When I tell people I am an HR professional the reaction is always the same: “oh really? I hate HR, they are useless.” Before I experienced being a Business Partner myself, I kind of agreed with that statement. The only time you tend to meet with your HR contact is when they recruit you and then when there is trouble in the air. They never seem to fight for you but always for the business and they always look extremely busy — but doing what? And then I joined the HR operational team. I only lasted a year before going through depression (FR. ‘burn out’) and leaving this job as quickly as I could. Two years later, I feel it’s now time for me to tell you the truth about HR and why you should love and respect your HRBP.
1. They care about people…
Most HR professionals I know are people-oriented and find their purpose in helping others. Their willingness to help out is actually the primary reason for them to go for a career in Human Resources. It’s only after a few years in the job that they realise that being an HR professional is much more complex than what they thought and the toughness of the job often overtake their genuine care for people.
2. … And yet they have to make the toughest decisions
The role of HR is to make sure that any people decision fit with the business objectives while being fair, transparent and consistent. But there is no exact science on how to do this. Most of the time you’ll have to follow your guts and do what seems to be the best for all parties, knowing that there will always be someone getting hurt in the process or disagreeing with you. So not only your work has a huge impact on people’s lives but you keep being criticised for what you do and how you do it — even if most of the time it’s not even your decision!
3. They are often covering for managers’ lack of courage
How many times have I heard “you are not getting the promotion but it’s HR’s fault” or “according to them you were underperforming”? Too many that’s for sure. When difficult conversations are a surprise for an employee it is usually because of the manager’s lack of continuous communication and feedback. Not because of HR. Fortunately, there are also a lot of great managers working hand in hand with HR to develop their leadership skills and manage their team to the best of their abilities.
4. They are overloaded
It’s annoying. You have sent this email 5 times to your HRBP and they have never replied to you. When I was HRBP I used to receive about 300 emails a day, including about 30 ‘urgent’ ones. I was doing my best to answer them all and action them, even if it meant sleeping 3h a night, every night. But why so many emails? Well, first because an HRBP tend to look after 300 people, including some demanding leaders and managers, and then because people address them for almost anything. I remember a time when a manager asked me who could look after his dog during his holidays. Or another one if I could talk to his team about their performance ratings — isn’t it his job? We ask HR to be more strategic and less operational but we don’t develop our managers to be more self-sufficient in managing their teams which would free up some time for HR to develop their own strategic skills.
5. They hear complaints all day long
When do you see HR you said? When they recruit you or if there is trouble in the air. Well here you go. This is what an HR professional do all day: listen to people complaining. All day long. Sometimes it’s even quite depressing because people tend to give details on their lives and their difficulties. As HR, you are not prepared for this. Nobody told you how to handle so much negative information and how to avoid being impacted yourself. You have to build a closure and go into ‘robot mode’ as I used to call it. If not, you end up like me, crying with the employee telling you their story, going through depression and flying out of the job.
6. They get no recognition for their work
Have you ever said thank you to your HRBP for the support they gave you? If not, it’s time to do so. Working in HR is the most ungrateful experience one can ever have. First because nobody recognises your work as ‘proper work’: it’s all about dealing with emotions rather than doing anything for the business. And then because almost no-one ever says thank you for what you do. It’s then really hard to feel recognised in your job or to feel useful — this exact feeling for which you chose this job in the first place (cf. Point 1).
7. They have no-one to look after them
Who looks after you when your manager is also your HRBP? Well, no-one. If you are having troubles or would need some advice, your only way is to ask for help externally or eventually ask another HR colleague which could lead to some unwanted tensions in the HR team. And so, who would you ask who is looking after your dog during your holidays? Well I guess for this one you can look for yourself…
Conclusion: You should LOVE and respect your HRBP.
This article’s objective is not to criticise managers or employees. The goal is really for people to realise how tough it is to work in HR and that HRBP would benefit a lot from a simple thank you or recognition for their work. And let’s just remind ourselves from time to time that BP means Business Partner; it’s a two-way relationship. I would have achieved my goal if next time you see your HRBP you send them some love and when someone tells you they work in HR you don’t think they are useless or that you hate them.