Shanti Ramsamy on What It Takes to Become a Great HR Business Partner

“The rule that I have always stuck with and which has worked well for me is to first understand why it is done the way it is done and then, to show some small wins in order to gain trust.”

This article is part of my series of articles on what it takes to become a great HR business partner. Read more articles in this series.

What does it mean to be an HR Business Partner today?

Shanti: HR business partnering today is no longer the role of traditional HR tasks, such as  hiring and firing. In fact, these traditional tasks can be easily outsourced. In order for HRBPs to stay relevant today, they need to think like the business. This means HRBPs need to be the strategic partner for the leaders, influencing and driving them to make good decisions for the success of the business and the people.

Is there a significant portion of your typical HR transactional work that is outsourced? Were you involved in that decision? If so, how did you successfully put your case forward for outsourcing?

Shanti: Yes, by telling my HR leader that I need more time to do ‘deep dives’ into the organisation to help solve the people problems rather than spending time at my desk doing transactional activities.

What aspects of your work is strategic?

Shanti: Partnering in every business decision and giving inputs to the leaders on the people perspective. Other than that, HRBPs need to look at current trends, be it within or outside of the organisation and provide proactive solutions.

How have you brought greater strategic input into your deliverables?

Shanti: By participating in all the business meetings and listening attentively to the discussions. It may not be very ‘HR relevant’ in the beginning but as I continue to sit and listen, I pick up the points, connect the dots and see potential solutions to particular problems. With these findings, I would then present my thoughts to the leaders during my one on one meetings with them. Guess what? I find that they really appreciate the fresh perspective I bring.

What are the key aspects of being a great HR business partner?

Shanti: Someone who is willing to go above and beyond in partnering with the business to create a highly engaged workforce. This person should not shy away from acquiring business acumen and needs to genuinely care for the organisation. HRBPs should always think of ways to make work more effective for managers rather than being the roadblock. Be the strategic thinker and be far sighted enough to help add clarity to leaders’ blind spots. It is all about adding value to the business.

What have you done to develop a deeper understanding of the business you are in?

Shanti: Keep asking questions even if it may sound silly! I also find opportunities to participate in business meetings even if they are technical. I find these more engaging and easier for me to grasp rather than attending training.

What are some critical communication challenges you have faced and how did you overcome these?

Shanti: Many leaders have a tendency to hold out communicating until the information is “fully baked” or they may wait till the very last minute. Sometimes, this causes too much anxiety among employees and may cause them to speculate unnecessarily which may lead to disengagement and low morale. I always advise my leaders to be as transparent as possible and always give an early heads-up to employees even if they do not have all of the information. It’s perfectly ok for leaders to stand in front of employees and tell them that this is the information they have at this point and that they will provide more when further information is made available. Keeping employees well informed, I believe, is key to a highly engaged organisation.

How do you balance the need to take charge and question legacy systems versus following organisational vision?

Shanti: I have had different experiences at different organisations. At some organisations, they were very open to innovative ideas. At others, they were more conventional and expected me to understand their culture first before coming up with innovative ideas. The rule that I have always stuck with and which has worked well for me is to first understand why it is done the way it is done and then, to show some small wins in order to gain trust. Once trust is gained, it is very easy for me to influence them because I have already earned a seat at the table. Another rule that I stick by is to always question respectfully by first pointing out the good things about the legacy system and then provide fresh insights on the benefits of the new idea. It has always been helpful in getting my points across and well accepted.

How do you measure the success of your HR initiatives against business results?

Shanti: HR initiatives should be able to directly improve business results through the change of behaviour of the leaders and managers. Also, the HR initiatives should help increase the efficiency of the organisation.

What is the biggest myth about being a great business partner?

Shanti: That a great HR business partner keeps the day to day business running smoothly and they manage to keep the employee relations issues to a minimum. It is not just about keeping the business running smoothly, it is about adding value. It is about being the reason for the success of the business.

How do you get invited into critical conversations?

Shanti: Pro-activity is my secret recipe. I always set this as an expectation with the leaders from my very first one on one meeting with them. I will explain to the leaders about how I can add value and proactively ask them to include me. Another method that has worked for me is by earning a seat at the table first. I do this by showing small wins and gaining the trust of the leaders. Then I automatically get invited!

I do not believe in the remote support of HRBPs. In order to deliver the most value, gain trust and to be a true partner, the HRBP’s presence needs to be felt.

How do you ensure you see the bigger picture ie outside the perspective of your own function? What concrete steps do you take to achieve this?

Shanti: I love having conversations with the people around me, be it my managers, leaders or the employees of the organisation that I support. I gain great insights by investing time in these conversations. To this, I also ask myself “how will this initiative help the greater good of the organisation?” –  it has never failed to help me see the bigger picture.

Is financial literacy key to you becoming more relevant to the business? If so, how?

Shanti: Yes, I truly believe in this. Businesses are here to make money. Being financially literate helps me to see how HR can help the business to become profitable without comprising the engagement of employees. I work to develop financial literacy by proactively having conversations with the leaders on this aspect as well as by learning about it from the finance leaders within the organisation.

What has been key to building better relationships across the organisation?

Shanti: Being respectful of the experiences that the leadership has, being flexible (there will be times that we need to allow leaders to do things their way), showing small wins through HR initiatives and demonstrating genuine care for the organisation.

How have you seen that it is best to structure HR in order to provide support to the organisation?

Shanti: Every business unit needs a dedicated business partner who is physically seated with the business. I do not believe in the remote support of HRBPs. In order to deliver the most value, gain trust and to be a true partner, the HRBP’s presence needs to be felt.

How do you review how well HR is currently meeting its needs?

Shanti: When the business leaders say that “we could not have done this without our HR partner”.

What have you learnt so far about how to get the right people into the right roles?

Shanti: I truly believe in this. I have seen so many cases where people struggle when they are mapped into the wrong roles. This frequently happens in the engineering world, where the most technically proficient people get mapped into people manager roles without assessing their people manager capability or even asking about their interest in that. As an HR partner, I always advise my leaders to first assess the people’s strength and their interest before assigning them to any role. It is not important to get the best people – it is very important to get the right people.


What makes Shanti Ramsamy jump out of the bed every morning and go to work is the ability to make a difference in people’s lives. The Senior HR Manager at Flextronics Technology, Shanti is passionate about driving employee engagement and through that, to help business become more efficient and profitable and help people work happily.  As the site HR leader, Shanti leads a team of HR professionals to provide the full spectrum of HR support for the entire plant comprising 4,000 employees.

This article is part of my series of articles on what it takes to become a great HR business partner. Read more articles in this series.

Vertical Distinct offers the Strategic HR Business Partner certification, a three day HCI offering that helps you build credibility as an HR leader that influences, impacts and advances your business and your career. Find out more about the SHRBP course programme, scheduled dates and cities where you can register.

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