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Inside Jobs: Working as an HR Business Partner (HRBP)

If you think product managers and engineers have all the fun with tackling problems and coming up with solutions, wait until you meet an HR Business Partner (HRBP).

HRBPs work with employees, managers and business leaders at Klook to make sure our people strategy is aligned with our business strategy. After all, companies are only as strong as their people, right? And just like Klook grows and evolves, so does the HRBP role. Depending on the need, the HRBP might be helping to figure out what kind of talent we need to grow, guiding people managers through performance reviews, or designing and rolling out improvements in the team for better productivity or communication. 

We’ve sat down with Rachel Lee, HRBP for Singapore/Vietnam markets and Marketing/Content Ops, Leanne Convery, HRBP for Europe and the US, and Tony Lin, HRBP for Technology & Engineering, to find out what it's like to work as an HRBP in a fast-paced company. 


How would you explain the role of an HRBP (HR Business Partner)? 

Rachel Lee: As an HRBP, you operate in the sphere of influence. We influence the business leaders we partner with by providing them with guidelines, relevant people data and asking the hard questions that are necessary to make a fully informed decision. As human beings, we always have our blind spots. That’s where an HRBP comes in: to make sure that every aspect of the decision that the business makes is fully considered and thought out. 

Leanne Convery: HRBP is a very broad title and it means different things at different companies. In high growth companies like Klook, you need someone who understands the overall company strategy and can really support the business as it grows. Eric [Gnock Fah, Klook’s COO] said in our HRBP training that a truly good HRBP is someone who could step into the shoes of a team lead temporarily if they needed to. That’s the level of understanding you need to have across the entire market. 

We’re here to advise business leaders on how to optimize the business, so we need the full picture. But at the end of the day, it’s the managers who are empowered to take decisions based on the support we provide. 


What does your day-to-day look like? 

Rachel: I’m both a market HRBP for Singapore and Vietnam and a function HRBP for our Marketing team. Being a market HRBP, I work closely with our local people committee, local People Operations and Office Experience to implement local policies and take a close look at the employee journey and how we can improve it. We also work closely with specialist functions within People & Culture, such as Employer Branding, Rewards, Learning & Development to deliver and communicate meaningful solutions for our people.

rachel.png"As human beings, we always have our blind spots. That’s where an HRBP comes in: to make sure that every aspect of the decision that the business makes is fully considered and thought out," says Rachel Lee, HRBP for Singapore/Vietnam markets and Marketing/Content Ops


HRBPs may also play a functional role. From a functional perspective, I support Marketing and Content Operations on people initiatives ranging from workforce planning, performance management and talent development. The partnership varies depending on the state of the business. For example, last year, we were in hyper-growth mode and a large part of the focus was talent acquisition.This year, the focus is more on employee performance and engagement. My role has evolved a lot since joining Klook and I imagine it will continue evolving as we grow!

Leanne: Apart from support for the team leads I partner with, I try my best to make sure my team feels supported, that they’ve got answers on things they need and that we nurture our team spirit. I always build time for 1:1s and the weekly team sharing meeting in my calendar. On top of that, I’ve been taking on different projects under the People & Culture department, teaching some of the modules in our leadership training program and improving the infrastructure that we have at the moment. There are a lot of elements that are quite different but all complement each other. 

Tony Lin: As a function HRBP for Technology & Engineering, one of the things I focused on this year is team efficiency. I looked for pain points and bottlenecks within the team itself but I also closely examined how the technology team works with other teams at Klook. We’ve pivoted very fast this year so close alignment between teams has been more important than ever to make sure we can keep up with the change and stay productive. The role of an HRBP really relies on having this big picture view of the business and being able to work with different stakeholders to come up with solutions.


What’s one thing you wish more people knew about your role?

Tony: Some people think that talent acquisition is the only scope of an HR function (which we call People & Culture at Klook). They don’t realize how many different topics fall under HR: performance review, employee engagement, coaching, learning and development, rewards and benefits… Really any process that happens in a company is supported by HR at one point or another. Of course, hiring is a very important HR function but there is so much more to it.

Rachel: Apart from tactical, business-as-usual work, HRBPs are involved in planning and building the company in the long term. For example, we analyze employee feedback from various channels to develop or improve things that directly impact employee experience. We listen and provide feedback to relevant stakeholders to improve decisions, processes and policies. We support managers through training programs and coaching. The results of such initiatives may not be immediate, but form the foundation for long-term effectiveness.  

Leanne: The beauty of Klook is that we are growing something from scratch. So we can build around the people and their needs. In the People & Culture team, we hope to make it a worthwhile step for Klookers to spend part of their career time with us so we really want to hear from them, learn what they need or what they would improve. Knowing what motivates and fulfills our employees is a key consideration in advising for any decision. So keep the conversation going!


In times of rapid change, what do you think is most important to ensure a smooth transition for the team?

Tony: Clear and timely information is key so good communication has been crucial. This year we’ve rolled out a lot of new initiatives for the Technology & Engineering team and the larger team here in Shenzhen. We have Fireside Chats with executives to learn from them and get deep dives on the current strategy, we have the global and local newsletters.

tony.pngTo Tony Lin, HRBP for Technology & Engineering, "The role of an HRBP really relies on having this big picture view of the business and being able to work with different stakeholders to come up with solutions."


Another big thing for us is learning and development. Having access to relevant training courses and being able to learn new skills is really important for staying agile. In Shenzhen, the Teach the Teacher program has been really robust so we’ve managed to build a big library of on-demand learning resources for the team. 


How do you hone your skills in a dynamic role like this?

Rachel: There’s no playbook for an HRBP role in a startup. As the business evolves, you evolve with it so there is a lot of learning. Learning from the business is the first step — understanding what they are aiming for and WHY, so that you can advise them from a people perspective. 

I keep up to date by subscribing to relevant industry alerts and podcasts. People & Culture projects are also a great way to learn in real time: I have participated in projects for onboarding, pulse survey, retention, and have gained new perspectives from project team members. And I appreciate having my manager as a sounding board. We’re very empowered in our roles so managers don’t micromanage, they trust us to have the right judgement and provide guidance in situations of ambiguity. 


HRBPs had to see organizations through a lot of change this year. How do you deal with change as a professional? 

Leanne: Always put your oxygen mask on first. If you’re going to help people, you need to be able to do your best work so you must protect your own time. Also make sure you look after your own wellbeing. Managing change is draining and we’re not robots, this type of work takes a lot of resilience.

leanne.png"This year has been both the biggest challenge and the biggest change we [HR professionals] have seen in our careers. It has been a huge learning curve and it’s certainly changed me as an HRBP and how I approach problems," says Leanne Convery, HRBP for Europe and the US.


If we are to help the business through change, we need to make sure that our team is set up to reflect that and support that. So we always review processes and the ways of working within my team to make sure we can be reactive and proactive to whatever change is coming our way.


What is the career path to becoming an HRBP? 

Tony: To be honest there is no fixed path to become an HRBP. You can come from any HR background: talent acquisition, rewards team, learning and development. You can even transition into an HRBP role from a business team with no prior experience in HR. 

For me, the most critical thing is curiosity. You can develop and improve your skillset but curiosity is something that you have in you. In this role, you will encounter a new question every day. Five days, five different scenarios. You need to have the hunger to research, learn and find solutions that work.


What excites you about your future with Klook?

Leanne: The HR industry didn’t really change much for the last 20 years up until recently. This year has been both the biggest challenge and the biggest change we have seen in our careers. It has been a huge learning curve for professionals and it’s certainly changed me as an HRBP and how I approach problems.

What I’m really looking forward to is when the current crisis is over and we can get back to the hyper-growth stage. We’ve learned a lot as a business and I’m really looking forward to putting this new knowledge to practice to fuel further growth. 


Ready to push some boundaries? 

See all open vacancies 




Posted by Klook Careers

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