GeneralHr Library

Have HR Professionals Made Progress? The 30-Year Evolution of HR Competencies

Source |  |  BY:Dave Ulrich, Speaker, Author, Professor, HR & Leadership Guru

Note: This article is drawn from the book Victory Through Organization by Dave Ulrich, David Kryscynski, Michael Ulrich, Wayne Brockbank.

Have HR professionals improved their competencies over the last 30 years?  

This is an important question because we hear continued laments about incompetence of HR professionals. In addition, HR professionals tend to be hyper self-critical and self-obsessed.

After hearing ongoing critiques of the lack of progress of HR professionals, we can finally provide empirical evidence on the evolution of HR competencies. For 30 years, and over 7 rounds, we have collected data on the competencies of HR professionals. Each of the seven rounds represents a cross section of the HR profession and the status of HR competencies. These results are reported in Table 1.

(Helping HR professionals evolve and improve in their competencies has been my personal mission for over 30 years and our HRLP program—a consortium for high-potential HR leaders—is one of the most effective ways we have accomplished our mission. To learn about the program, click here.

This table offers many insights on the evolution of how to be an effective HR professionals:

1.   Each of the seven rounds are independent, in that they represent a cross section of HR professionals (HR Participants) who rate themselves on competencies and Associate raters who rate them. The seven rounds of data collection include a total of over 90,000 total respondents.

2.  In the research, we had between 120 and 140 specific competencies (knowledge, skill, and ability) of HR professionals. In each round we changed about 30 to 40% of these individual competence items. The new specific competencies were identified with research partners (leading HR associations) from around the world. To see patterns, we performed factor analysis to organize these items into competence domains.

3.  Over the 7 rounds, the factor analyses showed an increase in the complexity of HR competencies. In 1987, we found three domains: business knowledge, HR delivery, and management of change. In 1992, we found 4 domains, then 5 domains in 1997, then ultimately 9 domains in 2016.  Being a competent HR professional has become increasingly complex, with some of the recent competencies (analytics designer and interpreter; technology and social media integrator) reflecting how HR competencies reflect general business trends. Competencies for HR professionals have evolved with changing business conditions.

4.  In the table, we report the mean scores on the domains in each round for all the respondents (HR Participants and Associate Raters). The pattern is very clear for all competence domains: HR professionals have dramatically improved over the last 30 years as shown by these score differences between 1987 and 2016

  • Business: 4.13 – 3.17 = .96
  • HR delivery: 4.02 – 3.33 = .69
  • Change: 4.01-3.65= .37
  • Personal proficiency (1992): 4.33-3.78 = .55

These are dramatic improvements in the overall competence for HR professionals. If a company had this kind of leap in employee engagement scores, they would be overjoyed!

HR professionals are notoriously self critical.

5.  Why do HR professionals not recognize this progress? While these improvement result are notable, we consistently see more negative than positive reviews of HR. Why?

  • HR professionals are notoriously self critical. In each round of the data, we compared the HR Participants (self report) to Associate Participants (other raters). In every round and on every HR competence domain, HR participants rated themselves lower than their HR and non-Associates rated them. For example, in the 2016 (round 7) data, the data show that HR professionals rate themselves lower than others rate them. In Table 2, HR professionals self score (column 2) is lower than HR Associate ratings which is lower than non-HR Associate ratings. HR professionals tend to be harsh on themselves, perhaps having an inevitable identity crisis. This self criticism shows up in essays on the HR profession, often bemoaning what is wrong with HR efforts … in performance appraisal, HR governance, business partner models, and so forth. Maybe it is time to build on HR strengths and successes while creating a better future.                                                          Readon…
Show More

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button