Your Organization's Membership in the Competency Club

Part 2: Practices for successfully implementing the SHRM Competency Model

By Ashley Miller, M.A. Jun 8, 2017

​Guidelines and tips for using the SHRM Competency Model as a strategically aligned framework for HR success were offered last month in Part 1 of this series. Five elements of a comprehensive plan for your HR department to use in implementing a competency-based approach were presented, and we discussed the first two: 

  • Structure your HR function and team.
  • Identify and select talent. 

This month in Part 2 we will focus on the change management practices required to put into effect the remaining three elements:

  • Develop current and future talent.
  • Define and measure performance.
  • Analyze HR data to measure effectiveness. 

For a competency-based approach to HR to succeed, it's important to present it as a change management initiative. Apply your Leadership & Navigation competency to get organizational leaders to buy in to the effort and to manage and implement the change. 

As you get started, keep in mind these best practices in change management:

  • Clearly define the desired future (competencies) state (wherein work is aligned with competencies), the current state (wherein work is not aligned with competencies) and the specific gaps that exist between them.
  • Design the change strategy by identifying the steps required to transition effectively from the current state to the future state.
  • Engage stakeholders to determine how they, as well as the wider organization, will be affected by the change.
  • Communicate the need for change—throughout the HR department or, more broadly, the organization—and provide leaders with the resources they need to champion the change.
  • Understand the readiness of your HR department and your organization for implementing change. Create a change plan that incorporates SMART (Specific, Measurable, Aligned, Realistic and Time-bound) goals.
  • Ensure that employees have the knowledge and resources required to be successful once the competency-based approach to HR is implemented.
  • Sustain the change by monitoring post-implementation impact, and adjust the approach as needed. 

And consider the best practices above when designing and implementing the remaining three elements to fully align your HR function, below. 

Define and Measure Performance 

Aligning performance management with competencies allows for the development of individual goals that are clearer and that more directly link to those of the organization. First, set performance goals and standards, then use those standards to assess proficiency and performance. 

To implement competency-based performance management, consider these steps:

  • Examine whether organizational and HR goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) align with the organization's mission, values and core competencies. If they don't, identify the changes necessary to ensure alignment.
  • Review each employee's job description. Do the job descriptions clearly and accurately describe the employees' jobs? If your organization's job descriptions are outdated or will be soon, consult SHRM's job analysis toolkit.
  • Draft several (three to 10) goals for employees that align with your organizational and departmental goals, using the SHRM Competency Model and behavioral indicators to do so. The goal-setting process should be a joint effort between supervisors and individual employees. Proficiency in Communication and Relationship Management are key to this process.
  • Meet with individual employees to review their goals and make any necessary changes before they are finalized. Then meet with them throughout the year, formally and informally, to discuss their performance and progress toward those goals. 

Develop Current and Future Talent 

Integrating competencies into learning and development processes allows leaders to fill critical competency gaps where and when they arise. It also helps leaders recognize high-potential employees who would be good fits for key positions and provide them with competency-based coaching and mentoring accordingly. 

To develop current and future talent using a competency-based approach to HR, consider these steps:

  • Review your workforce plan and job descriptions to identify the competency proficiency levels required for current and future success in each role.
  • Find the right assessments for measuring proficiency in the competencies. 
  • For each competency, assess employees' proficiency strengths and gaps.
  • Map the findings back to your competency-based workforce plan and to individual job descriptions.
  • Create a strategy for further leveraging your employees' strengths and closing proficiency gaps.
  • Create individual competency development plans for your employees. (The SHRM Competency Development Plan provides a great framework for HR. Contact to request a copy.)
  • Provide opportunities for employees to develop competencies in areas in which they need development and where proficiency gaps exist (e.g., through external seminars, eLearning and other resources, or internal coaching and mentoring). 

Analyze HR Data to Measure Effectiveness 

HR analytics allow you to better understand the performance of your HR function and its impact on the rest of the organization. To conduct effective analytics requires proficiency in the Business Acumen and Critical Evaluation competencies. 

To analyze your HR data to measure success, consider these steps:

  • Identify metrics that connect your HR processes to organizational objectives and that clearly support your organization's human capital strategy.
  • Determine which metrics best demonstrate performance in alignment with strategic goals for each HR process. Develop measurement systems that account for these metrics.
  • Assess the financial benefit of implementing competency-based HR initiatives in your organization (e.g., cost-benefit ratio).
  • Analyze group performance management data to assess whether and how employees are applying the competencies to help achieve organizational goals.
  • Benchmark your organization's talent analytics to competitors' to track human capital trends.
  • Use predictive talent analytics to refine and advance your organization's human capital strategy. 

The Future of HR 

Now that you understand how the SHRM Competency Model helps the HR function leverage its strategic role by aligning HR processes to the organization's strategic objectives and have used a change management initiative to implement the competency-based approach to HR in your organization, congratulations! You have joined the Competency Club. Welcome to the future of HR. 

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 HR Competencies team at 

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


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