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The National HR Competency Model (Part III):

Ten Competencies to Elevate HR from the HR room to the Boardroom

By Marius Meyer

In part I of this series of articles we introduced you to the new South African HR Competency Model. Last month in part II we covered the pillars of professionalism, i.e. duty to society, ethics, professionalism, as well as HR and Business knowledge as the foundation of the HR Competency Model. The central argument was that for HR to have an impact at the strategic and governance levels of organisations, we first need to get the basics right, not only to be regarded as true professionals, but also to develop our competence at the basic entry level where any profession gains stature and credibility, as the foundation of competence. For the SA Board for People Practices (SABPP) as the HR standards-setting and professional body for HR, the aim of the model is to set a national standard for HR competence, and to provide HR professionals with a common framework for developing the required competencies in meeting the national standard. The model recognises that HR professionals are at different levels, specialisations and stages in their careers, yet a common framework is intended to provide focus, consistency and development opportunities.

In this article we address the ten competence areas divided into five core competencies and five HR capabilities:

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1. Five core competencies needed by HR professionals to do high quality HR functional work constitute the building blocks. 2. Five HR capabilities required to ensure strategic HR impact form the roof of the competency house.

CORE COMPETENCIES The five core competencies constitute the different layers of bricks or building blocks of the house. These competencies are the basic competencies all HR professionals need to plan and execute general and specialised HR professional work to be effective in the workplace: Leadership and Personal Credibility: All HR professionals should possess leadership skills to drive the HR profession. They are the leaders and champions of people practices in a company. Likewise, HR professionals should have personal credibility in organisations, irrespective of their level in the organisation, but this can only be achieved if they display a high level of competence in executing professional HR work. Professional HR competence will help them to earn personal and professional credibility in the workplace when dealing with employees, unions, management and other internal and external stakeholders. Organisational capability: Understanding the organisational context and needs of the business is critical in the process of planning and delivering HR practices. Good knowledge of how organisations function, developing and changing the organisation and its culture, as well as organisation behaviour form the cornerstone of organisational capability. Solution Creation and Implementation: HR professionals create, plan and implement HR solutions, including interventions and practices according to the needs of the organisation. This applies to both HR generalists and specialists (e.g. OD, employment relations or remuneration). Interpersonal and communication skills: All HR work depends on successful relationships, and excellent interpersonal and communication skills are of utmost importance. The other typical people skills such as team-building and conflict resolution form part of this competency cluster. Citizenship for the future: Over and above the HR strategic partner role, the new business environment requires HR professionals who can drive innovation, optimise technology and contribute to sustainability. Competence to drive change and innovation is of utmost importance, especially regarding the use of technology. Ultimately, HR professionals become true citizens of the future if they can directly contribute to sustainability. Thus, HR professionals become citizens for the future in ensuring sustainability of organisations, communities and the environment.

In essence, the core competencies include leadership, business, functional HR, people and sustainability competencies. HR CAPABILITIES

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Applying five capabilities in driving business excellence, HR professionals are rising to the roof of the HR house. In practice, this means that they have moved from the HR room to the boardroom of the company. Once they can apply the basics of HR professionalism and typical HR functional competence as discussed above, they are ready to do high level strategic HR work. Typically, the five HR capabilities are as follows: Strategy: HR professionals contribute to business strategy by drafting HR strategies aligned to the overall strategy of the organisation. However, this is more than just alignment, it requires the ability and influence to create people-driven business strategy in partnership with other executives. Two key capabilities are critical, first to understand business strategy, and second to craft HR strategy based on the business strategy. Talent management: Once business and HR strategy are clear, HR professionals should work with line management in implementing a talent management plan for an organisation. This capability includes the ability to meet the human capital needs of the business. HR governance, risk and compliance: Governing the HR function to make effective people decisions for the business, including managing HR risks and ensuring compliance to employment laws, rules, codes and HR standards elevate HR from business partners to HR governors. A proactive approach to HR governance, risk and compliance becomes a strategic capability in growing the business and its people as legitimate role-players in their industry. Analytics and measurement: Another core capability is to be able to generate a systematic and integrated approach to HR analytics and measures in demonstrating HR impact on the business. The ability to analyse the business and its people metrics, to show the bottom-line impact thereof, and interpreting these results into integrated reports for senior management is what real HR capability is all about. HR service delivery: Ultimately HR professionals should be able to deliver high quality HR products and services for the organisation and meeting or exceeding the needs of management, employees and other key stakeholders. The true test of HR service delivery is a high level of HR customer satisfaction that is periodically reported on.

The above capabilities will help senior HR executives to excel in their roles. Furthermore, it will enable middle level HR professionals to become senior HR managers or directors. More junior HR professionals will play a supporting role in all five capability areas, but they will be the main implementers of HR service delivery and therefore need to be highly skilled in this competency domain.

CONCLUSION The new SABPP HR Competency model sets the benchmark for HR professionalism in the modern South African work environment. Building the ten competencies will elevate HR from the HR room to the boardroom, and therefore creates strategic HR capability. While many South Africans have simply applied HR competency models from abroad, this uniquely South African competency model provides a local approach to HR professional practice and competence, over and above useful links with global

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models. Moreover, the model ideally positions the HR profession and its professionals for the upload of professional designations on the National Learners Records Database at SAQA next month in accordance with the new NQF Act. SABPP would like to thank the hundreds of senior HR professionals who contributed to the development of the National HR Competency Model. The end-result is a local integrated HR competency model we can all be proud of, and use as our benchmark to develop our competencies, both as HR individuals and as HR teams.
Marius Meyer is CEO of the SA Board for People Practices (

SA Board for People Practices