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The Competency Factor

May CoverWho’s the most successful HR professional you know—boss, mentor or other colleague? What qualities do they possess? What makes them stand out?

It’s likely the person you have in mind is business-savvy and well-respected across their organization. They have meaningful relationships with people at every rung of the corporate ladder. They’ve acquired the leadership mantle that so many in the HR profession are seeking. They’re seen as a trusted advisor to the CEO and his or her team of senior executives. In sum, your HR hero has the “it” factor. But what is “it”? And, most important, how do more HR professionals get it?

At the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), we call it competency. When we set out to develop our HR Competency Model, we surveyed businesses, educators and over 30,000 HR professionals and found that there are nine critical behavioral and leadership competencies every HR professional needs to succeed and grow. These competencies include relationship management; ethical practice; HR expertise (knowledge); business acumen; critical evaluation; global and cultural effectiveness; leadership and navigation; consultation; and communication.

These competencies are relevant at every career stage, across all industries, around the world. They are the behaviors businesses have been asking for—nearly demanding—from HR professionals for the past several years. They are demonstrated by the most successful members of the profession.

As the world’s largest HR professional association, SHRM has a responsibility to help you respond to the new, higher expectations of HR; to advance the profession to the level business demands; and to better serve you in this process. That is why SHRM recently announced a new certification for HR professionals based on our HR Competency Model. It will be the first of its kind, focused on teaching and testing the practical, real-life information HR professionals need to excel, including knowledge, skills and competencies.

It’s a natural progression from testing knowledge to assessing skills and behaviors required to perform successfully. Many testing bodies have moved to this model, including HR professional associations outside the U.S. Even the long-standing SAT, the widely used standardized test for college admissions, has been redesigned to better align with what students need to know for college and career success. We see SHRM’s new competency-based program as the next evolution in HR certification.

This is an exciting and pivotal time in our profession. More than ever, HR teams are required to assume greater leadership roles. HR has always been the internal driver in ensuring an organization’s competitive edge by securing the right talent and developing the initiatives to retain that talent. Now HR is also critical to the risk and reputation management of organizations.

In today’s environment, a competent HR professional is a business leader. SHRM stands ready to help you meet the new demands of the profession, and to up your “it” factor. You can learn more about the next generation of HR certification in this issue of HR Magazine and at


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