Building a Competency Model

SHRM, as the world’s largest HR professional association, has been leading the profession in the development of a certification program based upon competency-based assessment. This is an exciting and pivotal time in our profession and the new SHRM certification, officially announced in May 2014, is the first certification that is focused on teaching and testing the practical, real-life information HR professionals needs to excel in their careers today.

With change often comes questions and we at SHRM have received many from across the HR community ranging from “Why?” to “What is the SHRM Competency Model?”  As SHRM’s Vice President of Research, I can assure you that this decision was not taken lightly and was not made without extensive research in the field. In fact, the development of the competency model and subsequent certification has been in the works for several years and is part of a strategic evolution that will shape the profession for decades to come.

What is the SHRM Competency Model?

As part of our mission to advance the HR profession and provide practitioners with the tools they need to successfully fulfill their roles in businesses across the world, SHRM has strived to examine what specific criteria makes a successful HR practitioner.

Over the past 20 years, we have engaged in this research, partnering with luminaries such as Dave Ulrich and Wayne Brockbank, to identify the core competencies of a successful HR professional. This joint-research effort evolved, as studies do, from identifying specific characteristics needed to be successful in large enterprises and at various points throughout ones careers, to determining which competencies were needed to succeed in HR regardless of enterprise size, stage of one’s career, or functional role. 

I joined SHRM in April 2011 to lead this effort and develop a competency model using best practices and including insight from as broad a base of HR and business professionals as possible. 

This was not an easy task-- building the competency model took an unprecedented initiative involving more than 35,000 HR professionals worldwide. 

Our research included:

  1.  Conducting a review of over 30 existing HR and HR-related competency models
  2. Conducting 111 focus groups with 1200 HR  professionals across 29 cities globally to identify core competencies needed for success
  3. Surveying more than 600 CHROs and business leaders on the core competencies needed to succeed
  4. Validating the core competencies in terms of importance and job relevance with the largest one-time survey of SHRM members ever – over 32,000 responses from our January 2012 membership survey
  5. Studying the link between competence and job performance by partnering with 5 organizations and 5 academic institutions to examine criterion-related validity – this included connecting with 2,000 HR professionals and their supervisors from global companies such as Walmart and Boeing, and research efforts with Michigan State University, Pennsylvania State University and the University of Lisbon in Portugal.

Ultimately, all of these efforts resulted in the SHRM Elements for HR Success Competency Model (more information available at offering HR professionals a clear roadmap for building their proficiency to ensure their success on the job. 

Each step taken to build this model represents a best-practice-oriented approach as suggested by industry leaders in competency modeling like the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (Division 14 of the American Psychological Association). But more importantly, SHRM relied upon insights and input from across the HR community, calling on our entire membership and HR professionals across the globe.  If nothing else stands out from our model development process, we can clearly point to our efforts to include every voice and gather every opinion possible. 

When I am asked what it is I am most proud of in my part of the development of the SHRM competency model, I reflect upon the opportunities I had to partake in the lives of HR professionals worldwide, working and learning with more than 35,000 of you.   Your insights have made this Competency Model valid, serving as a roadmap for HR professionals as they assume greater leadership roles and contribute to the strategic direction of their organizations.   




The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

Add new comment

Please enter the text you see in the image below: