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The new HR hero

Being an effective HR professional is not just understanding the body of knowledge that defines the profession, but being able to apply that knowledge to business challenges.

In an increasingly changing world, there has never been a greater need to identify what HR professionals must be, know, do, and deliver to contribute more fully to their organisations.

Since 1987, we have chronicled what it means to be an effective HR professional. With the data from this year we have completed six waves of data collection that trace the evolution of the HR profession.

We have identified six domains of competencies that HR professionals must demonstrate to be personally effective and to have an impact on business performance. These competencies respond to themes facing global business today.

HR should:

  • Turn outside business trends and stakeholder expectations into internal actions.
  • Focus on both business results and human capital improvement.
  • Target both individual ability and organisation capabilities.
  • Understand that HR is not about an isolated activity (a training, communication, staffing or compensation program) but sustainable and integrated solutions.
  • Should respect its heritage, but shape a future.
  • Attend to both day-to-day administrative processes and long-term strategic practices.

Our research found that by upgrading their competencies in six domains, HR professionals could respond to these business themes and create sustainable value.

Strategic positioner

High-performing HR professionals are deeply knowledgeable of external business trends and able to translate them into internal decisions and actions. They understand the general business conditions that affect their industry and geography. They target and serve key customers by identifying segments, knowing C expectations, and aligning organisation actions to meet customer needs. They also co-create their organisations’ strategic responses to business conditions and customer expectations by helping frame and make strategic and organisation choices.

Credible activist

Effective HR professionals build their personal trust through business acumen. Being a trusted adviser helps HR professionals have positive personal relationships. It means communicating clear and consistent messages with integrity. As an activist, HR professionals have a point of view, not only about HR activities, but also about business demands.

Capability builder

An effective HR professional melds individual abilities into an effective and strong organisation by helping to define and build its organisation capabilities. These capabilities outlast the behaviour or performance of any individual manager or system. Capability audits should be undertaken to determine the identity of the organisations.

Change champion

As change champions, HR professionals make sure that isolated and independent organisation actions are integrated and sustained through disciplined change processes. They should help make change happen at institutional (changing patterns), initiative (making things happen), and individual (enabling personal change) levels.

HR innovator and integrator

Effective HR professionals know the historical research andthe latest insights on key HR practice areas related to human capital, organisation design and communication. They must also be able to turn these unique HR practice areas into integrated solutions, generally around an organisation’s leadership brand.

Technology proponent

At a basic level, HR professionals need to use technology to more efficiently deliver HR administrative systems like benefits, payroll processing, healthcare costs, and other administrative services. In addition, they need to use technology to help people stay connected with each other. An emerging trend is using technology as a relationship-building tool through social media. HR professionals who understand technology will create improved organisational identity outside the company and improve social relationships inside the company.

Because these six domains of HR competence respond to the external trends we identified, they have an impact on the perception of the effectiveness of the HR professional and the business performance of the company where they work

This data shows that to be seen as personally effective, HR professionals need to be credible activists who build relationships of trust and have a strong business and HR point of view.

We found that this same pattern of HR competencies holds across regions of the world, across levels of HR careers, in different HR roles, and in all sizes of organisations.

These findings begin to capture what HR professionals need to know and do to be effective.

An effective HR department was also found to have more impact on a business’s performance (31 per cent) than the skills of individual HR professionals (8 per cent). HR professionals need to work together as a unified team to fully create business value.

We are optimistic about the present and future of the HR profession and have empirical reasons for our optimism. We now have specific insights on what HR professionals need to know and do to become better and more effective, to deliver value to employees, organisations, customers, investors and communities. And, we know what the HR department should excel at to help businesses be successful.

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