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2008/10/30

HR Competencies

Linking: HR Competencies: Mastery at the Intersection of People and Business
Authors: Dave Ulrich, Wayne Brockbank, Dani Johnson, Kurt Sandholtz, and Jon Younger
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Society For Human Resource Management (March 1, 2008)
ISBN-10: 1586441132 
Book Review:


For HR professionals to respond to changing business conditions, they must demonstrate new competencies. HR professionals who would have been successful in previous decades would not be effective today.  The authors have worked for the last 20 years to identify the competencies that enable HR professionals to respond to the business conditions. HR competencies are the values, knowledge, and abilities of HR professionals. HR professionals with the right competencies will perform better. They will be more likely to engage employees, to serve customers, and to create intangible shareholder wealth. HR competencies define what is expected from those who work in HR and form the basis for assessment and improvement in the quality of HR professionals.
 
These authors suggest that HR professionals must master competencies dealing both with people and business issues (large arrows). In the changing business conditions, HR professionals should serve the organization's people, communicating care, concern, and compassion for employees.
 
Some have called this the human in human resources. But the business conditions also require that HR professionals be attuned to customer and investor expectations by making sure that strategies are designed and delivered.  Following one of these two paths independent of the other leads to failure.  HR professionals who emphasize the people side at the exclusion of the business side may be well liked and popular, but they will not succeed because their work does not further business goals. HR professionals who focus on the business side without sensitivity to the human element will also not succeed because while the business may prosper in the short term, people will not sustain the success in the longer term. Within these two dimensions, the authors arrayed six domains of HR competence, dealing with relationships, processes, and capabilities. Each is defined further below.
 
1. Credible Activist.
The HR professional is both credible (respected, admired, listened to) and active (offers a point of view, takes a position, challenges 9 assumptions). Some have called this HR with an attitude. HR professionals who are credible but not activists are admired but do not have much impact. Those who are activists but not credible may have ideas but will not be listened to.
 
2. Culture and Change Steward.
The HR professional appreciates, articulates, and helps shape a company’s culture. Culture is a pattern of activities more than a single event. Ideally this culture starts with clarity around external customer expectations (firm identity or brand) and then translates these expectations into internal employee and organization behaviors. As stewards of culture, HR professionals respect the past culture and also can help to shape a new culture.
 
They coach managers in how their actions reflect and drive culture; they weave the cultural standards into HR practices and processes; and they make culture real to employees. Additionally, successful HR professionals facilitate change in two ways. First, they help make culture happen. Second, they develop disciplines to make changes happen throughout the organization. This may include implementation of strategy, projects, or initiatives. They help turn what is known into what is done.
 
3. Talent Manager /Organizational Designer.
The HR professional masters theory, research, and practice in both talent management and organization design. Talent management focuses on competency requirements and how individuals enter and move up, across, or out of the organization. Organization design focuses on how a company embeds capability (for example, collaboration) into the structure, processes, and policies that shape how an organization works. HR professionals ensure that the company’s means of talent management and organizational capabilities are aligned with customer requirements and strategy, integrated with each other, and working effectively and efficiently. HR is not just about talent or organization, but also about the two of them together. Good talent without a supporting organization will not be sustained, and a good organization will not deliver results without talented individuals with the right competencies in critical roles.
 
4. Strategy Architect.
The HR professional has a vision for how the organization can win in the future and plays an active part in the establishment of the overall strategy to deliver on this vision. This means recognizing business trends and their impact on the business, forecasting potential obstacles to success, and facilitating the process of gaining strategic clarity. The HR professional also contributes to the building of the overall strategy by linking the internal organization to external customer expectations. This linkage helps make customer-driven business strategies real to the employees of the company.
 
5. Operational Executor.
The HR professional executes the operational aspects of managing people and organizations. Policies need to be drafted, adapted, and implemented. Employees also have many administrative needs (e.g., to be paid, relocated, hired, and trained). HR professionals ensure that these basic needs are efficiently dealt with through technology, shared services, and/or outsourcing. This operational work of HR ensures credibility if executed flawlessly and grounded in the consistent application of policies.
 
6. Business Ally.
Businesses succeed by setting goals and objectives that respond to external opportunity and threats. HR professionals contribute to the success of a business by knowing the social context or setting in which their business operates. They also know how the business makes money, which we call the value chain of the business (who customers are, why they buy the company’s products or services). Finally, they have a good understanding of the parts of the business (finance, marketing, research and development, engineering), what they must accomplish and how they work together, so that they can help the business organize to make money.

Practical and concise, this guide provides an overview of the knowledge, skills, and values that successful human resource (HR) professionals demonstrate in all types of positions, companies, and geographies. The techniques help those professionals architect, coach, design, and facilitate programs for effective operations resulting in more efficient and content organizations. Answering such questions as What makes a successful HR professional? Which HR competencies have the most impact on performance? How do they affect business performance?, and How do HR departments affect individuals? this comprehensive and empirical book offers advice for every HR professional—making them more successful, effective, and valuable to their companies. 


~Adapted from Ulrich, Dave; Brockbank, Wayne; Johnson, Dani; Younger, Jon. Employment Relations Today, Sep2007, Vol. 34 Issue 3, p1-12.



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