Announcing Results of the 2012 HR Competency Study

Dec 21, 2011

With over 20,000 respondents, it is the largest global study to define what it means to be an effective HR professional and how to build an effective HR department

The RBL Group and the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan are pleased to announce the results of the 2012 HR Competency Study. For the past 25 years, Michigan professors Dave Ulrich and Wayne Brockbank have explored the question: “What knowledge and abilities are necessary for successful HR professionals?” This research has been uniquely influential in shaping the HR profession.

In this round of research, six competency domains were identified that HR professionals must demonstrate to be personally effective and to impact business performance.  To be successful HR professionals must be:
Strategic positioners who understand evolving business contexts, stakeholder expectations, and business requirements and translate them into talent, culture, and leadership actions
Credible activists who build relationships of trust and have a clear point of view about how to build business performance
Capability builders who define, audit, and create organization capabilities required for sustainable organizational success
Change champions: who initiate and sustain change at the individual, initiative, and institutional levels
HR innovators and integrators who look for new ways to do HR practices and integrate those separate practices to deliver business solutions
Technology proponents who use technology for efficiency, to connect employees, and to leverage new communication channels, e.g., social media.

“We can empirically show that when HR professionals demonstrate these six competencies, they are seen as personally effective and they impact business performance” says Wayne Brockbank, professor at the Ross School of Business and co-director of the study. 

Jon Younger, partner at the RBL Group and co-director of the study adds, “We also found that the strategy, organization, and actions of an HR department explain about 3 to 4 times the performance of the business than the competencies of individual HR professionals.  HR professionals must work together to best drive business results.“

“This research shapes the HR profession because it defines what it means to be an effective HR professional and how to build an effective HR department.” said Dave Ulrich, partner and founder of the RBL Group and professor at the Ross School of Business and third co-director of the study.

“Through the Human Resource Competency Study, Michigan Ross professors Ulrich and Brockbank and their RBL colleagues deliver actionable ideas based in empirical research. For our corporate stakeholders, this is an especially meaningful project. These ideas shape not only the corporate HR agenda, but also the strategic agenda, for years to come” says Alison Davis-Blake, Edward J. Frey Dean and Leon Festinger Collegiate Professor of Management.

To accomplish this global research, the RBL Group and the Ross School of Business have partnered with leading HR professional associations in Australia (AHRI), Latin America (IAE), China (51Job), India (NHRD), the Middle East (ASHRM), Northern Europe (HR Norge), and South Africa (IPM). 

ABOUT THE RBL GROUP: The RBL Group is a global professional services firm committed to creating value through the effective management of people and organizations. The RBL Group is recognized as the trusted advisor to the world’s top HR leaders and their senior executives. The firm’s partners – Dave Ulrich, Jon Younger, and Norm Smallwood – are well-respected thought leaders whose books and research have helped companies drive more business-focused HR practices, particularly in the areas of strategic HR and leadership development. For more information please visit, e-mail, or call +1 801 373-4238.

ABOUT HR PROGRAMS AT THE ROSS SCHOOL OF BUSINESS AT THE UNIVESITY OF MICHIGAN: For over 30 years the Ross School has excelled in developing future HR leaders.  Their programs (Advanced Human Resource Executive Program, Human Resource Executive Program, and Strategic Human Resource Management) have been cited as the best HR development program in the world for the last 20 years.  These programs are offered to senior HR executives around the world.  For more information visit the web site  or email or call +1.734.763.1000.