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Article No.: 11-3

Article Title: Strategic Competency Mastery

Author: Linda Gravett, Ph.D., SPHR, CEQC

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In last month’s article, I provided an overview of how HR can add value to an organization.  This month I want to explore this concept further by discussing the competencies HR leaders need in order to ensure their work adds value.
The primary competencies I’ve discovered that are critical for HR’s top leaders are:

  • Business Acumen
  • Strategic Thinking and Implementation
  • Working Knowledge of Technology

Business acumen includes a deep understanding of how HR decisions affect other areas of the organization.  When HR develops a set point for skills and expertise to select candidates to refer to hiring managers, for example, that decision affects the level and amount of training and development in which those managers must invest.  This in turn affects the hiring manager’s budget and is an opportunity cost for other uses for monies that have to be expended for training and ongoing development for new employees.  One HR decision can have a ripple affect across the company.
Business acumen also includes the ability to stay abreast of industry-wide changes and make HR decisions that take those changes into account.  For example, if industry changes require updated technology skills for individual companies to be competitive, HR recruiters must be aware of this fact and know how to find staff with those skills.
Strategic thinking and implementation encompasses the ability to make long-term decisions rather than taking a reactive approach; setting objectives and goals that support the organization’s Mission and Vision; and establishing implementation tactics to achieve goals.
There is no doubt that HR practitioners are faced with daily crises and dilemmas that must be addressed immediately.  However, long-term thinking can serve as preventive measures that minimize future crises.  Think in terms of Stephen Covey’s four-block model about ways to use one’s time – you want to be in Quadrant 2 (Important But Not Urgent) as much as possible.  What steps can you calmly, thoughtfully take today that lay the foundation for quick, not reactive, responses to situations that may occur tomorrow?  For example, developing organizational core competencies over the next few months can help your company recruit, develop and retain the best and brightest staff.
HR is not always called upon to establish a strategic plan with a Mission, Vision, Objectives and Goals.  That doesn’t mean that, as the HR leader, you can’t step up and develop these, in alignment with the company’s Mission and Vision.  If there is no existing company Mission and Vision, perhaps HR can serve as a catalyst to make that happen.
A strategic plan won’t be carried out effectively without tactics, or action steps, with accountabilities.  If a goal is to develop a leadership continuity plan by July 31, 2011, for example, ask who will take the lead; what resources can be accessed; and who will locate, read, and synthesize those resources?  Absent a magic wand, HR leaders will need to set concrete plans to implement strategies.  This follow through capability is, I believe, a critical HR leader competency.
The third important competency is a working knowledge of HRM and related technology.  This surpasses a superficial understanding of software programs available and moves into knowing which software accomplishes what end result.  As an HR practitioner, I learned how to use Critical Path Analysis to chart projects and set realistic milestones.  I don’t use this software every day; however, I’m grateful to have this expertise when it’s necessary.
Next month’s article will focus on assessing your HR team so you can respond to the question, “How strategic is the HR Department?”

If you have questions about this article, don’t hesitate to contact Dr. Gravett at lsg@justthebasics.com.  Or, use our contact form by clicking here

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