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What behavioral competencies are important and do you possess them?

By Deb Cohen

If you were asked what behavioral competencies are important for your success – could you answer the question with a list of specific competencies? I suspect most of us could create a list that is fairly accurate and quite plausible. For instance, we might say: “I need to be an excellent communicator.” Or “Leadership is especially important in my role.” Or “I must be a role model.” If we spent a little more time brainstorming we could probably come up with a list that included things like effective decision making, problem solving, organizing, planning, building trust, solving conflicts, adapting to change, encouraging teamwork, business alignment, customer focus and the list could go on.

Generic or Specific.

But how do these rather generic behavioral competencies relate to the HR profession and what we need to do to demonstrate proficiency every day to our peers, subordinates and supervisors? How specific do the definitions and the proficiency statements describing the competencies need to be to show how HR (or any profession for that matter) distinguishes itself from another? The reality is that we need both. Generic definitions are important because they create a common frame for everyone – those in the profession and those in other professions. A common frame is important so that peers, employees and managers have a common understanding of the behaviors expected of them and those around them.

Yet more specificity is needed for those in a particular field so that learning and development can take place and top performers can be identified. One of the first executive development seminars I ever conducted was for an insurance company. The execs were from many different disciplines and we soon discovered in our discussions that while there were clear common denominators for things like leadership behaviors, there were also some key differences in application from one discipline to another. If behavior is a pattern of action, then it stands to reason that actions will be different from one profession to another. And how do you determine which competencies are important at which juncture in your career and to what degree they are important?

Competency Models.

Multiple models of HR competencies have been postulated. The two most popular models are the SHRM Competency Model and the Ulrich Competency Model. Each has its strengths and some overlap with the other. Each is based on research and offers a view of what HR professionals need to be successful. In my recent book, Developing Proficiency in HR I focused on the SHRM model. The eight behavioral competencies highlighted in this model are straightforward and at first blush – look generic. However, the research behind the model provides a specific set of proficiency statements that define the behaviors for HR for each of the competencies: business acumen, communication, consultation, critical evaluation, ethical practice, global and cultural effectiveness, leadership and navigation and relationship management.

What’s best for you?

Every job and every organization may have a specific set of behavioral competencies that can be linked to future success. But from a development perspective, professionals need a roadmap and guiding principles to drive what they need as a whole. Individuals and organizations can tweak their requirements and demands to fit their specific needs but following a behavioral beacon will help focus on the known and underlying needs for your success. HR professionals must peel back the layers of their behavioral needs to define what things like leadership and communication mean for them in their current and future roles and not just for HR professionals at large.

Look for my next post on self-directed learning for enhancing behavioral competencies.

© Deb Cohen, Ph.D.

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