New Competencies for HR

By Robert J. Grossman Jun 1, 2007
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HR Magazine, June 2007 How the Study Was Done

After HR professionals were invited to participate, those who accepted rated themselves and asked their supervisor from within HR to rate them. They also chose additional raters familiar with their HR role from among HR peers or associates, line executives, or internal and external customers outside the HR function.

As incentive, each HR participant received at no charge an individual feedback report that includes a self-score and associate rater averages. In addition, HR executives from each participating company received a company average, regional average and global norm.

Globally, nearly 10,000 individuals representing nearly 400 organizations joined the study (see chart below), including about 1,700 HR participants, 5,000 associate raters and 3,300 non-HR associate raters.

As with 360-degree appraisals, associates answered 225 questions such as, “Is the respondent effective at building relationships of trust?” They rated against a scale of 1 to 6, with 1 representing “very little extent” and 5 representing “very large extent.” (A rating of 6 represented “not applicable/don’t know.”)

Seventy-five percent of HR respondents had at least four years of college. Seventy-four percent of HR participants had 10 years or more of professional experience, while only 51 percent had served that long in HR, suggesting that more people are choosing HR later in their careers. A little more than a third (36 percent) were top HR managers in their organizations. A third were HR managers (33 percent), and 30 percent were individual contributors.

Human Resource Competency Study (HRCS) participants are top-tier professionals. When raters were asked to compare the HR person they were rating with all human resource professionals they have known, they placed 87 percent of the HR participants within the top 30 percent, and almost three-quarters in the top fifth. HR participants from the United States scored even higher. Only 3 percent of the more than 8,000 responders to the question placed their HR professional in the bottom 50 percent of HR professionals they have known.

Ulrich is pleased that HR participants are regarded so highly. “We’re looking at the top 20 percent of HR executives and telling others what they have to do if they want to get there themselves. Significant progress has been made over the past 20 years, when HR was just beginning to make its case for ‘being at the table.’ Now, two-thirds of the survey participants are there. These are high performers. They’re at the table and making a meaningful contribution.”

Although Ulrich acknowledges limitations in the complex undertaking—such as over- or under-representation of some business sectors and rating differentials between regions that are difficult to explain fully—Ulrich calls the HRCS the Mercedes of competency studies and the biggest and best of its kind. “Is it perfect? Is it indicative of the whole world? No. But it is the best that’s out there,” he says.

Robert J. Grossman, a contributing editor of HR Magazine, is a lawyer and a professor of management studies at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

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