Convince Your Organization to Join the Competency Club

Part 1: Aligning the HR function to the SHRM Competency Model

By Ashley Miller, M.A. May 4, 2017

​Do any of the following statements describe you?

  1. You have a SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP credential and are engaged in continuous learning and development in anticipation of recertifying.
  2. You are registered for the SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP exam and are studying to prepare for it.
  3. You are interested in SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP certification and how it will benefit you as an HR professional and are trying to convince your boss to pay for the exam fee. 

If any of these describe you, congratulations! You have joined the Competency Club. Welcome to the future of HR. You recognize the value of the competency-based approach to HR, including professional development and certification. You understand how a competency model helps the HR function leverage its strategic role by aligning HR processes to the organization's strategic objectives. 

Competency Model as a Framework for Success

If strategy is the "what" for an organization, a competency model can define the "how" for employees to help that strategy succeed. The model serves as a framework for defining what success looks like across all roles and functions within the organization. It connects different HR processes, allowing for an integrated approach to managing talent and performance, and increasing the understanding of how individuals drive organizational success. 

Are your organizational leaders in the Competency Club? If not, put on your Consultation hat and get to work explaining the above! Then convince your organization to adopt a competency-based approach to HR management. Recognize that such an effort is considered a change management initiative; it must be handled effectively if it is to succeed. 

The SHRM Competency Model can be deployed in multiple ways to define competencies and ensure that the HR function is operating in support of the overall organizational strategy. The list below can help you develop a comprehensive plan for your HR department to follow as it implements a competency-based approach, designing the HR function and aligning HR processes to the SHRM Competency Model: 

  1. Structure your HR function and team.
  2. Identify and select talent.
  3. Develop current and future talent.
  4. Define and measure performance.
  5. Analyze HR data to measure effectiveness.

This article examines steps 1 and 2. Next month's article will look at steps 3 to 5.

Structure Your HR Function and Team

The HR strategy sets the foundation and vision for the HR function overall. Does your organization already have an HR strategy in place? If yes, revisit and refine it. If no, create one.

Start with a draft strategy that defines what successful HR looks like in your organization. Next, identify the core competencies required to demonstrate that vision of success. All HR employees will need these competencies to carry out the HR strategy effectively. 

Further define your HR strategy, making sure it aligns with the core competencies. (The importance of this cannot be stressed enough. It may take several iterations, and that's OK!) Linking HR strategy with organizational strategy is essential to ensure that the HR function and your employees perform in a manner that enables the organization to achieve the goals defined in both strategies.

Now, create a comprehensive HR plan—fundamental for achieving the goals identified in the HR strategy. This plan should address how HR processes will be aligned to the core competencies. A competency-based approach isn't a one-off solution limited to certain HR processes; for optimum HR effectiveness, your plan should design and implement all HR processes using a common competency framework. 

In using competencies to structure your HR function, consider these steps:

  • Assess the current state of your HR function. Are HR processes aligned to both HR and organizational strategies? Do employees possess the competencies required for success?
  • Develop a model of your HR function as it transitions to a competency-based approach. If your organization leverages Centers of Excellence or a shared services model, consider the importance of the SHRM-defined Business Acumen, Communication, Consultation and Relationship Management competencies. If your organization is globally dispersed, or if an increase in diversity is a strategic goal, consider the importance of the Ethical Practice and Global & Cultural Effectiveness competencies. How strategic do you need to be? The key competencies here are Leadership & Navigation and Critical Evaluation.
  • How will your organization's HR functions operate? Create a plan based on future goals and look for areas that could be improved. Conducting a gap analysis can help at this stage.
  • Develop HR processes and systems that align with your new model.
  • Create a workforce plan for HR, considering both current and future requirements, that aligns with the core HR competencies. Incorporate objectives that promote those competencies.
  • Define methods for monitoring progress toward goals and evaluating success. 

Identify and Select Talent

A competency-based approach to identifying and selecting talent ensures that your workforce possesses the competencies required to achieve the goals identified in both HR and organizational strategies.

In using competencies to identify and select talent, consider these steps:

  • Begin with the foundation in mind. The core competencies (required of employees to carry out the HR vision and accomplish the organization's goals) should serve as your foundation.
  • Conduct a job analysis to identify the duties and tasks for which each position is responsible, and the knowledge, skills, abilities and other characteristics (KSAOs) required to perform each position effectively.
  • Identify the competencies that align with these KSAOs. Link the KSAOs to the competencies. Define the key behaviors that demonstrate proficiency in each competency.
  • Work with subject matter experts in your organization to confirm and align the competencies, duties, tasks and KSAOs for each position.
  • Develop competency-based job descriptions based on the final content.
  • Identify methods for measuring candidate proficiency (e.g., behavioral interviewing is a particularly useful competency-based approach to assessment).
  • Recruit and assess candidates on key behaviors tied to the competencies that are required. 

SHRM continuously develops new resources to help organizations seeking to join the Competency Club. Questions? Need additional information to get started? Reach out to the SHRM HR Competencies team at, and stay tuned for Part 2 of this series next month. 

Ashley Miller, M.A., is senior specialist for HR competencies at SHRM. 

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