HR Professionals Get Invited to the Table as Credible Activists

Human resource management professionals are most effective when they are credible, trusted and proactive business partners, say researchers of a comprehensive study on HR competencies, detailed in a new book, Victory Through Organization.

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 represent nearly 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. This is the third in a series of blogs on the changing model of HR competencies detailed in the book.

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

Credibility and Activism: Strong Measures of HR Effectiveness

The research identifies nine areas of important HR competencies, and identifies Credible Activist as one of the most critical drivers of a highly effective HR professional.

"It is the combination of credibility and activism that allows HR professionals to establish trusting relationships with those they support as well as their HR colleagues," the researchers say. "They use the trust they have gained to influence others. Credible Activists are respected and proactive."

A matrix of opportunities and risks developed by the research best illustrates why credibility and activism, in tandem, are so vital for effective HR management:

  Less Credible  More Credible 
More Activist  Risk of being seen as impetuous, arrogant or uniformed. Opportunity to have impact by influencing and relating to others, and earning trust through results. 
Less Activist Risk of being seen as a marginal or poor performer. Risk of being seen as irrelevant, not having anything to say, resting on past laurels or not knowing the business.

Influencing and Relating to Others

The research notes that Credible Activists invest in relationships with colleagues and business partners. “They build relationships up, down and across the organization. They also look beyond the organization to develop relationships that will provide an outside-in perspective to help tackle challenges."

Credible Activists:

  • Show a genuine interest in others.
  • Act with an appropriate balance of humility and confidence.
  • Seek to learn from both successes and failures.
  • Demonstrate personal integrity and ethics.

Results Do Matter

Personal effectiveness, of course, "starts and ends with results," researchers warn. Result-oriented behaviors include:

  • Earning trust with key internal and external stakeholders.
  • Framing complex ideas in simple and useful ways.
  • Persisting through adverse circumstances.
  • Having a history of delivering results.

To get invited to strategic discussions, HR professionals must embrace both credibility and activism, the researchers conclude. "They need to be credible and they need to have an opinion and be willing to voice that opinion. Credible Activists build credibility over time by delivering results, improving personal and professional performance, developing relationships of trust internally and externally, and utilizing the trust to influence the others."

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.