Learn the skills and the attitude you need to become an HR business partner in Kenya.
Do you want to fully utilize your HR skills, earn the respect of the business owners, be in charge of your career and HR department and start earning a good salary?
I have been in the recruitment field for seven years and I have observed an increase in the number of organizations looking to hire human resource business partners. At the beginning the requests were mainly from our multinational clients but we are now seeing an increasingly number of local businesses looking to hire a HR business partner.
And they are two main reasons why this is becoming a trend. Number one being that running a business is becoming more complex and employers are realizing the real value of employees and as such there’s a need for a competent leader in HR who understands the organisation goals and is able to match them with employee needs. Secondly, with the enactment of the HR act, there’s a greater need for compliance and Kenyan companies can longer pretend that HR is an operations role or part of finance.
So, who is a HR business partner and how do you grow your career into one.
According to reed.co.uk, An HR Business Partner works closely with an organisation to develop an HR agenda in line with their overall goals – and improve how the business operates overall. By building relationships with senior management, researching the company’s business needs and determining what success looks like, they’re able to encourage the use of a coherent HR strategy. They can then establish which areas need attention, and how to address them in their plans.
How then do you become an HR business partner in Kenya?
I have interviewed HR business partners for our clients and this is the path I would encourage you to take if you want to advance to this level.
1.Understand all HR areas. You cannot afford to say that you find recruitment boring or that you have no idea how the industrial court functions or you’ve never done head hunting. You MUST be familiar with all core HR duties.
From recruitment, reward management, performance management, salary surveys etc. N.B: Get me well, you do not have to be an expert in all areas but you must have the knowledge and basic skills on each HR area.
2.Get hands on skills. Unfortunately many of the HR practitioners that I encounter are highly specialized which is not necessarily a bad thing but if what you do from January to December is payroll and HR admin then you are limiting yourself. Start learning new skills.
Get your hands dirty. Get to know how the training department works and so on until you have hands on skills on each HR area. As you and I know, skills are superior to certificates. Don’t rush for an MBA when you have no clue how to carry a HR audit.
3.Stop Focusing On HR Admin Only. 90% of all HR practitioners in Kenya only perform HR admin roles. And what are some of the roles? Think of recruitment, payroll, processing separations, interpreting employment act, leave days management and employee records. If you don’t find your job challenging most likely you are performing HR admin roles only.
If you want to grow into a HR business partner role you need to implement training, salary surveys, job grading, bench marking, and other HR activities that add value to the business. This will mean you having a deeper understanding of the business. You have to take the initiative. Go the field. Learn how things work in each department. Don’t be comfortable sitting at your desk from 8-5pm.
4.Get your voice heard. If you implement point three then management and the business owners will start looking at you differently and most importantly you will earn their trust and respect. And only then will they allocate resources to HR and pay you what you think you are worth.
For your information, the starting salary for a HR business partner is 500K and can go upto 1.5M. Check this HR advert. One of the biggest complaint I hear from HR practitioners is how the directors are not willing to invest in their department. The truth is, no one will invest in you or your department unless you win their trust through actions.
Work In different Industries. I normally find that HR professionals that have worked in different industries are more likely to grow into a HR business partner role much faster. Industries such as manufacturing, agriculture or where there’s a blend of skilled and unskilled (casuals) staff offer a great learning opportunity.
Be strategic on your next employer and choose one where you will learn and not just earn a big salary.
Develop your soft skills. I coach senior professionals looking to advance their careers and one of the stumbling blocks is lack of key soft skills (the people skills). Getting ahead in Kenya whether it’s HR or engineering career requires more than a degree or simply doing a good job. Infact, an MBA is not a must if you want to become a HR business partner.
Getting ahead in your HR career and more importantly into a leadership role requires development of soft skills such as leadership skills, networking, public speaking, communication skills, confidence, influencing skills and ability to handle office politics (this is a must if you want to become a leader) your degree and technical skills are not enough to propel you to the next level.
Assess yourself and start working on your soft skills. Hire a coach or seek advice, attend trainings and work diligently on your soft skills. The payoff will be immense.
If you work on the six points you stand a great chance in growing your career into an HR business partner role. And even if your current or next employer does not have this as a job title, by practicing the above you will start earning respect and the salary that comes from carrying yourself as a strategic HR resource.
Which professional issues are you struggling with at a personal or work level? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll address them in subsequent posts.
I wish you the best in your career.
Perminus Wainaina is a Certified HR Consultant and the Managing Partner at Corporate Staffing Services where he manages a team of 20 staff. He helps CEOs, executives, and managers solve their biggest HR pains, dysfunctions, and key challenges and turn their teams into a well-oiled machine that contributes dramatically to business success.
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