supports the overall aims of an organisation. This process of alignment is known as HR Business Partnering, a concept that was popularised in the mid 90’s by David Ulrich.

HR Manager

HR managers are likely to be responsible for HR within a department or for the company (depending on the size). They normally have multiple HR staff reporting to them. Depending on the organisation, HR managers may be responsible for setting policy direction. They can have a wider remit of responsibility for the overall HR function – budgeting, recruitment, change management, rewards, L&D, ER/IR, compliance and HR systems administration.

It would be fair to say that some organisations have adopted the term HRBP even when the role being carried out is in fact more of a classical HR Manager. Sometimes, the lines are blurred between the two titles and that causes confusion for applicants. The attributes required to carry out a HRBP role tends to be more strategic, consultative and coaching in nature. This may or may not suit or interest many traditional HR Managers who prefer to roll up their sleeves and be involved in the full suite of HR activities.

“As the pace of change increases in every aspect of our lives, HR professionals have become change champions in many companies around the world, and this has generally been much to their employers’ advantage.” ― David Ulrich, HR from the Outside In: Six Competencies for the Future of Human Resources

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