By Julie Goh

Human Resources (HR) plays a crucial role in organisations, ensuring that the right people are in place to drive success. Within the realm of HR, two distinct roles exist: the HR Business Partner (HRBP) and the traditional HR role. Today, we will look at the key differences between these roles, with a focus on their relevance to Malaysia's HR landscape. Whether you're an HR enthusiast or a professional seeking clarity, understanding these distinctions can help you navigate the HR field effectively.

  • Defining the Roles: The traditional HR role typically encompasses transactional and administrative tasks, such as recruitment, onboarding, benefits administration (including payroll processing), and employee record management. It primarily focuses on day-to-day operations and ensuring compliance with employment laws and regulations.

On the other hand, the HRBP role takes a strategic approach. HRBPs act as partners to business leaders, aligning HR strategies with the company’s objectives. They contribute to workforce planning, talent management, employee engagement, and change management initiatives. HRBPs are proactive, forward-thinking, and provide strategic guidance to drive organisational success.

  • Scope and Impact: The traditional HR role is essential for managing routine HR activities and ensuring smooth HR      operations. It handles the administrative and transactional aspects that keep the HR engine running. However, its impact may be limited to the tactical level, focusing on immediate HR needs without significant involvement in broader organisational strategies.

In contrast, HRBPs have a broader scope and a more significant impact on the company. They work closely with business leaders to understand their goals and align HR strategies accordingly. By providing strategic insights, HRBPs contribute to long-term business objectives, talent development, employee engagement, and organisational effectiveness.

  • Skill Set and Expertise: The traditional HR role often requires proficiency in specific HR functions such as recruitment, payroll, or training administration. It emphasises attention to detail, strong organisational skills, and knowledge of HR policies and procedures.

HRBPs, while needing a solid foundation in HR practices, also require a broader skill set. They must possess strong business acumen, strategic thinking, analytical skills, and the ability to build relationships and influence stakeholders. HRBPs bring HR expertise to the table while understanding how HR aligns with the company’s overall business strategy.

  • Organisational Size and Context: Traditionally, HRBPs were more prevalent in larger organisations due to the complexity of their HR needs. However, in recent years, the importance of HRBPs has been recognised in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) as well. SMEs can benefit from HRBPs who provide strategic HR support, align HR initiatives with business objectives, and optimise HR practices within limited resources.

In Malaysia's evolving HR landscape, understanding the difference between HRBPs and traditional HR roles is crucial. While the traditional HR role focuses on day-to-day operations and compliance, the HRBP role takes a strategic approach, aligning HR strategies with the company’s objectives. HRBPs bring a broader skill set and have a more significant impact on organisational success.

In the midst of the economic challenges companies have been facing, the role of HRBP emerges as a key element for the future. With its strategic focus and ability to align HR with business objectives, the HRBP role becomes increasingly valuable in navigating uncertain times. By providing insights, driving talent development, and optimising HR practices, HRBPs can help companies overcome economic obstacles and foster resilience. Embracing the HRBP role as a strategic partner positions HR professionals to make a lasting impact on their companies, ensuring long-term success in the face of economic adversity – for companies of all sizes!