Monday 11 February 2008

Competencies for strategic HR capability development

In the last really major HR development programme I ran (7 conducts of 5 day workshops delivered in different venues throughout Europe), I used Michigan's 2002 competency framework which was superseded last year (this came out before I started blogging so I've not referred to it myself, but plenty of other blogs did, for example Taleo).

But I still prefer a version I and a few colleagues (Peter, Geoff and Roberta) developed a few years ago and that in high-level form is shown here.

At the top is Strategic Partnering which refers to the abilities to develop an HCM strategy which supports an organisation's vision and values, and aligns with, and informs, its business strategy. (This is Michigan's Strategy Architect).

This is supported by:

  • Business Know-How: understanding the fundamentals of business and finance - for business in general, and particularly for this business (Business Ally).
  • People Management Leadership: this sounds awful, but refers to the leadership of people management activities. All of the HR stuff we know and love, and its more strategic aspects too (Michigan's Cultural Steward, Talent Manager / Organisation Designer).
  • Personal Credibility: earning permission to influence (Credible Activist).

The reason I prefer this to Michigan's framework is that business know-how, people management leadership and personal credibility all clearly underpin strategic partnering, and out of the three, it is people management that it as the centre, which I believe is appropriate.

This central competency is then underpinned by HR Implementation: the ability to execute (Operational Executor).

I wouldn't advise running a programme in the same way today (very few clients would stomach 5 day workshops, although this did send a clear signal about the importance of this training across the HR team). But I'd still base it on this set of competencies.


  1. Hi Jon

    You talk about Strategic Partnership. I'm curious. Is this a tacit capability of individual HR Directors, or is it a body of knowledge that we would expect HR professionals to know and apply to any business?


  2. Hi Jo,

    I'm planning to drill deeper into each of these competencies over the next few weeks, but in broad terms I think its a mix of these.

    I've always felt that the best competency frameworks include a mix of input, process, and output attributes.

    So I think there's stuff here around knowing about and being able to use the research showing links between people management and business results. But there is also the acquired ability to see connections and opportunities, the passion and ambition, to set out a truly strategic agenda for people management.

    However, I do think the higher up this 'arrow' you go, the more the competency becomes 'capability' rather than 'knowledge' - more artful in a sense.

    Best, Jon.

  3. I also received a comment on the balance between building HR capability and transformation, and their role in HR strategy.

    There is no doubt that there are more HR functions working to transform their own organisations to become more efficient (and by doing this, enabling themselves to become more strategic) than there are functions focusing on developing their strategic capabilities.

    This is odd given that we know the major problem in many transformations is the lack of strategic capability in the transformed function (see )!

    The 5 day workshops I refer to in my post is, I think, an example of good practice. My client had a fairly traditional organisation, with HR managers / teams in each country, with little in the way of shared services etc. They knew that they would need to transform. But rather than do this, and then try to build capability, or even perform these activities in parallel, they decided to invest in building their whole team’s strategic capability and then involve these people in helping to transform the function. This would mean the whole process would be more expensive than in most other organisations, as they would end up developing many people who had no long-term future in the organisation, once their roles had been ‘transformed’. But it meant that finding capacity in the newly lean function to demonstrate to line managers that they could offer more value, and selling new ways of working to these managers, became a non-issue.

    All of this should form part of an organisation’s HR strategy that is developed as part of action planning following the development of a people management strategy. I’ve got a diagram of this on one of the downloads of my website: (page 7). And I will get round to posting about this on my blog too – one day!

  4. Interesting discussion. I have developed a programme over past couple of weeks and I faced this issue as well.

    I ended up using a Behavioural competency framework and mapped tools and then content around this. Worked well for the client. I am not convinced that a huge amount of effort has to go into developing models like this but they did provide me with a strong foundation.

    I doubt there is ever going to be a 1 size fits all as HR is in perpetual beta but offering a mix of core and interchangeable modules does at least present a starting point. As always I believe action learning is critical in any such initiative.

  5. Hi

    I'm in the process of building a global HR competency model for my organisation.

    Your comments and info have been very useful and quite thought provoking. There are so many ways you could "slice & dice" the information. I'm looking for the simplest most "non-HR" user friendly version I can find.


  6. Hello Belinda,

    I'm glad you found this useful.

    Sorry I've not gone into more detail on these competencies as I told Jo I would - I've got distracted by other themes - but will come back to them again - so do keep tuned.

    Also, I'd be happy to email you the detailed competency statements we developed to support these headings if this would be useful to you.



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