Design the Partner Role....
....before you recruit.

Are you thinking of recruiting? Read this first.

When I worked as a Business Relationship Manager (BRM) in an IT department, I often explained my role. This was not unusual. There are many roles that, to the outsider, don't convey a satisfactory meaning at first glance; hence the expectations and the activities of the role can be worlds apart. The problem specifically with BRM is that the amount of work required explaining to people even on the inside of the organisation is higher than other roles, leading to confusion, mismatched expectations and a sense of role conflict with other people.

Now, many BRMs do a great job. But, my point is, this is despite the design of the role, not because of it. Specifically, on the issue of the BRM brand, I think the casual observer places .emphasis on relationships as an outcome, not as an enabler. That is, the success of the BRM role is matched to the quality of its relationships. But is it? We want to create an opportunity for success in an organisation, not a failure.

So, there is a casual approach to designing a role:

  1. See a gap in activity or a problem you want rid of in your team

  2. Give it a name.

  3. Steal a job description of the internet that matches the name. Define the responsibilities.

  4. Consult with HR: Assign a leadership level and add the behavioural descriptions.

  5. Seek approval.

  6. Recruit

What are the chances of success that the new recruit will be able to perform? To whose expectations? The problem with role design is that we often start with the job description rather than correctly identifying the problem to solve and then doing root cause analysis to understand why the problem persists. Said differently, we put the cart before the horse.

Putting the Horse Before the Cart

The fundamental principle one needs to consider is that even recruiting for just one role is an exercise in Organisational Change Management. Think about it. You are changing your organisation. Planning this change needs careful consideration:

  1. Assuming you have done your root cause analysis, consider the missing skills required that prevent the organisation achieving the specific goal.

  2. Recognise the level of Organisation Partner Maturity at your place of work. Is it reactive, service-oriented or strategic? This attribute predicts the type of interventions required in order to make change stick in the organisation and achieve the outcome you require.

  3. Identify the demand for these skills - where and how much in the organisation.

  4. Assess the existing skill level in the organisation amongst the existing cohort. 

  5. Define the training programme and the outcomes required that together form the role.

  6. Define the compensation, the time allocation, the behaviours and traits of the people required to perform these skills. 

  7. Review the succession planning, secondment and back-filling of the role to create the capacity for the role.

  8. Recruit, train, coach and performance manage the roles assigned.

These are the steps you need to consider before you recruit. As a consequence of my experience as a BRM, our company now matches people's strengths and the skills required in their organisation in order to deliver Strategic Digital Business Partnerships. 

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Design the Partner Role....
Jon Baxter
5 January, 2021
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