One of the most highly debated topics in the HR market currently is the necessity of the HR Business Partner and how they will help mold the future of our organizations. From the looks of the fully-packed room at GE’s offices the other week, this is still a topic that requires a lot of development here in Japan. In attendance were the HR leaders of companies such as AIG, Bayer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, CSL Behring, Dassault Systemes, DHL, Maersk, Merck, Nissan, Tesla, Twitter and many others.

Our co-host of the evening, Rina Sakuraba, HR Leader of GE Healthcare Japan, stated that the purpose of the roundtable was to springboard discussion on the creation of a set of criteria that define the true meaning of what an HRBP is and to design a robust curriculum for the HR community to utilize in order to build Business Partner talent successfully across industries. ChapmanCG has partnered with GE to further support this initiative and bring the HR community closer to improve the capabilities of HR professionals in this market, as well as globally. To facilitate the conversation and understand everyone’s stance and mindset towards HRBPs, we proposed three simple questions:

What skills should an HR Business Partner possess?

We quickly found that most participants created a shopping list of traits and, essentially, looked at an HRBP as a modern-day HR “Superhero”, able to solve any issue the business had in a single bound. Take what you may from the list below; however, understand these are all ideals and not a fair representation of what a mere mortal can actually provide. Some of the desired traits included:

Learning Agility & Situational Intelligence The ability to keep up with the rapid changes to a business and industry while reading between the lines in various situations and contexts within the organization.

A “Global Mindset” Cultural sensitivity and the ability to approach, interact with, and bridge employees of different cultures.

Change Agent Be able to leverage business-side experience, HR analytics, and financial know-how to be a trusted advisor in order to shape the culture of the organization.

…and the list goes on and on. But as you can tell from the above, it is a tall order.

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What should an HRBP curriculum look like?

Many great and creative ideas were discussed on this topic in hopes of finding some commonality in what organizations would (ideally) be willing to provide to get the best HRBPs in the market. While the conversation once again took the approach of making certain this person was well-rounded at just about everything, the key ideas discussed were:

Fundamental HR knowledge Improving weaknesses, going back to basics, and insuring each HRBP has a solid, well-rounded understanding of all HR disciplines.

Soft-skill capabilities Leadership coaching, context-building and situational intelligence training, crisis management training for those very difficult to solve problems.

Business acumen Rotating HRBPs into key divisions of the business that generate and maintain revenue, such as sales, marketing, store staff, factory workers, etc. Giving them real-world experiences and crash courses on what their organization deals with on a day-to-day level, instead of just the big picture.

How can companies work together to develop HR Business Partners?

The roundtable was an excellent venue to voice what a variety of companies believe are the essential criteria for a stellar HRBP and what kind of training would be necessary to develop them. Ideas discussed included:

A cross-company HR “Bootcamp” A several-day offsite, perhaps somewhere in the mountains, for HRBPs to build new skills and share their experiences, successes and failures and grow as a community.

Inter-company HRBP exchanges Take the earlier concept of placing an HR professional in the heart of a business unit, why not develop a program in which HR professionals are exchanged in order to see how other organizations tackle similar issues and learn new methods to bring “home”.

HRBP knowledge-sharing forums Develop a centralized platform for HRBPs to exchange ideas and concepts and go to those outside their own organization confidentially to discuss solutions to mission-critical initiatives.

Getting both sides (both the business and HR) to understand the importance of developing the HRBP model, and the possibilities it brings to both parties, is still an uphill battle in Japan. We are determined to make advancements in this space together with great partnerships with companies like GE in order to build a stronger community of HR professionals. Please watch out for more on this space, and if there are any questions or comments please feel free to reach out to myself or the team directly.

What Participants Had to Say

For me the meetings are always a great opportunity to be able to meet peers, exchange ideas in order to keep adding value to the business. The meetings are always held in an open and friendly manner.

Gregory McGilligan, General Manager Global Human Resources Department at ASCIS Japan

It was such an exciting opportunity to meet with change makers in the HR arena!

Tomo Tojo, Senior HRBP at Tesla Japan

The workshop was really great for participants to exchange ideas. I think this was the best meeting I have attended.

Hideki Ishii, HR Director at DHL Japan