Key Competencies for Senior HR Professionals
Competencies can be described as enduring traits and characteristics within individuals that result in effective performance. These can be interrelated attributes such as motives, traits, knowledge, skills, and abilities, or a combination of these attributes, which help people to perform their jobs effectively. You can think of competencies as a combination of closely related attributes that make up the necessary knowledge, skills, and abilities, or KSAs.
There are several characteristics an HR professional should exhibit, to display a competency in communication:
- providing all the appropriate parties with regular, timely, consistent, and important information
- listening carefully to ensure the intended message was received and understood by all parties
- providing clarity by using an open and concise style of communication, while enhancing communication by using the appropriate tone, as well as correct grammar and punctuation
- showing professionalism through the proper posture, body language, and an appropriate level of eye-contact
Behavioral vs. technical competencies
Technical competencies can be defined as the knowledge and skills needed to perform a specific role, whereas behavioral competencies are the attributes, motives, traits, attitudes, skills, and abilities that help people to perform a specific role. Simply put, technical competencies make up the knowledge and skills needed to perform a specific role, while behavioral competencies reflect how the technical competencies are applied effectively.
To put things in context of the certified professional or senior certified professional exam, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) believes that technical competencies reflect what knowledge HR professionals apply to their jobs, while behavioral competencies reflect how they apply this knowledge.
Examples of technical HR expertise include the domains of people, organization, workplace, and strategy knowledge domains. Examples of behavioral expertise include areas like ethical practice, leadership and navigation, business acumen, relationship management, communication, consultation, critical evaluation, and global and cultural effectiveness.
Causal relationship between competency and performance
There is a causal relationship between competency, behavior, and job performance. Competencies have several components: motives, traits, skills, and knowledge. Together these components can cause or predict behaviors or actions. These actions or behaviors can then further predict an outcome such as job performance.
A competency is intangible and deeply seated within the individual, but it is manifested in a more tangible way through the individual’s behaviors and/or actions. When it is a business or professional competency relevant to the organization, these behaviors or actions equate to job performance.
Behavioral competencies across HR activities
Behavioral competencies are used across all areas of the organization and throughout a number of HR activities:
- Vertical engagement – Behavioral competencies, such as communication and global and cultural effectiveness, are used in vertical engagement. This occurs throughout the organization, from senior management all the way down to new hires.
- Horizontal engagements – Relationship management and consultation are important in horizontal engagement, which occurs with all of the various divisions and functions in the company.
- External engagement – External engagement occurs with external customers and stakeholders. When HR is involved with external engagement, competencies like ethical practice and business acumen are vital.
- Group engagement – Leadership and navigation, as well as critical evaluation, are important competencies for group engagement, which involves the entire workforce as well as individuals.
Key roles of senior HR professionals
As a business professional, you know and understand that there are several key roles for senior HR professionals in every organization:
- Developing HR strategies – working with other members of the leadership team and the HR team to develop HR strategies
- Leading HR function – taking responsibility for all of the moving parts and leading the HR team in its function
- Fostering influence in the community – being a visible and influential leader in the broader HR and business communities
- Analyzing performance metrics – having a clear understanding of the competencies necessary to reach strategic goals and using that knowledge to analyze performance metrics
- Overseeing execution of HR operations – taking full and final responsibility for the proper execution of all HR operations
- Helping to align HR strategies to organizational goals – working closely with counterparts on the executive team to help align HR strategies with organizational goals and objectives
Critical behavioral competencies for senior HR professionals
According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), there are eight behavioral competencies that you as an HR professional must demonstrate. Further, each competency has two degrees – the first degree includes behaviors observed in HR professionals at all levels of the organization. The second degree includes behaviors observed in HR professionals at higher levels and these are the behaviors that should characterize HR leaders.
According to SHRM’s model, these eight behavioral competencies can be applied in different ways to individual people, the organization as a whole, the workplace, or when dealing with strategy.
This is how the eight HR competencies are applied to advanced HR functions:
- Leadership and navigation – This competency is necessary for senior HR professionals in the area of business and HR strategy.
- Ethical practice – This competency is important for senior HR professionals in the areas of employee relations in the organization, as well as diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
- Business acumen – This competency is important when it comes to talent acquisition and retention, learning and development, and total rewards. In the organization, business acumen also aids in the structuring of the HR function, as well as the management of technology and data. It is also involved in risk management in the workplace.
- Relationship management – This competency is important when it comes to employee engagement, as well as learning and development. In terms of the organization and workplace, this competency is also important in dealing with factors such as employee relations, diversity and inclusion, risk management, and corporate social responsibility.
- Consultation – When it comes to dealing with people, this competency is useful in talent acquisition and retention and employee engagement. In the organization it relates to the structure of the HR function, and in the workplace it relates to HR in the global context and corporate social responsibility.
- Critical evaluation – This competency relates to talent acquisition and retention, learning and development, and total rewards. In the organization it relates to the structure of the HR function, employee relations, and technology and data. In the workplace it relates to risk management, and it also relates to business and HR strategy.
- Global and cultural effectiveness – In the workplace, this competency relates to HR in the global context, as well as diversity and inclusion.
- Communication – This competency relates to employee engagement, technology, and data in the organization, as well as HR in the global context. It also applies to diversity and inclusion and risk management in the workplace.