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Article: Skills of Human Resource Professionals More Critical Than Ever Related Resources

Skills of Human Resource Professionals More Critical Than Ever
For Companies To Maintain A Competitive Edge

...Account For 20 Percent Of Bottom Line; Competence In Six Key Areas Mandatory

The skills of a company's human resource professionals are more critical than ever, accounting for 20 percent of its business results, and are increasingly becoming part of an organization's competitive advantage, according to a new study by The RBL Group and the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, in cooperation with SHRM, IAE School of Business, IMI, Tsinghua University, AHRI, and National HRD Network.

In order to be prepared for the greater demands being placed on them, human resource professionals must define, assess, and improve their performance against a set of specific competencies, according to the 2007 round of the Human Resource Competency Study.

"It's no longer enough for human resource professionals to just want to contribute to the bottom line. They need to know how to do this, and have the ability to use what they know," said Dave Ulrich, partner and co-founder of The RBL Group (, and a professor of business at the Ross School of Business.

"A company's intellectual capital, talent, intangibles, and capabilities all derive from the competence and commitment of its human resource professionals," added Ulrich.

The Human Resource Competency Study has been conducted five times over the past 20 years, and is the most comprehensive global empirical review of the HR profession. More than 40,000 HR professionals and line management employees have participated in the studies since 1988.

The 2007 round of the Human Resource Competency Study involved more than 10,000 HR professionals and line management employees in the U.S., Canada, Latin America, Europe, China, Australia/Asia Pacific, and India.

"When we first began the Human Resource Competency Study, we did not initially envision a data set that would include tens of thousands of participants spanning over 20 years," said Wayne Brockbank, a partner of The RBL Group and Director of the Center for Strategic HR Leadership at the Ross School of Business.

"The sheer magnitude and scope of the research results is an extraordinarily valuable resource to HR professionals and departments around the world. The primary purpose of the Human Resource Competency Study is to provide empirical evidence on a global scale that helps HR departments and HR professionals add increasingly greater value as defined by customer and capital markets," added Brockbank.

To ensure that they bring the most value to their businesses, human resource professionals must be adept in six major competency areas, according to the study. The most critical human resource skill involves being a "credible activist" - part of which is performing "human resources with an attitude."

"Human resource professionals must be both credible and active," according to Ulrich. "They need to be trusted, respected, admired, listened to but, above all, have a point of view and take a position.

"HR professionals who are credible, but not activists, are admired, but do not have much impact. Those who are activists, but not credible, may have ideas, but will not be listened to," said Ulrich.

Only 20 percent of human resource professionals are currently proficient in being "credible activists" for their businesses, according to Ulrich. "Sixty percent of HR professionals can master this crucial skill with the right training and awareness, while the remaining 20 percent may not have the right skills and/or personality to listen and take action."

In addition to being a "credible activist," the five other major areas in which human resource professionals need to be proficient, according to the study, are:

-- Culture and Change Steward: HR professionals recognize, articulate, and help shape a company's culture. "Culture involves a pattern of activities, rather than a single event. It starts with being clear about the expectations of external customers, and then translates these expectations into internal employee and organizational behaviors," said Ulrich. In addition to managing change, successful HR professionals help make culture happen, and develop disciplines to drive changes throughout the organization. "Through implementation of strategy, projects, or initiatives, they help turn what is known into what is done," said Ulrich.

-- Talent Manager/Organization Designer: HR professionals master theory, research, and practice in both talent management and organization design. "Talent management focuses on how individuals enter, move up, across, or out of the organization. Organization design focuses on the capabilities an organization has that are embedded in the structure, processes, and policies that shape how the organization works," said Ulrich. HR is not just about talent or organization, but about the two of them together. "Good talent without a supporting organization will not be sustained, and a good organization will not fully deliver without good talent," added Ulrich.

-- Strategy Architect: HR professionals need to have a vision for how the organization can win in the future, and play an active part in the establishment of the overall strategy to deliver this vision. "This skill incorporates recognizing business trends and their impact on the business, being able to forecast potential obstacles to success, and facilitating the process of gaining strategic clarity," said Ulrich.

-- Operational Executor: HR professionals execute the operational aspects of managing people and organizations, such as drafting, adapting, and implementing policies. HR professionals also ensure that employees' basic needs - including being paid, relocated, hired, and trained - are efficiently delivered through technology, shared services, and/or outsourcing.

-- Business Ally: HR professionals contribute to the success of the business by knowing the social context or setting in which their companies operate. "They know how the business makes money - who their customers are, and why they buy the company's products or services. And they have a basic understanding of the functions of various corporate departments such as finance, marketing, R&D, and engineering, so they can help the business make money," said Ulrich.

The top four human resource competencies - credible activist, culture and change steward, talent manager/organizational designer, and strategy architect - account for more than 75 percent of the success of a human resource professional, according to this comprehensive study.

CEOs are more often looking to human resource professionals for knowledge about issues such as developing talent, changing the organization's culture, and moving into new markets, according to Ulrich.

Human resource professionals are also more often involving external customers - the customers of the business - in the design of HR policies, and linking them with customers' expectations. "HR professionals need to ensure that human resource practices are aligned with customer expectations and strategy, integrated with each other, and innovative. This linkage helps make customer-driven business strategies real to the company's employees," added Ulrich.

For more information on the 2007 Human Resource Competency Study, or to participate in an HR Competency 360, e-mail or call (801) 373-4328.

About The RBL Group

The RBL Group specializes in helping clients deliver the strategic HR agenda. The firm's partners - including Dave Ulrich, Wayne Brockbank, and Norm Smallwood - are particularly well-respected thought leaders whose books and research have helped companies drive more business-focused HR practices, particularly in the areas of strategic HR and leadership development.

The RBL Group delivers results-oriented, quality solutions through engaging people and processes that help HR executives integrate the latest thinking into their organizations through practical tools and approaches, including:

- Consulting and Interventions that help you transform your HR function through a proven process that aligns your people practices and HR competencies with your firm's strategy

-- Education and Learning that develops HR competencies to drive business performance

-- The RBL Institute - a forum for thoughtful, participative engagement that assists HR executives in developing strategies to respond to emerging business trends and ensure the relevance and strategic contribution of their HR organizations

-- Tools that help your organization transition from tactical, transactional HR activities to high-value, strategic, and business-partner activities

The RBL Group brings expertise and Thought Leadership in developing the strategic HR agenda that is based on the HR Competency Study and will drive sustained, improved business results.


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