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HR Business Partner or HR Director?

Three people sitting in an office talking to each other.

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.

What is the difference between an HR business partner and an HR director?

The simple answer is that the HR director is a senior, strategic management role, while the HR business partner is a senior individual contributor who supports and collaborates with one or more of the organization's managers.

To understand the differing roles these two jobs play in supporting organizational success, and to avoid confusion, we actually need to look at three job titles: HR business partner, HR manager and HR director. The larger the organization, the more likely an employer is to clearly delineate the differing performance responsibilities between three such important roles in the HR world.

HR Business Partner

An HR business partner is a senior HR professional who has a comprehensive understanding of and expertise in how the HR function makes a line of business within the company successful.

Job responsibilities typically include coaching executives about HR issues such as strategic planning, developing supportive HR and organizational strategies, analyzing talent requirements, recruiting and onboarding. HR business partners have strong general business knowledge and specific experience within the employer's business sector that allows them to use HR capabilities to support organizational business goals. 

HR Manager

An HR manager typically holds overall responsibility for the daily implementation of HR policies and plays an important role in the smooth running of the organization. Responsibilities would include but would not be restricted to talent acquisition and development, employee productivity metrics, disciplinary procedures, payroll and benefits processing, support-staff coordination and regulatory compliance.

HR Director

The HR director is a strategic position responsible for creation and enforcement of all HR policies and programs that help the organization achieve business goals. As such, the HR director holds responsibilities that include establishing competitive salaries and benefits for all employees and overseeing all HR employees and departments. Additionally, the HR director reviews HR practices and their proper implementation by company management to ensure legality and consistency while looking for opportunities to increase productivity and contain costs. HR director jobs are regarded as executive positions, as they are responsible for budgets, profit and loss.


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