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How to Explain HR to Managers

A woman giving a presentation in front of a group of people.

Best-selling author Martin Yate, a career coach and former HR professional, takes your questions each week about how to further your career in HR.

I am want to explain the differences between the jobs of an HR business partner (HRBP) and an HR generalist. I am a CHRO and am trying to simplify this for a presentation to managers. How can I clearly and succinctly explain the differences between these two roles?

You are taking responsibility for accomplishing a more collaborative relationship between HR and management, resulting in improved profitability of the entire organization—a benefit for everybody.

Set up a series of talks with small groups of leaders from around the organization and give your presentation. Keep track of who attends and follow up with those who don't.

Use PowerPoint to create your presentation and begin each slide with a headline, followed by the topics you'll address; all should be focused on how an HRBP and a generalist each help the company's managers. Here is some sample language to get you started. You can add in your own observations and make it specific to your organization.

Slide 1: Managers' Deliverables and Responsibilities

  • A company is a complex piece of money-making machinery. Every department is an important cog in that machinery.
  • Every organization constantly seeks ways to improve profitability.
  • To maximize profitability, all departments need to interact smoothly to reach common goals.
  • More interaction between departments with very different bodies of knowledge will have to occur.
  • The prime responsibility of every manager is to get work done through others to meet departmental goals and support corporate objectives.
  • These issues all impact your personal success.

Slide 2: HR Deliverables That Help Managers and the Organization

  • HR has a responsibility to do everything it can to support corporate goal achievement, helping you get work done productively with peers and through direct reports.
  • Think of HR as the oil that helps all departmental cogs run smoothly, supporting many different interests that help the enterprise operate efficiently.
  • HR must always ensure that all operations are executed in the ways that minimize the likelihood of costly legal issues.
  • Managers' success can be leveraged by differentiating and using the functions of the HR generalist and the HRBP appropriately.

Slide 3: HR Generalists' Deliverables to Managers

  • Generalists are responsible for recruiting new hires and managing the staffing process in a timely manner. This can only happen with managers' support and timely involvement, and this supports managers' personal success.
  • They also are responsible for the staff's professional development, including onboarding, career development and training. Managers are not relieved of responsible involvement, because none of this development can happen without them.
  • Generalists oversee employee welfare, safety, wellness, health and counselling.
  • They also facilitate performance review and management.
  • Generalists develop compensation and benefits systems that are legal and keep the company competitive in the recruitment arena.
  • Generalists develop and implement policy documents and handbooks that are legally responsible and in line with corporate goals.

Depending on company structure, there may be one or many HR generalists supporting these and other initiatives.

Slide 4: HRBPs' Deliverables to Managers

The HRBP only climbs the rungs of the HR career ladder by exhibiting superior performance with all the deliverables of the HR generalist.

The experience and maturity that come with this journey enable the HRBP to interact with senior management, looking at a range of issues from multiple viewpoints while focused on a common goal: protecting the company's best interests.

The HRBP is a professional able to define enterprise-wide business goals and align them with legal concerns. The HRBP helps create the HR framework needed to deliver on those goals while maintaining or upgrading the HR capabilities necessary for their achievement.

HRBP capabilities include:

  • Understanding business mandates and communicating in business terms.
  • Helping line and staff management connect business goals with the strategies, tactics and manpower to achieve them.
  • Identifying stumbling blocks to these goals and suggesting ways around them.
  • Explaining the HR legal requirements that will be encountered as businesses work toward their goals, how to  efficiently meet the goals, and how to navigate the HR framework as the goals are achieved.
  • Developing and managing any necessary new pay plans, benefits programs and performance appraisal systems.
  • Using HR metrics to support new initiatives.

Slide 5: The Takeaway

Line and staff managers who witness this presentation will understand the different ways HR makes their lives easier and careers more successful, actively supports an organization's success, and benefits everyone. They will know that the entire HR function exists to encourage the company's success, and by extension, the success of every individual manager.

You should encourage questions and, time allowing, break into small groups to discuss a new or current initiative. Then, especially after those first couple of events, talk to each participant individually about what they gained and what they'd like to hear more about.


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