3 ways to develop your HR competency

January 23, 2017

Sharlyn Lauby, SHRM-SCP shares her wealth of human resources knowledge through her blog HR Bartender, a “friendly place to talk about workplace issues,” and recently published her first book, Essential Meeting Blueprints for Managers.

In this post, Lauby shares how to develop competencies in HR, and three quick ways to learn and retain new information.

If we want to be successful in our careers, we should focus on competencies. By definition, a competency is the ability to do something correctly or to the performance standard within a given context. Developing a competency isn’t easy because most of the time we have high standards. Organizations create high-performance standards and we set high standards for ourselves.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has created a competency model for human resource professionals organized into four competency clusters, with two to three individual competencies contained in each:

  • Technical competencies include HR knowledge areas such as recruitment, compensation, benefits administration, safety, employment law, etc.
  • Interpersonal competencies focus on relationship management, communications, as well as global and cultural effectiveness.
  • Business competencies are in the areas of business acumen, critical evaluation, and consultation.
  • Leadership competencies refer to ethical practice, leadership, and navigation.

One of the great things about HR is that our profession is always changing. Translation: we will always have a competency to develop. We might need to learn a new law (technical competency), or a new communications platform like social media (interpersonal competency), or a different way of doing business – big data is a good example (business competency).

HR professionals need to have a straightforward path to developing a competency. Here are three activities, designed for three different learning styles, to help build HR know-how:

Combining activities that cater to different learning styles leads to maximum learning and retention. Using the examples above, we can listen to one of the CCL podcasts, then use one of its takeaways on the job. We’re not only demonstrating that we know leadership theory, but that we can apply it in the work environment. The same goes for reading a SHRM book and applying one of the ideas presented in the book during your next department meeting.

When it comes time to put competency development goals into action, consider these guidelines for success:

  • Use all three development activities. If you like to read, it can be tempting to always learn by reading. But there is value in practicing with all three (HEAR, SEE, and DO) to develop our self-learning skills. Remember, sometimes we don’t get to choose how we will learn a competency, so best to be prepared for whatever learning opportunities present themselves.
  • Don’t set too many goals or try to take on developing too many competencies at one time. Focus on learning for retention. Space competency development over a span of time for maximum retention and a chance to practice (DO) new skills on the job.
  • Change goals accordingly (and without guilt). There will be times in our career when we are faced with new and exciting opportunities. It’s okay to take a break in order to take advantage of them. So, if you’re listening to the CCL podcasts and your company offers to send you to a leadership conference, you might want to take a break, attend the conference, and come back to the podcasts later.

As human resource professionals, we are committed to self-learning for the rest of our careers. Having a model for competency development is important to success. The activities aren’t easy. Competency development is hard work. But having a plan that can be utilized to develop any competency is the foundation for making it happen.

Capella University offers the following human resources degrees:

Lauby was compensated for preparing this post, but the views it contains are her own.

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