What Are the Four Competencies of an HR Manager?

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The competency models for HR managers in both the private sector and the public sector are virtually the same. HR managers in either sector are responsible for creating and sustaining a productive workforce and positive work environment. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the federal agency responsible for overseeing management of the nation's workforce, has a clear competency model for leaders of human resources. HR professionals need business acumen, HR expertise, leadership qualities and the ability to establish HR as an advocate. In addition, the OPM describes HR professionals as change agents. In order to fulfill this role, HR managers must have four primary competencies: communication, analysis capabilities, relationship-building skills and leadership qualities.

1. Communication

An HR manager must be able to communicate with everyone in the workplace -- from line staff to executive leadership. In addition, communication skills are important for HR managers to interact effectively with outsourcing providers, union leaders, public officials and employees, prospective employees and colleagues. They need to know when to adapt their communication skills to the audience and the situation. For example, HR managers must be able to convey the importance of fair employment practices to the company's executive team with the same genuineness and passion as they would to hourly employees.

2. Analytical and Critical Thinking

Analytical and critical thinking skills are a must for HR leaders. An HR manager has to exercise sound judgment and engage in high-impact decision-making in a number of areas. The ability to analyze situations and view the implications of certain decisions from a critical perspective is particularly useful for HR leaders. For example, the decision whether to outsource one or several HR functions isn't something that happens without considering the impact outsourcing has on individual employees as well as the organization overall. HR managers also are involved in representing the company in matters involving employment litigation, which requires that they be able to justify the company's actions related to employment decisions such as hiring and firing.

3. Relationship-Building

Creating a cohesive HR department that works collaboratively to achieve the goals of the department as well as help the organization reach its goals related to workforce development is a competency that HR managers must have. Relationship-building and interpersonal relationship skills are fundamental to an HR manager's success. One of the challenges HR faces is establishing credibility with employees -- many employees equate their HR departments with the school principal's office, which suggests a level of intimidation and trepidation associated with their view of HR's purpose. That being said, an HR manager must have the ability to establish credibility and trust as well as balance the obligation to be an advocate for both the organization and its employees.

4. Leadership

Leadership skills are an essential competency for HR managers. HR managers are responsible for creating strategic plans for the HR department as well as the overall workforce. Therefore, leadership skills are critical, particularly in the process of justifying the functional elements of a strategic plan to the company's management team. In addition, HR managers have to direct the activities of the HR department, and in doing so, they need the type of leadership skills that influence HR generalists' and HR specialists' commitment to the HR department goals.

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