What Are HR Competencies?


Competencies are basic qualifications necessary to achieve human resources goals. In the human resources field, actual knowledge of human resources processes is the only discipline-specific competency. Businesses consider necessary HR competencies as communication skills, strategic improvement of the perception of human capital value, human resources knowledge, ethical business practices and integrity.


Communication skills – written and verbal – are basic competencies all human resources staff must have. Communication is fundamental to serving the needs of internal customers as well as external customers. Within the context of HR, internal customers are current employees and external customers are applicants, job seekers, former employees and human resource services providers such as outsourcing agents. Current employees rely on human resources staff to provide them with up-to-date information about their employment status and changes within the organization that have the potential to affect their employment status.

Strategic Improvement

The evolution of personnel administration to human resources management created a need for strategic thinking to become an HR competency. Personnel administration from the 1980s focused primarily on the process-oriented functions of an HR department. Employee contact with human resources was limited to functions such as payroll, benefits enrollment, timekeeping and other functional responsibilities of the department. Changes to the employment landscape, business leaders recognizing the value of human capital and the needs of a diverse workforce eventually required human resources staff who can partner strategically with the company’s executive leadership. Human resources’ goal is to now “sit at the table” which means an HR expert’s goal is to impress upon chief executives the integral role human capital plays in organizational success. The phrase “sit at the table” means HR has C-level involvement in achieving business objectives.

HR Knowledge

Functional expertise is another HR competency. Knowledge of human resources tactical processes such as HRIS (human resources information systems) development to support an employee base, compensation and benefits structuring, knowledge of labor and employment laws and regulations, and functional elements of recruitment and selection are just a few HR competencies. Recruitment for human resources staff members depends largely on the availability of HR expertise within each human resources disciplines. Human resources disciplines are recruitment and selection, safety and risk management, compensation and benefits, training and development and employee relations. This HR competency also means that human resources experts recognize which qualifications are valuable to HR departments and how to manage HR employees.

Ethics and Integrity

Business acumen, ethics and integrity are important competencies for virtually any profession. However, they are especially relevant competencies within human resources. The employment and livelihood of an entire employee base rests in the hands of the organization’s human resources staff. Interaction with company leadership in a manner that demonstrates understanding business concepts, how productivity affects profitability, and the impact of business ethics and integrity on the organization’s reputation are HR competencies no organization should be without. Again, sitting at the table with company leadership as the goal for strategic management factors heavily in the role HR plays for developing human capital. Integrity encompasses doing the right thing when it comes to managing the workplace and identifying and resolving workplace issues.

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