No longer should HR professionals aspire to be mere “talent managers.”
Instead, they need to be “change champions,” “strategic positioners” and “technology proponents,” according to researchers at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business and the RBL Group, a consulting firm.
The results of their 2012 Human Resource Competency Study reflect the evolution of the HR profession as well as the global business environment since the university’s previous study five years ago.
“There’s a real expectation that HR has got to be in the business of managing and leading change,” said Jon Younger, a partner with RBL Group who co-directed the study. “It’s an expectation that HR will play a critical strategic role in identifying needs for change, leading change process and monitoring the change process to ensure that it’s achieving the objectives it’s intended to achieve.”
Savvy HR professionals also should be “strategic positioners,” he said.
“We really see more and more of the expectation that HR professionals play a role in identifying key external trends that are likely to impact their organization,” Younger said. “There’s an expectation that they will translate and interpret what’s happening outside into meaningful facts, trends and actions inside.”
In addition, HR professionals are expected to use technology to communicate more efficiently with employees and potential employees as well as to connect employees with each other, Younger said.
Stand-out HR professionals must be:
Credible activists, who advocate for their positions, not only about HR activities, but also about business demands.
HR innovators and integrators, who look for new ways to do HR and integrate those practices to have a positive business impact. The role of cultural steward, listed as a key competency in the 2007 study, is now included under this umbrella.
Capability builders, who create organizational capabilities that help sustain the business. This includes the role of talent manager, cited as a separate competency in 2007.
To find out what it takes to be a top-notch HR professional, the researchers surveyed 2,638 HR professionals from eight regions around the world from March to September 2011 and then queried 9,897 of the respondents’ HR associates and 7,488 of their non-HR associates to assess their personal effectiveness and impact on business performance.
“We can empirically show that when HR professionals demonstrate these six competencies, they are seen as personally effective and they impact business performance,” said study co-director Wayne Brockbank, a professor at Michigan Ross and director of its Center for Strategic HR Leadership.
The RBL-Michigan Ross study serves as a seminal longitudinal study on HR roles fulfilled by successful practitioners. This year the Society for Human Resource Management will publish findings from its global study of individual competencies needed to be a successful HR professional. It will be based on in-depth focus groups, face-to-face interviews and a survey of the entire SHRM professional membership.
Dori Meinert is a senior writer for HR Magazine.
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