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3 Ways for HR Business Partners to Improve their Talent Management Basics

HR Business Partners have wide-ranging roles but they can't neglect fundamentals like good talent management. Not only will it make them less effective, it can also undermine their credibility with line colleagues

HR business partners, who work with line and functional managers on any HR-related issue, have a large and wide-ranging role. This ranges from helping underperforming employees, to being a strategic advisor, to putting in place new HR IT systems.

Understandably, HR business partners (HRBPs) need to be good at the basics of talent management, and those they work with in the line or corporate function need to have confidence in their talent management skills.

While this may seem like a straightforward aspiration, it isn’t particularly easy to fulfil. Of the almost 40 activities commonly managed by HR functions, HRBPs tend to be the primary owners of over half, and indirectly influence the rest (see chart 1).


Strategic HR Business Partner Activities

Chart 1: Activities commonly managed by HR functions  Source: CEB analysis

Click chart to expand


Three Questions to Ask

With such a lengthy talent management to-do list, it’s hard for HR Business Partners to know where to start, but three questions will help.

  1. Defining – What should an HRBP know about talent management?: While HRBPs’ specific set of talent management responsibilities vary based on how their roles are designed, all HRBPs need talent management acumen and will have chances to apply it during activities that span the employee lifecycle, such as employee attraction, development, and engagement.

  2. Delivering – How should an HRBP apply talent management expertise on the job?: HRBPs use five partnership styles when delivering strategic HR support. These are, “leading with data,” “thought partnering,” “connecting,” “supporting,” and “asserting.”

    The three styles which have the most impact, according to CEB data, are leading with data (e.g., analyzing business-unit financial results to identify potential talent-related causes of any under performance), thought partnering (e.g., running a 1:1 coaching session with a senior line manager to probe her perspective on potential causes of low engagement survey scores), and connecting (e.g., creating an onboarding plan and recommendations for the incoming leader of your business unit).

  3. Prioritizing – How should an HRBP balance all of their talent management responsibilities on the job?: The scope of the HRBP role is so broad that HRBPs often aren’t able to support every project or initiative they’d like to.

    HRBPs should diagnose how talent management needs have evolved (often incredibly quickly in the past 18 months or so) and should share tips and advice on how to prioritize and meet those needs with HR colleagues around the company, and in their external networks.

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