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Strategic business partner: Can I be one?




From my Human Resources standing, one function that is really growing across the globe is that of a Strategic HR Business Partnering. Seeing HR as having a seat at the table and knowing the business enough to partner with them in deploying programs and services has grown to be a specialty. I have seen HR grow from the days of hiring and firing, being company administrative officer, policy interpreters and now strategically supporting businesses and organisations in her growth vision. To be a strategic partner is now a mantra for HR folks across the world. This involves being included in conversations on the future of the business and having a real voice in those conversations.


Strangely enough, I have seen other functions like IT, Finance, Public Relations and Legal in organisations saying the same thing. It is now interesting to be a strategic business partner. So, how do I become one or get invited to these organisation-critical conversations or more importantly, what does it take to become an actual participant in these conversations? People do try to force their way into these conversations but it rarely works. They will soon be forgotten along the way or get ignored at these meetings. I have seen different ways in which some groups or individuals have become strategic business partners and I can share some below:


Understanding the business is key. You need to know the company and what the company or organisation stands for and how everything fits together in the company. If you show a profound knowledge of the business, you will no doubt get invited to these meetings. You will need though a thorough understanding of how different parts of the business operate together and what gets in the way of their smooth operation. You must understand the vision, the mission, the goals, the competitors, the strategic edge and some financials of the company and be ready to articulate your understanding.


Leaving your current space is also necessary. You will need to start looking at the company or organization beyond your current function or background. Take a step back and think of the overall interest of the company. Moving from doing tactical stuffs to more strategic thinking will matter. You will start talking from a vantage point and be seen as strategically partnering with the organization.


One thing that I have found useful with experience is to listen and learn. I believe it’s time to start getting deeply curious about what is happening in the organisation. Seeking new information, listen to others talk, getting new ideas and matching it to what you already know is the way to go. This will absolutely get you towards strategically partnering with the organisation.


Another important fact that I have found is to become useful and very valuable to the company in achieving her goals. Easier said than done you will say. I have seen workers across different organizations and businesses that make big stuffs look easy for the company and I have seen workers who make small stuffs look like a mountain to remain relevant. I guess it’s easy to see who will become valuable to the company. Valuable workers get invited to these conversations that impact on the future of the company.


Another key skill to have to become a strategic business partner is Communication. Be able to communicate effectively with all cadres in the organisation or business. Maintain your contacts and frequently check with your contacts to help with understanding the situation within your organisation on real time basis. Strong communications skills are required to enable you stay engaged and will be useful when you eventually get invited to these critical business meetings.


Do you have an analytical mindset? You must be able to understand your company financial numbers and translate these numbers into meaningful story for the company. The company in maintaining a competitive edge in the market needs analytical minds to tell a story of what is going on. Be number savvy and be a good storyteller. Most organisations will start relying on your expertise and you will no doubt start-getting invitations to these meetings. Polish your skills with numbers and analysis and be ready.


You must be ready to treat your partnership like a business. Most people do not achieve their goals of becoming strategic business partners simply because they are not prepared to treat that partnership as a business. You must be ready to dedicate resources to that business, ready to learn and gain experience with that business and be prepared to commit all to it. It will take time and may cost you money but in the end, it is worthwhile.


The world has become a global market and engaging strategic partners across the globe is becoming important for the company in its growth abilities. The organization’s hierarchy on a regular basis is engaging in discussions affecting the future of the organisation and they do require those with the right capabilities to help them reach key decisions. This calls into questions strategic business partners with the right skillset. Are you ready to become one? Do you have what it takes to be a strategic business partner? It’s all up to you. It is important to remember though that building reputation and influence takes time. If you start behaving along the lines mentioned earlier, you are definitely on the right path. Good luck.


Akintunde is a lawyer and an expert in HR and Communication,

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