The Difference Between an HR Business Partner & Just HR

hr, hr business partner, differences

Human Resources. HR. It’s an industry that is elusive in understanding many including your CEO, hiring manager or employees. Just exactly who is HR and what do they do for your business, compliance and for the employee? I’ve often said that HR has a PR problem, but in truth, it’s more than that. It’s a full-on branding and communication problem mainly due to the complexities of the industry.

This complexity starts with the history of HR having its roots in administration, filing, personnel, and compliance for your company. HR grew out of necessity as employment laws, government requirements and other employee documentation became more complex starting with the creation and storage of employee files, OSHA documentation, I-9’s and the hiring and onboarding process of new employees. Organized HR ladies and gents were rewarded for these skills in policy writing, payroll processing, and filing organization by becoming the HR Manager or Director given the size of the company.

hr-business-partner

The ROI of HR as a Business Partner

As HR grew in its complexity becoming more involved in business forecasting, establishing business ROI and executing progress that could be directly tied to future and current business success, so evolved the role of the HR professional into something more than it ever intended to be. We are strategic business partners forcibly involved in the success of organizations evaluating not just hiring, firing and traditional hiring advisory roles but so much more. This is where the HR ROI Scale developed by Paul Kearns (seen below) comes into play.

HR-ROI-Scale

Job titles, responsibilities, business involvement, and other factors make HR an interesting and challenging career to work and play. A lonely yet noble profession, it’s not uncommon for HR professionals to have little to no friends of work social life due to the complexities the industry brings. Thursdays happy hour work drinking buddy could be the subject of Friday’s termination meeting, and HR doesn’t like being seen as favoriting employees or silly little things like feelings getting in the way of being the voice of reason at your company.

Understanding Job Descriptions & Responsibilities in HR

As the HR ROI Scale above suggests, the more strategic the role, the more complex strategies, and decision making becomes in your HR role at the company. While I’m not an advocate of using the term personnel management, it does sum up a great deal of what the lesser strategic but not less important roles might be.

HR Coordinator

A true administrative position. An HR coordinator has responsibility for filing, maintaining reports, processing payroll and typically the scheduling of interviews. HR Coordinators might plan and organize events, develop email content for newsletters and other inter-office communication within the department and the company. Their roles are focused on administration providing a valuable service to the organization in maintaining order and a system for everything. They are hourly non-exempt workers. Related: HR Coordinator Job Description

hr coordinator human resources salary range

HR Specialist

Typically 1-3 years of experience working in HR. Still focused on administration, payroll processing and other administrative tasks. HR specialists can gain additional experience working on specialty projects, employee orientation, training, and pre-screen interviewing. Human Resource Specialists have a basic understanding of some employment law. They are hourly non-exempt workers and serve as a go-t0 resource for employees and managers alike. Related: HR Specialist Job Description

human resources HR specialist salary range compensation

HR Managers

Typically a salary level position these human resource managers may or may not oversee and supervise a staff of employees. Generalists in their roles these individuals often do a bit of everything including benefits, compensation, recruiting and handling employee relations issues each and every day. The responsibilities in this role are very wide. I’ve experienced everything from location forecasting and budgeting, recruiting and interviewing, compliance to overseeing EEOC investigations and claims. HR Managers sometimes process payroll but are less administrative than coordinator or specialist roles. Often they are cross-trained in the administrative tasks for emergencies. Related: HR Manager Job Description and Salary Information 

HR human resources manager salary

HR Directors

Often responsible for HR teams of 2 or more, human resource directors oversee a region, a number of locations or serve as the highest ranking member of HR within the company but this is not always the case. HR Directors often are responsible for building annual budgets and often times have decision making when it comes to buying software, systems and negotiating benefits offerings for the company. Less likely to be a department of 1 than the HR Manager, their responsibilities are less compliance and policy and more focused on building relationships with executive team members and driving results for the organization focused on human capital and company. Related: HR Director Job Description and Salary Information

 

human resource director hr salary range compensationHR Business Partner

This role is seen less of a generalist or manager and someone who takes a more consultative role working in HR. Human resource business partners have clients within the organization they provide resources and build relationships with focusing on the missions and objectives set forth by the organization. There is much less focus on compliance and administration. An organization instead typically has an HR Services Center or central department to help provide support in the form of policy development and enforcement, benefits, and compensation. This person is seen as an operational and more strategic resource for the region or area in which they support. This is an exempt level position. Related: HRBP Job Description and Salary Information

hr human resources business partner

VP of HR

Depending on the size of the organization, the vice president of human resources often reports directly to the CEO or COO of an organization although sometimes the CHRO or chief human resource officer has this distinction. Depending on the structure and size of the organization, the VP of HR works with the executive team to discuss business objectives. They view financial documents and work to understand how the focused programs and services they offer the organization drive revenue. The VP of HR works to integrate people into the full scope of business operations evaluating how the impact of human capital benefits the overall organization. This position is heavily focused on business metrics, reporting, and analytics directly in contrast to the administrative roots of the industry. This is an exempt level position and often a key decision maker at the company. Related: List of Job HR Job Titles and Descriptions 

Where you fit within the HR matrix and your title and responsibilities is truly unique to you.

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell

Jessica Miller-Merrell (@jmillermerrell) is a workplace change agent, author and consultant focused on human resources and talent acquisition living in Austin, TX. Recognized by Forbes as a top 50 social media influencer and is a global speaker. She’s the founder of Workology, a workplace HR resource and host of the Workology Podcast.

Reader Interactions

Comments

      • Hi,
        Its very healthy what you sharing but my question is why still so many orgs.taking it oky with secretary level jobs or admin levels in a Hr personel.. infact Hr professions demands specific KSA,s and KPI,s..why mixing it with other minor professions.?

        • The HR profession has its roots as an admin or secretary which is one of the reasons that many companies still lump HR in this category. HR is so much more than an admin. In fact, our work in this area is only a small percentage for truly strategic HR organizational roles.

          Jessica

          • In other simple words, companies don’t want to pay more to hire strategic hr professionals as they still consider employees are the cost rather than an asset

  1. I’m wary of these designations/definitions. There is a HUGE disparity in how companies title/brand HR roles within their organizations in the United States. Indeed, my company does not use the same definitions for the titles you’ve listed.

    Making assumptions about an HR professional’s roles and responsibilities based on their title alone is dangerous. Unlike other functions (e.g. IT, Finance, Procurement), there are no recognized industry standards for HR titling.

    • Hi Alexandre,

      Thank you for the comment. I agree with you. I would like some standardization but in HR we can’t even agree on standardization of metrics for hiring best practices so I’m not sure that we can get to titles. I do think that titles confuse many and also different titles are associated with specific experience levels but not always. This is why I wrote the blog post because I think there is a great deal of confusion.

      Jessica

  2. Human Resources Manager/ business partner, always align the HR functions with the organization strategies, this helps the organization to acknowledge the weaknesses to fix so as to turn into opportunity throught HR Business partners.
    In the Organization it is very important to have HR department, since they are the Change agent for the HR activities but also business strategies, that may help organization to achieve a competitive advantages

  3. Hi Jessica,

    Thanks for your blog and the differentiation in definitions. However, what should be your attitude when you work with Top Level Management made of engineers who do not understand what the role of HR is? They refer to you only what they are in trouble. Is it fair and honest to let this go and while an HR employee, in an organization, no matter his title specialist, business partner, senior HR, HR coordinator, VPOHR, is supposed to talk to all the layers of the organization and make sure employees are used efficiently and effectively to achieve the goals of the company he/she works for.

  4. Please do let me know the impact of the implementation of HRBP concept in organization if the business is on Sales and service industry. We have very old HR strategies that we have been following since the beginning.

  5. Brilliant article Jessica – as always. While there may be title variations in the roles you’ve discussed (and as we need to shape our HR teams to be the best fit for the organisation, there will continue to be) I really love the definitions.
    From a global perspective there will be a bigger difference in role titles between countries (e.g. often the “manager’ ‘group manager’ or ‘general manager’ is the most senior HR role in a large organisation).
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  6. This definitions are definitely very helpful and insightful. I am currently a customer service/sales analyst planning to acquire a certification in HR but not so sure where I’ll fit into for HR services.

  7. Is it possible for anyone to start a business with the aim of providing HR Generalist services to the client. If yes, then what is the growth rate?

  8. Hello,

    Thanks for your blog, it’s really helpful!

    Could you share with me what is the differences between HR Admin Management and HR Business Partner, please?

    Much appreciated for your prompt reply.

    All the best,

  9. dEAR jESSICA, tHANK YOU FOR THE ARTICLE. IT IS DEFINITELY INFORMATIVE, HOWEVER THE LEGIBILITY OF title definitions may not still be defined. Major reason WHY i STICK TO THE TITLE BUSINESS PARTNER hr roles WHICH IS COMPARATIVELY WELL ESTABLISHED IN MOST OF THE SECTORS AND ORGANISATIONS. it is strategic in nature and often perceived to be one of the key roles across industries and HR market.

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