HR Leadership Column

What Should I Be Doing?

While the two new HR competency models may be different in design, they both provide research-grounded road maps for HR leaders to follow in building their own competencies and the competencies of their HR team.

Monday, August 6, 2012
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Everyone has heard the old English proverb that "the shoemaker's children go barefoot." This proverb may be particularly true for today's HR leaders. 

When confronted with the critical talent needs of your internal customers, a newly complicated compliance environment (e.g., think healthcare) or even the daily challenge of helping managers to understand and exercise their obligations to actually manage, some of the things that should get done don't get done. As often as not, what doesn't get done is taking time for your own professional development and/or the development of the HR team.

The demanding nature of the HR job is the very reason it's important for HR leaders to focus on the HR team's development. By taking time to build the competencies HR team members, not only do those team members benefit, but so does the organization and its many stakeholders.


While many companies -- usually those with deep resources -- have developed HR competency models tailored to their own businesses, there's been a wealth of recent research that can be used to jump start efforts to strengthen the HR team. 

Earlier this year the RBL Group (with Dave Ulrich, Wayne Brockbank, Jon Younger and Mike Ulrich) and the University of Michigan released an HR competency model (HRCM 2012). Based on global surveys of HR professionals and business executives, the model identifies those competencies that are found in successful businesses. HRCM 2012 is an update of research conducted on HR competencies which spans 25 years, and is the subject of the just-released book by the same authors titled HR from the Outside In.

The six competencies identified in HRCM 2012 are:

* Strategic Positioner: Understanding external trends -- social, technological, economic, political, environmental and demographic -- that affect your industry and geography and translate this knowledge into internal decisions and actions.


* Credible Activist: Building personal trust through business acumen; communicating clear and consistent messages with integrity. 

* Capability Builder: Helping to define and build your organization's capabilities, its culture, process or identity. 

* Change Champion: Making sure that isolated and independent organization actions are integrated and sustained through disciplined change processes; building a case for change and then sustaining change.

* Human Resource Innovator and Integrator: Being able to innovative and integrate HR practices into unified solutions to solve future business problems. 

* Technology Proponent: Using technology to more efficiently deliver HR administrative systems, as well as to help people stay connected with each other.

This year, the Society for Human Resource Management also published a competency model, titled Elements for HR Success, following extensive survey and focus group interviews of HR professionals from around the world.

The SHRM Elements for HR Success competency model contains nine competencies, the first one a technical competency and the remaining eight behavioral:

* Human Resource Technical Expertise and Practice: Applying the principles and practices of human resource management to contribute to the success of the business;

* Relationship Management Consultation: Managing interactions with and between others with the specific goal of providing service and organizational success;

* Consultation: Providing direct guidance to organizational stakeholders (e.g., employees and leaders) seeking expert advice on a variety of situations or circumstances;

* Organizational Leadership and Navigation: Providing direct guidance to organizational stakeholders (e.g., employees and leaders) seeking expert advice on a variety of situations or circumstances;

* Communication: Effectively exchanging and creating a free flow of information with and among various stakeholders at all levels of the organization to produce impactful outcomes;

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* Global and Cultural Effectiveness: Managing human resources within and across borders and cultures;

* Ethical Practice: Integrating core values, integrity and accountability throughout all organizational and business practices;

* Critical Evaluation: Interpreting information (e.g., data, metrics, literature) to determine ROI and organizational impact in making business decisions and/or recommendations; and

* Business Acumen: Understanding business functions and metrics within the organization and industry.

SHRM is also developing a self-assessment tool for HR professionals based on these competencies, which will be available in 2013. In the meantime, an abridged tool is available for members and non-members on the SHRM website.

The methodologies of the two competency models vary. For example, HRCM 2012 research includes 360-degree input from non-HR executives, as well as collected data on whether respondents thought their business was an industry leader. The SHRM research included focus-group input from HR professionals, and the model includes standards for proficiency at four career stages: entry, mid, senior and executive. (For more about the RBL/SHRM competency model development, click here.) The SHRM model focuses on building an individual's competencies, and HRCM 2012 focuses on building HR departmental competencies as well. 

While the two models are different in design, they provide research-grounded road maps for HR leaders to follow in building your own competencies and the competencies of your HR team. They both provide an answer to the worrisome question, "What should I be doing?" 

The challenge for HR leaders is to actually step up and use the tools now available. After all, an Irish proverb says, "A trade not properly learned is an enemy," and another English proverb says, "There's no time like the present."  

Susan R. Meisinger, former president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, is an author, speaker and consultant on human resource management. She is on the board of directors of the National Academy of Human Resources.

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