Competency FAQs


​What is a competency?

A competency is a knowledge, skill, ability or other characteristic (e.g., trait, mindset, attitude), commonly referred to as a KSAO, or a group of characteristics, which, when applied in the appropriate roles, help achieve desired results. Competencies contribute to individual exemplary performance that increases the likelihood of a positive impact on organizational outcomes.1,2 Competencies help simplify the process of tying concrete examples of performance expectations to organizational or professional mission and goals.
An example of a competency for human resource (HR) professionals is business acumen, or the ability to understand and apply information to contribute to the organization’s strategic plan. Competencies, such as business acumen, distinguish high-performing HR professionals from their less effective counterparts.
1Campion, M.A., Fink, A.A., Ruggeberg, B.J., Carr, L., Phillips, G.M., & Odman, R.B. (2011). Doing competencies well: Best practices in competency modeling. Personnel Psychology, 64, 225-262.
2Shippmann, J.S., Ash, R.A., Battista, M., Carr, L., Eyde, L.D., Hesketh, B., Keyhoe, J., Pearlman, K., Prien, E.P., & Sanchez, J.I. (2000). The practice of competency modeling. Personnel Psychology, 53, 703-740.

What is a competency model?

A competency model refers to a collection of competencies that are needed for effective job performance. The individual KSAOs or combinations of KSAOs are the competencies, and the set of competencies is typically referred to as the competency model.
Developers of competency models often organize competencies by various criteria, such as whether the competencies apply to all jobs (i.e., core competencies) in an organization or profession, or whether they are specific to particular jobs or roles (i.e., technical competencies). In addition, competency models typically include detailed information, such as key behaviors and standards of proficiency that apply to different levels of job experience or expertise.3,4
In the field of HR, competency models play an important role in the selection, training and appraisal of HR and other professionals. Individually, HR professionals can use competency models for career management and development purposes by guiding the choice of job assignments and in making other career decisions.
Organizations can use competency models to help structure themselves and their teams to align what is needed for successful performance with organizational strategy. Organizations can also use well-designed competency models to build performance assessments for existing employees, create behavioral interviews for hiring new employees and determine selection criteria for succession planning.
Developing a robust, tiered competency model for the HR profession has allowed SHRM to identify how best to serve members at each stage of their careers. Where possible, SHRM aligns its products, conference sessions, publications and other resources to the SHRM Competency Model.
3Campion et al. (2011). 4Shippmann et al. (2000). 

How did SHRM create this competency model?

SHRM followed best practices delineated by the Society for Industrial Organizational Psychology (SIOP) taskforce on competency modeling.5,6
SHRM developed the SHRM Competency Model in three phases: initial model development, content validation and criterion validation​.
In the initial model development phase, SHRM developed a draft of the model based on (1) a thorough review and synthesis of the relevant literature; and (2) input from more than 1,200 HR professionals during 111 focus groups in 29 cities across the world.
Content validation refers to gathering evidence supporting the assumption that what is included in the competency model actually reflects what is necessary for successful performance. SHRM gathered content validation evidence for the SH​RM Competency Model through a survey of more than 32,000 subject matter experts who provided ratings regarding the accuracy, relevance and importance of the competency model’s content. Based on the results of this survey, SHRM refined the draft model.
Together with the focus group data collected in the initial model development phase, the perspectives of HR professionals from 33 different nations were represented in the development of the SHRM Competency Model.
Criterion validation refers to gathering evidence supporting the assumption that differences in proficiency in the competencies included in the model predict differences in work performance. SHRM gathered criterion validation evidence for the SHRM Competency Model by collecting data on competency proficiency (i.e., self-ratings and situational judgment responses) and supervisor ratings of employee performance. SHRM then analyzed these data to identify the statistical relationship between competency proficiency and performance.
5Campion et al. (2011). 6Shippmann et al. (2000).​ 

What are the nine competencies included in the SHRM Competency Model?

  • Business Acumen
  • ​Communication
  • Consultation
  • Critical Evaluation
  • Global & Cultural Effectiveness
  • HR Expertise
  • Leadership & Navigation
  • Relationship Management
  • Ethical Practice

Why did SHRM create the SHRM Competency Model?

SHRM serves as a global leader in service to the HR profession. As part of our efforts to serve our members and the profession, SHRM continually aims to identify what makes an HR professional successful and how we can better support HR professionals in achieving their professional goals.
Thus, we developed the SHRM Competency Model to determine the foundational competencies for HR professionals:
  • at the entry, mid, senior and executive levels of the HR profession;
  • in small, medium and large enterprises;
  • in private, public, nonprofit and not-for-profit sectors; and
  • in organizations with multinational and domestic operations. 
This model and the resources developed based on the model are designed to help HR professionals succeed in their current roles and develop a roadmap for career advancement.​

Do the competencies in the SHRM Competency Model vary by anything other than career level (e.g., by industry or sector)?

SHRM has conducted extensive research in developing a robust competency model that applies to the HR profession as a whole. The model is designed to reflect competencies that will be important in the career of an HR professional regardless of industry, sector or geographic region.
Although individual differences in the importance of competencies may arise for HR professionals in their specific day-to-day functions, these differences tend to play out more at the level of individual behaviors or knowledge required, not at the overall competency level. In other words, regardless of industry, sector, geography or other factors beyond career level, the same nine competencies included in the SHRM Competency Model reflect the most critical competencies for distinguishing between high- and low-performing HR professionals.​

How does the SHRM Competency Model relate to the SHRM Body of Competency and KnowledgeTM (BoCKTM)?

The SHRM BoCK​TM is based on the SHRM Competency Model. The BoCK serves as the foundation for the SHRM Certification Exams and the SHRM educational resources available to HR professionals preparing for the exams.
Because of the need to ensure that SHRM certification content contains the depth and breadth to be reliable and valid measures of HR knowledge and proficiency, the BoCK dives even further into particular areas of competency and knowledge. For this reason, SHRM periodically reviews the content of both the BoCK and the Competency Model to ensure that they remain current and aligned.

How does the SHRM Competency Model affect me and the HR profession?

Through professional development and continuous improvement, HR professionals can develop proficiency in competencies that will help them succeed in their careers. In addition, proficiency in HR competencies helps HR professionals contribute to their organizations’ success in a meaningful way.
The SHRM Competency Model provides specific behaviors that define proficiency at each stage of an HR professional’s career. It serves as a resource to understand how you should be performing in your current professional stage as well as what you will need to know and do to succeed at the next stage.
SHRM developed the model to provide HR professionals and others with a clear understanding of what makes an HR professional succeed or where he or she needs to develop. Accordingly, it helps the HR profession by serving as a benchmark for HR success as well as a framework for communicating to others what we do as a profession. For example, it serves as the foundation for the SHRM certification and professional development materials, as a guideline for many of the articles published in HR Magazine, and as an outline for sessions at our Annual Conference and other SHRM conferences. 

How can I use the SHRM Competency Model in my day-to-day functions?

There are a number of ways that you can use the SHRM Competency Model in your day-to-day functions as an HR professional. Examples of these include:

  • Using the model for your own professional development, identifying strengths as well as areas for growth, your progression toward proficiency in each competency and your readiness for the next stage of your HR career.
  • Using the model to design professional development activities for your HR team.
  • Using the competencies and other components of the model to design and implement talent acquisition plans, selection assessments and talent management processes.
  • Using the model for HR workforce planning by identifying department strengths and gaps and determining where existing staff fit best, what areas staff need to develop and which gaps require acquisition of new HR talent.
  • Using the model to communicate to others in the organization about what makes HR unique and what HR brings to the table as a strategic business function in the organization.​

Can I use the SHRM Competency Model to steer my career development?

Absolutely! This is one of the primary benefits of SHRM having developed the Competency Model. SHRM developed the model to apply across the entire HR career lifecycle and is continually producing new how-to guides, sample spreadsheets and other resources and tools to help individuals in their current career level as well as to prepare for the next career level.

Where can I find developmental activities to help me build proficiency in the competencies from the SHRM Competency Model?

Many options are available through SHRM to develop your proficiency in the competencies defined in the SHRM Competency Model. This includes attending seminars and conferences, reading thought leader guidance on competencies, using the SHRM Learning System, and networking online with other HR professionals.

How can I assess my proficiency in the competencies in the SHRM Competency Model?

There are several ways you can assess your proficiency in these competencies. First and foremost, if you are not already certified, or if your certification has lapsed, you can sign up to become certified. 

In preparation for certification, you can purchase access to the SHRM e-Learning System where you will have the opportunity to take a practice assessment (in addition to learning more about what knowledge and behaviors are critical to successful HR performance). 

Through each of these tools, you can get a robust sense of your proficiency in the competencies necessary for success in an HR profession. 

How can I use the SHRM Competency Model in my organization to help drive success in our HR department?

HR professionals can use the SHRM Competency Model to help drive success in their HR departments in a number of ways:

  • HR professionals can use the model and its components in the planning and design of their HR departments. The model is built to easily align with existing organizational strategies and can be used to identify areas of strategic importance in the HR function. In addition, HR departments can use the model to identify HR competency gaps, from which staffing, performance management, and training and development plans and processes can be established.
  • HR leaders can use the SHRM Competency Model to clarify to others in their organization what HR does and how it aligns with the culture and other business processes in the organization. By showing other leaders what HR does and how it aligns with the rest of the business, HR can create more collaborative working relationships and build greater buy-in and trust, key factors leading to successful strategic HR management.

What does SHRM intend to do with the SHRM Competency model in the future?

SHRM continues to monitor what is happening in the field of HR and what is necessary for HR professionals to be successful now and in the future. Based on industry best practices, SHRM plans to make updates to the model every five to seven years, depending on what our research tells us about changes in HR knowledge and behaviors necessary for career success. When SHRM does make modifications to the model, we will work across our organization to ensure that such changes are reflected in our content, products and services to the HR community. In addition, we will communicate in a timely manner to our members and the HR field in general when significant changes might occur. 

​Whom can I contact for more information?

For more information about the SHRM Competency Model, please contact us at​


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