HR Changes Are Revolutionary, Not Evolutionary

The global relevance of the SHRM competencies in the volatile international regulatory environment

By Jeff Lindeman, SHRM-SCP December 7, 2017

​Changing statutory and regulatory conditions are creating ever more complexity for today's HR professionals. During the early years of my career as an HR practitioner, legal requirements for employers tended to evolve with advance notice, and we had time to adapt to eventual changes. It was possible to remember, for instance, the requirements for meals, rest periods and overtime for each jurisdiction in which the business operated. 

Nowadays, as cities, states and nations add laws, statutes and ordinances, there is a seemingly nonstop set of modifying regulations for employers to comply with. Compared to the past, such changes seem revolutionary rather than evolutionary. The rapid pace of change means that employers must remain vigilant and focused on compliance at all times and in all geographic areas in which they conduct business. As organizations navigate this increasingly complex regulatory environment, they rely on HR professionals to support them in defining the employment relationship and the rights of employees as well as employers. 

The SHRM Competency Model offers insight into what is required of 21st century HR professionals if they are to be effective and successful. The HR Expertise and Ethical Practice competencies are foundational: HR practitioners must apply these competencies if they wish for their organizations to remain compliant in today's dynamic regulatory environment as new regulations and new interpretations of existing statutes present themselves.

Yet businesses require more than knowledge and expertise from HR. Even effective HR practitioners are not going to outperform the general counsel or the risk management office when it comes to regulatory compliance. 

Organizations need to do more than comply with regulatory standards—they need to operate optimally within those standards. To accomplish this, they need HR practitioners who are able to educate, inform and engage internal and external stakeholders. By applying the competencies of Communication, Consultation, and Leadership & Navigation to help employment law experts lead the organization away from risks, HR experts magnify the value of their contributions to the business. By applying the competencies of Relationship Management, Business Acumen, Critical Evaluation, and Global & Cultural Effectiveness, HR practitioners enhance their credibility as they work with stakeholders. 

To help ensure that my company and its employees comply with laws and regulations as well as organizational values, I apply the SHRM-defined competencies in my own workplace. Here is one example: An employee who had made some poor behavior choices, and who had been disciplined for acting inappropriately, once asked me where "the line in the sand" was when it came to behavioral expectations in the workplace. Discipline in this individual's case had been administered as soon as management became aware of the conduct, because the circumstances could have created an environment in which productivity was disrupted and the potential legal risk was increased. The employee desperately wanted to know where "the line" was, so as to not risk crossing it again. I provided the insight the employee needed by using my skills in active listening (essential to the Communication competency), mutual respect (Relationship Management), coaching (Consultation) and risk management (HR Expertise). I said, "You are asking me to define exactly where an appropriate line is, and I know that is because you do not want to inadvertently make a future misstep. The best advice I can give you is to focus on living our organization's values. By doing so, your behavior will never be inappropriate and certainly will not cause a violation of our policies or the law."

Today I live in Europe and provide support to employees who reside in the European Union as they conduct business all over the world—Russia, India, Africa, and the islands of Madagascar and Reunion in the Indian Ocean, French Polynesia in the Pacific, and the West Indies in the Caribbean. It is impossible for me to be the legal and regulatory expert in all jurisdictions where we do business. Such events as Brexit, renegotiations of NAFTA and other deals, and the passage of new French labor laws meant to reform an entrenched system underscore our increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world. My responsibility now is to provide my colleagues with access to the legal expertise necessary to create the conditions for their success in the markets in which they work. 

The SHRM Competencies Model helps me stay focused on what is required of me as a SHRM-SCP. I use the competencies to inform what I do for those whom I lead—as we build the future of HR together. 

Jeff Lindeman, SHRM-SCP, is director of finance, HR and IT with the WD-40 Company in Milton Keynes, U.K. He is a member of the SHRM Certification Commission and a past president of San Diego SHRM.


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