HR Competency Model Unveiled


By Kathy Gurchiek July 5, 2012

ATLANTA--Human resource professionals now have an in-depth checklist to gauge their professional development from entry to executive levels, thanks to the HR Competency Model that the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) unveiled here at its 2012 Annual Conference.

Alexander Alonso, Ph.D., director of HR Thought Leadership at SHRM, led a concurrent session on the competency model, which will provide an overview of the critical competencies needed for individual success and growth in an HR career.

“It is a road map for ensuring development as successful HR professionals,” Alonso told SHRMConference Daily. “We looked at [competencies] from a career path perspective” to determine what was needed at each level “to be truly successful.”

The model focuses primarily on the competencies needed for success, including technical expertise comprised of the core bodies of knowledge assessed by HR Certification Institute tests, he said.

“If you want to know whether you’re performing the behaviors of a successful HR professional, this is a way to find out if you are … and, if not, how best to learn those behaviors,” Alonso noted.

The model has been in development since June 2011, using input from 111 focus groups with more than 1,200 HR professionals worldwide. In February 2012, SHRM conducted a validation survey that netted 33,000 responses. Focus group participants and survey respondents were a mix of SHRM and non-SHRM members, according to Alonso. See the model online at

“The big surprises,” he said of the model, “will be the emphasis on global cultural effectiveness and a big emphasis on the ability to digest and understand data.”

The emphasis on data is much heavier than in the past, he added, explaining that “we have so many HR metrics available to us that are directly tied to the balanced scorecard.”

Understanding those metrics “gets your foot in the door to the C-suite,” he said.

A Model of Success​

The model consists of nine primary competency domains:

  • HR Expertise and Practice, which Alonso calls the “cornerstone” of the competency model.
  • Relationship Management.
  • Consultation.
  • Organizational Leadership and Navigation.
  • Communication.
  • Global and Cultural Effectiveness.
  • Ethical Practice.
  • Business Acumen.
  • Critical Evaluation.

Each of the nine domains are defined with behavioral proficiency standards across four professional levels—entry, middle, senior and executive.

Each professional level also is identified by behaviors most typically demonstrated and acceptable at a particular stage in the HR career for a particular competency and its sub-competencies.

The Business Acumen competency, for example, is defined as “the ability to understand business functions and metrics within the organization and industry.”

There are nine behaviors associated with the competency, including leveraging technology to solve business problems and using organizational metrics to make decisions. There are 12 sub-competencies associated with this competency, including knowledge of government and regulatory guidelines and knowledge of labor markets.

At the entry level for this competency, there are 10 proficiency standards, such as “gathers, assembles and reports HR metrics and labor market trends.” At the mid-level for this competency, there are another 14 proficiency standards, such as “manages process improvement initiatives.”

At the senior level for this competency, there are 27 more proficiency standards, such as “develops organizationwide business practices or operations.” At the executive level for this competency, there are another 17 proficiency standards, such as “defines strategy for managing talent within the confines of the labor market.”

A self-assessment tool is expected to be available in January 2013 for a nominal fee. HR professionals can use this tool to determine their proficiency in each major competency, according to Alonso. A free “teaser” version of the tool is available to SHRM members at

The competency model, which will be free and publicly available, will be updated every five years to reflect changes in society.

A report on the validity data used for the model is to be released to the public in late 2012. For more information about the competency model, contact Alonso and his staff at

Kathy Gurchiek is associate editor of HR News.


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