HR Competencies that Impact Your Effectiveness

As HR professionals we may struggle with perceptions regarding our effectiveness in the workplace by line managers, top management, and even the employees we serve. We may even find ourselves trying to “sell” what our value is to the organization or combating a role that has historically been seen as administrative and regulatory. As we strive to enhance our roles within our organizations, we find many challenges associated with HR leadership. How do we cultivate trust from our workforce? How can we be seen as more effective in our roles? Trust and perceptions of value and effectiveness are cultivated in a number of ways. Here are a few ways you can build trust and effectiveness in HR.

Demonstrate your business and HR knowledge

Most importantly, demonstrate that you know what you are doing and have exceptional HR and business knowledge. Continue to learn more in your field by attending training and engaging in developmental opportunities. People tend to trust those that are knowledgeable about their area of expertise. Research also seems to suggest that having strong HR competencies, particularly displaying skills such as business knowledge, delivery of HR, and management of change (Ulrich, Brockbank, Yeung, & Lake, 1995), is linked to greater perceptions of HR effectiveness. A survey just released by SHRM (2010) suggests that the five key competencies HR professionals must have include:

  • Effective communication
  • Strategic thinking
  • HR knowledge
  • Integrity
  • Ethical behavior

In order to demonstrate these competencies, however, you’ll need to make decisions and implement programs that generate positive results and outcomes for your business. This involves having reliable data and information to back up your decisions. After all, your decisions have major costs for your organization and you need to make sure they are effective.

Integrate the perspectives of your top managers.

In order to be a leader of your HR function, you need to see the big picture and learn to see the perspectives of other leaders and communicate with them on strategy, market competition, sales, finance, and technology – as it relates to HR and talent management. Always be prepared with answers to the following questions:

  • How do our HR practices fit into the strategy and objectives of the organization?
  • How do our HR practices compare in the market (against our competitors)?
  • How do the costs of a particular program or initiative compare to its return in productivity, performance, etc?
  • How can we employ HR strategies to enhance the effectiveness of our sales force or other key areas necessary for profitability?
  • How can technology play a role in streamlining HR functions?

Walk the talk.

Comply with the same rules of conduct, policies, or behaviors you expect of your employees. Apply policies and procedures in a consistent manner and follow-through on what you say you are going to do. Integrity and ethical behavior are viewed as some of the most important competencies for HR professionals, and walking the talk will help you express those competencies more fully.

Be responsive and accessible.

Remember that your job is to provide HR services to your employees, managers, and business.  Others’ view your effectiveness, in large part, by the quality of HR services you provide – recruitment, selection, on-boarding, compensation, benefits, performance management, training and development, and more. Your responsiveness to employee and line manager needs cannot be underestimated. Providing exceptional internal service involves knowing and anticipating the needs of your customers and responding to them accordingly.

In order to increase your competencies as an HR professional, consider using resources and training provided by ERC to enhance your skill sets and enhance your knowledge of current HR practices.

  • Professional development: Increase your knowledge of effective communication and HR practices by enrolling in HR University. Sometimes we need more training, education, or skill in the field of HR to address a problem accurately and appropriately. For new knowledge on HR topics such as compensation and benefits, orientation and performance management, staffing and recruitment, and communication.
  • Research: Use ERC’s research (Surveys, HR Help Desk, Research Library, and Online Member Center) to help you make important decisions. Click here to log into the Member Center and access these free resources.
  • NorthCoast 99: Many NorthCoast 99 winners have demonstrated their effectiveness and value to their organizations and as a result have developed workplaces that attract and retain top talent. To learn more about this program, please visit


  • SHRM (2010). What senior leaders need to know. Society for Human Resource Management.
  • Wyatt, J. (2009). Essential competencies. People & Strategy.
  • Lawler, E. E. & Mohrman, S. A. (2000). Beyond the vision: What makes HR effective. Human Resource Planning: Human Resource Planning Society.
  • Lawler, E. E. & Mohrman, S. A. (2003). HR as a strategic partner. Human Resource Planning: Human Resource Planning Society.
  • Ulrich, D., Brockbank, W., Yeung, A. K. & Lake, D. C. (1995). Human resources competencies: An empirical assessment. Human Resource Management.
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6 Responses to HR Competencies that Impact Your Effectiveness

  1. Before Human Resources came along you had a Director of Personnel. His job was to back Bosses up… kinda like a wing man to the fighter pilot. Now HR seems to focus on undermining a Boss’s authority and creating silly rules. If HR would just get out of the way Bosses across America could take back control of their departments. Employees would be forced to toe the line, keep their mouths shut and do the job they are being paid to do. But no… HR professionals continue to multiply and force their way in to the Boss’s domain. [sigh]

    • greatworkplace says:

      Thanks for your comment, Steele. HR certainly has evolved, especially as state and federal employment laws have expanded and placed more requirements on businesses of all sizes and litigation has forced employers to do more and more to protect themselves from lawsuits. The role of an HR person isn’t as simple as it once was, that’s for sure!

    • Mr. Steadiman, I think you would be right IF society, employees, and the work environment had not changed. Doing the same thing over and over without regard to outcome… insanity. Lets not go back to ‘flogging people’ to get the job done. Instead, how about coming into the 21st century and treating people as if they deserve respect and input. You might find respecting people gets you more of what you really want, unless you are just into control. Dr. Gregory J. Max, Cal Poly Pomona, School of Business

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