Competency Requirements for Today’s HRM Professional
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Competency Requirements for Today’s HRM Professional
Mohammad Abu Alya, Member, Accountant, Jordan
The work of the human resources professional is changing rapidly. Once viewed as
a transaction processor, today’s HRM professional faces a myriad of new
expectations and challenges in shaping the organization’s human resources
function. For many, a firm’s human capital is believed to be an important source of
sustained competitive advantage. What knowledge, skills, and abilities are required
of today’s HRM professional to provide this advantage for his or her organization?
In his book, Human Resources Champions (1997), Dave Ulrich suggests four
key HRM competencies:
1. Knowledge of the Business. Human resources professionals must
understand how their business or agency operates. This includes the
organization’s strategy, how the organization makes money or achieves its
primary purpose, its technological processes and organizational capabilities,
etc. Therefore, HR professionals should develop their knowledge of such
areas as finance, marketing, operations, and general management. Expertise
in these areas helps human resources professionals create value by enabling
them to link their actions more effectively to the organization’s strategy.
2. Knowledge of “Best Practices” in HR (HR Delivery). Human resources
professionals must continue to develop expertise in their field, knowing the
best practices and “state of the art” in staffing, development, reward systems,
performance management, and related HR functions. This is the area in
which human resources has excelled traditionally and must continue to
3. Change Management Skills. The rapidly changing environment requires
organizations to be adaptable and transform themselves internally to meet
new challenges and needs. Since change involves winning the hearts and
minds of people, HR professionals must have the skills to help line managers
achieve this transformation. Change management requires skills in problem
solving, innovation, process improvement, influence, consultation,
communication, and leadership. This is a relatively new requirement for
human resources and one which demands increased attention.
4. Personal Credibility. Finally, HR professionals need to demonstrate
behaviors that convey competence, integrity, accountability, confidentiality,
and related ethical qualities to earn the trust and respect of line managers
and employees. A record of quality and performance helps earn credibility,
but so do the more personal attributes of character cited above.
Another perspective on the competencies required of HR professionals can
be gained from examining the new HR competency model developed jointly by The
Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM), the University of Michigan’s
Business School, and the Global Consulting Alliance (GCA). This model identifies
five categories of HR involvement: Strategic Contribution, Personal Credibility, HR
Delivery, Business Knowledge and HR Technology.
Copyright © 2003
Society for Human Resource Management
This model is similar to the Ulrich model cited previously. However, change
management skills have been replaced by a broader competency titled strategic
contribution, and a new competency - HR technology - has been added. Strategic
contribution includes culture management, strategic decision making, and the
facilitation of organizational change. HR technology is a self-contained competency
that measures how well HR professionals leverage knowledge management
technology for HR purposes and use e-HR systems for delivery of HR services.
The Department of Labor’s O*NET website (www.online.onetcenter.org),
which replaces and supplements materials previously provided by the Dictionary of
Occupational Titles, identifies the knowledge, skills, and abilities required for
success in numerous occupations. In addition to identifying relevant competencies
for these occupations, O*NET also ranks the competencies in terms of their
importance to the occupation. The top three competency requirements identified for
the position of Human Resources Manager are:
• Personnel and Human Resources – Knowledge of principles and procedures for
personnel recruitment, selection, training, compensation and benefits, labor relations
and negotiation, and personnel information systems.
• Administration and Management – Knowledge of business and management
principles involved in strategic planning, resource allocation, human resources
modeling, leadership technique, production methods, and coordination of people and
• Mathematics – Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and
• Management of Personnel Resources – Motivating, developing, and directing people
as they work, identifying the best people for the job.
• Writing – Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the
• Speaking – Talking to others to convey information effectively.
• Written Comprehension – The ability to read and understand information and ideas
presented in writing.
• Oral Comprehension – The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas
presented through spoken words and sentences.
• Oral Expression – The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so
others will understand.
While individuals working in specific HR functional areas may not require all
of the competencies identified by these three frameworks, taken together they
suggest the direction of future human resources requirements. Not only must HR
professionals possess traditional technical competencies in the areas of staffing,
training, compensation, performance management, etc., they must also possess
business and management acumen to effectively relate their technical expertise to
the strategy of the business. Well-developed communication skills are also needed
to facilitate the change process and build an informed and motivated work culture.
Finally, to enable more robust measurement of the effectiveness of the human
resources function, competency in mathematics (especially measurement and
statistical inference) is becoming an increasingly important addition to the HR
professional’s toolkit. As human resources professionals develop this broader range
of competencies, their stature within the organization will increase, as will the status
of the entire HR profession.
William J. Heisler, Ph.D.
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