HR PROFESSIONALS must become
“credible activists” mastering
competencies dealing with both
people and business issues in order
to become successful practitioners.
This competency, described as
“HR with attitude”, is one of the six
distinct domains outlined in the
findings of a comprehensive 20-year
study into what HR competencies are
needed to succeed in business.
Overall, the study found that HR professionals who
emphasised the people side at the exclusion of the
business side might be well liked and popular, but they
would not succeed, because their work does not further
On the other hand, HR professionals who focused on
the business side without sensitivity to the human
element would also not succeed because, although the
business might prosper in the short term, people would
not sustain success in the longer term.
Furthermore, the study stated that HR professionals
who would have succeeded 30, 20 or even 10 years ago
would not be as likely to succeed today.
The global study, Human Resources Competencies:
Responding to Increased Expectations, conducted by the
RBL Group which was co-founded by Dave Ulrich,
outlined how HR can engage employees, serve
customers and create intangible shareholder wealth.
Only through possessing six distinct competencies, can
HR experts respond to the increased challenges that face
The six distinct competencies needed, outlined in a
competency model are: credible activist, culture and
change steward, talent manager/organisational designer,
strategy architect, operational executor and business ally.
HR professionals mastered these competencies to
varying degrees. On a relationship level a “credible
activist” means that HR professionals who are credible
but not activists are admired but do not have much
impact. Those who are activists but not credible may have
ideas but will not be listened to.
On an organisational capability level, the findings
state that as stewards of culture, HR professionals respect
the past culture and also can help to shape a new culture.
Also on that level as a talent manager or
organisational designer, HR is not just about talent or
organisation, but about the combination of the two.
Good talent without a supporting organisation will not be
sustained, and a good organisation will not deliver results
without talented individuals with the right competencies
in critical roles.
As a strategy architect, the HR professional also
contributes to the building of the overall strategy by
linking the internal organisation to external customer
expectations. This linkage helps make customer-driven
business strategies real to the employees of the company.
The report states that on a systems and processes
level, employees have many administrative needs (eg, to
be paid, relocated, hired, and trained), so an HR
professional, as an “operational executor”, must ensure
staff needs are efficiently dealt with through technology,
shared services, and/or outsourcing. This operational
work of HR ensures credibility, if it is executed flawlessly
and grounded in the consistent application of policies.
And, financially, as a business ally, HR professionals
contribute to the success of a business by knowing the
social context or setting in which their business operates.
They also know how the business makes money, which is
described as the value chain of the business.