Human Resources Competencies

The HR Scorecard, by Brian Becker, Mark Huselid and David Ulrich, discusses human resource competencies and how having the right ones can ultimately make the difference in managing a business.
Competencies for HR Professionals

Much has been said about the roles that human resource professionals play: mostly dealing with compensation, benefits, payroll and employee relations. But as Becker, Huselid and Ulrich write in The HR Scorecard, the competencies of HR professionals go beyond the common administrative duties.

Human resource competence is defined as the knowledge, skills, abilities or personality characteristics that directly influence an individual´s job performance.   The HR Scorecard defines five competencies human resources professionals feel are necessary to do their jobs effectively.   The competencies, in order of importance, are:

1.           Personal credibility

2.           Management of change

3.           Management of culture

4.           Delivery of HR practices

5. Knowledge of the business

Personal Credibility:

Considered the foundation of all other competencies, personal credibility requires that human resource professionals live by their company´s values. If they do not live by these values, it is unlikely that others will see them as credible.   The HR Scorecard quotes a study showing that HR professionals develop credibility when they build their company relationships on trust, have chemistry with the management team, work well as a team member, influence without authority and support business objectives.   Factors related to credibility, in order of importance are:

1.           Has a track record of success

2.           Has earned trust

3.           Instills confidence in others

4.           Has "chemistry" with key constituents

5.           Demonstrates high integrity

Management of Change:

Technology is changing most traditional aspects of human resources - so the ability to effectively manage that change is an important trait.   The management of change is an example of human resource professionals acting as business partners.   They need to assist the CEOs in refocusing specific elements within the organization in response to new trends and strategies.   The five most important qualities an HR professional must have to successfully manage change are:

1.           Establishes trust and credibility in relating to others

2.           Is visionary

3.           Takes a proactive role in bringing about change

4.           Builds supportive relationships with others

5.           Encourages others to be proactive

Management of Culture:

Studies have found that companies with stronger cultures tend to achieve higher performance.   A company´s culture is maintained through a high-performance human resources strategy.   HR managers need to understand they are "keepers of the culture" and that their impact reaches far beyond their functional boundaries.   Here are the top five qualities identified by Becker, Huselid and Ulrich required to manage culture:

1.           Shares knowledge across organizational boundaries

2.           Champions culture-transformation process

3.           Translates desired culture into specific behaviors

4.           Challenges the status-quo

5.           Identifies the culture required to meet the firm´s business strategy and frames culture in a way that excites employees

Delivery of HR Practices:

At the very least, HR professionals must be experts in their fields.   They must also be dedicated enough to continually update their knowledge and adapt it to situations they encounter.   By doing this, HR professionals remain open-minded, feel confident to teach others and earn credibility from the rest of the organization.   This competency has several important aspects:

1.           Expresses effective verbal communication

2.           Works with managers to send clear and consistent messages

3.           Expresses effective written communication

4.           Facilitates the process of restructuring the organization

5.           Designs development programs that facilitate change

Knowledge of the Business:

Last on the list - but certainly not least - is the understanding of the business.   Human resource professionals add value to a company when they understand the ins and outs of its business.   Knowing the financial, strategic, technological and organizational aspects of the company allows HR professionals to adapt to human resources to organizational activities.   It also enables them to play a key role in strategic discussions.   HR professionals may know how to use HR technology, but may be unable to adapt that technology to specific, changing business conditions.   In order for HR professionals to be effective in their positions they should understand:

  1. Human resources practices
  2. Organizational structure
  3. Competitor analysis
  4. Finance
  5. Marketing and Sales
  6. Computer information systems


While the most important HR competencies may vary from organization to organization, the five discussed here give a good sense of what HR needs to be.   It would be wise to outline your key competencies and assess how they directly benefit your company´s management. The results could make all the difference to the way HR is valued in your company.

The HR Scorecard: Linking People, Strategy, and Performance by Brian E. Becker, Mark A. Huselid, Dave Ulrich is available from

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