HR Leads Business

Apr 4, 2017 | Barry Lawrence, MBA, Staff Writer

Nine Competencies for HR Excellence Emerge

In one of the most detailed explorations ever on essential human resource management competencies, a new book, Victory Through Organization, expands on findings based on the responses of more than 4,000 HR practitioners. The study also sheds light on the views of organization-wide stakeholders about HR’s effectiveness ― inside and outside of a company.

HR Certification Institute® (HRCI®) is a partner in the research effort, which includes new results from the seventh (2016) round of the HR competency study known as the HRCS. The HRCS represents 30 years of work led by HR guru Dave Ulrich, a Professor at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business and partner at The RBL Group. Ulrich is joined by David Kryscynski from Brigham Young University, Michael Ulrich, from Utah State University, and Wayne Brockbank from the Ross School.

HRCI asked the researchers to shed light on the HRCS findings. In this, the first in a series of blogs on the study, we learn about the research’s goals and the identification of nine important categories of HR competencies that impact personal effectiveness and business performance.

Attention HRCI credential holders! Read Victory Through Organization and receive three Business Credits toward recertification. This is a pre-approved activity (seminar) credit.

Linking HR Competencies to Business Results

The goal of the HRCS was not to simply define HR competencies, but to understand which HR competencies create positive outcomes, the researchers explain.

"We have shown that different HR competencies have different impacts on three outcomes: personal effectiveness of the HR professional, impact on key stakeholders and business results. HR is not about HR and HR competencies are not about the competencies, but about how they deliver key outcomes."

Unlike many studies that use self-reporting, the HRCS explored how HR competencies are perceived by others. "People generally judge themselves by their intent; others judge them by their behavior, so it is important to evaluate both intent and behavior," the researchers note.

Nine Value-Add HR Competencies Revealed

Ulrich graphic

Of the nine categories of HR competencies identified, the researchers defined three as core drivers:

  • Strategic Positioner: Able to position a business to win its market.
  • Credible Activist: Able to build relationships of trust by having a proactive point of view.
  • Paradox Navigator: Able to manage tensions inherent in business (including long-term and short-term tensions, and top-down and bottom-up tensions.)

Three categories of HR competence were defined as organization enablers, helping position HR to deliver strategic value:

  • Culture and Change Champion: Able to make change happen and manage organizational culture.
  • Human Capital Curator: Able to manage the flow of talent by developing people and leaders, driving individual performance and building technical talent.
  • Total Rewards Steward: Able to manage employee well-being through financial and non-financial rewards.

Finally, three HR competencies were defined as delivery enablers that focus on managing the tactical or foundational elements of HR:

  • Technology and Media Integrator: Able to use technology and social media to drive and create high-performing organizations.
  • Analytics Designer and Interpreter: Able to use analytics to improve decision-making.
  • Compliance Manager: Able to manage the processes related to compliance by following regulatory guidelines.

Other highlights: While global HR competencies do exist – perhaps as much as 60 percent of HR competencies are essential in all circumstances and settings ― other competencies can vary depending on geography, industry, organization size and other factors, the researchers note.

Also, based on the 30-year history of the study, researchers conclude that HR competencies evolve about every 4-5 years. The 2016 round of the research, for example, saw a rise in the importance of HR technology and HR analytics.

The 360-Degree View of HR Competence

A unique feature of the HRCS is that it goes beyond self-reporting from HR professionals and explores how other stakeholder ― supervisors, HR associates and non-HR associates – perceive HR competencies. The table (below) shows the mean (1=low to 5=high) scores for each of the nine HR competence domains by different respondent groups. Things to note:

  • HR professionals are seen by all as having more competence as Credible Activists and Compliance Manager; HR practitioners are viewed as having less competence in Total Rewards Steward and Technology and Media Integrator.
  • The self-assessments of HR professionals are somewhat higher than supervisor ratings, but lower than the ratings of HR associates and non-HR associates.

The researcher conclude that HR professionals have "a license" to "do more in these nine competency domains. Their HR and non-HR associates already observe them as better than they rate themselves. HR professionals sometimes lament how they are perceived by their peers, but their self-image and self-confidence may be a larger liability to their effectiveness."

This is one of several HRCI blogs on the HRCS study and the new book, Victory Through Organization. In addition to learning about the nine emerging competencies for HR, read more about how HR roles have become more complex, the need to HR must navigate paradox, how to be viewed as a "HR as Strategic Positioner" and the importance of HR and credible activism.
Ulrich Table