As many companies use the title Business Partner they also have an idea of what kind of person they want in their organization but what are the competences that a business partner should have to create true value.
In order to realize the value of a business partner it is also important that the employer add the freedom to the business partner to shine and to have the “privilege of focus”.
Competence #1: Understand the parts of the business that are not on paper
In most businesses, there are many processes that are described but there are also many that are not and you also often see that there are workarounds as the described processes are not formfitting for all parts of the organization. A business partner needs the skill to review, analyze and understand what is actually happening in the business and not anticipate that everything is working as the official processes describe. This competence will enable the business partner to better support business change and understand the consequence of decisions and change.
To excel this competence, you need the ability to listen to people without judgement.
Competence #2: Communicate in all organizational layers
Communication goes two ways and in many different variations depending on who you communicate with. In general, you need the ability to actually listen but also to create the perception that you are listening. You also need the ability to clearly speak what is the plan and make the recipient understand what you mean. This is universal but the ways are very different in the various layers of the organization as you need detail communication for people on the ground and short version bullet points at management level.
Competence #3: Create common understanding in the organization
As competence #2 is important you also need the ability to use this competence to create an environment where you as a business partner tie the organization together as “One Team” by creating common grounds and let the different people in the organization understand and accept the conditions of the works and interests there are in the organization. With references the the TV Show: “Undercover Boss”, we see great examples that the leadership are working in different directions but understanding each other better create more common grounds.
Competence #4: Project management skills
One of the most important tasks that a business partner will take on, is to implement new standards, processes or reporting. For doing this you need the abilities of a project manager to plan, execute, test and evaluate. Also, it is important to match this to your listening skills during the project to identify potential issues with the outcome and be able to adjust during the project to ensure optimal end result.
Competence #5: Understand standardization and centralization implications
It is important to understand the general basics of different tasks whether they can be standardized or centralized and what are the implications from doing this on overall efficiency. One task can easily be optimized and performed cheaper but in some cases, this may implicate that other tasks are created instead to mitigate issues from centralizing a task. For example, if you centralize a task and the local people still need to understand what is happening, then you add a new task for communicating this. Remember in this case that communication is both about informing and understanding.