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The world of ‘HR Business Partner’ is a confusing one. Does this term refer to an individual job or role; the HR function and its structure; or to the movement of the HR profession towards delivering ‘value’ in addition to its traditional ‘efficiency’ mandate?

For us (at CourageousHR), the term HR Business Partner can refer to all three – so we use different terms to separate them – HR Partner (the role); HR Community (the function); HR Business Alignment (the movement).

But it gets worse. If you look in the job adverts, ‘HR Business Partner’ is one of the most popular (if not the most popular) job title in the marketplace. However, when salaries range from £20,000 (€25,000) to £120,000 (€140,000), they can’t be talking about the same role – can they?

The bad news is that of course they are, just don’t ask them to define those differences in terms of anything other than ‘years of experience’ (I’ll leave that to another day!). Again, in order to help clients make sense of this world we’ve had to create job descriptions with specific job titles – from Operational Partners at the most inexperienced and lowest delivery value end to Delivery Partners, Partners (or should that be Partner Partners – maybe not) and, for the very few in the most senior roles, Strategic Partners.

Words matter. If we can’t make sense of a simple phrase like ‘HR Business Partner’, how on earth can we expect our line managers and employees to? If one phrase can refer to so much, how meaningless it really is.

If you want to know more about HR job families, job descriptions and competencies, see our CourageousHR White Papers for free downloads.