Developing Human Resource Leaders

By Walker, James W.; Stopper, William G. | Human Resource Planning, March 2000 | Go to article overview
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Developing Human Resource Leaders

Walker, James W., Stopper, William G., Human Resource Planning

The roles of human resource professionals as business partners and leaders of business change have received considerable attention. Many individuals performing these new roles must develop capabilities in such areas as formulating business and HR strategies, leading change, and redesigning HR processes to support strategy implementation.

What are companies doing to help their HR leaders develop new capabilities? What is the actual state of practice? To learn about current practices, we mailed a survey to 100 companies, members of the HR Leadership Consortium. [1] The results, highlights of practices in 34 companies, are presented in this article.


Following the example set by AT&T, IBM, Honeywell, Kodak, 3M, and other leading companies a few years ago, most of the companies are either adapting or developing capability (competency) models for their human resource professionals. The process of identifying and defining requirements is considered a beneficial element of talent development, because it engages people in thinking about the demands of their changing roles--what will be expected of them.

Many of the companies (22) indicated they use a competency model specifically for HR professionals. Twelve of the companies use a model of overall capabilities applicable to HR professionals. Five of the companies report they have defined capabilities required for specific roles in human resources (e.g., HR leader or generalist, consultant, specialists). Nine of the companies have defined capabilities required for specific functional areas, such as training, compensation, or recruiting.

Most of the companies applied a model developed by other companies, by a vendor for overall leadership development (e.g., Career Architect), or by a consultant (e.g., Dave Ulrich or Walker Group). Six companies reported that they adapted or customized models developed by other companies.

Eight of the companies developed their own model from scratch, based on internal research and review of external research and models. "We collected data on knowledge, skill, and ability requirements [KSAs] for every job and, from this, developed common KSAs," reported one company. "Even though it took a long time, we feel that it drew attention to development in HR."


Human resource functions have often taken the initiative in developing and introducing development planning and career development processes for managers and for employees in other company functions. Yet HR has often been slow to adopt such processes for its own staff.

The companies surveyed are showing progress in this area. Most of the companies provide development planning tools for their HR professionals to use. These include:

* Self-development planning tools or formats (31)

* Coaching, counseling, mentoring (31)

* Assessment (e.g., multi-rater) and feedback (25)

* Guides to development resources (17)

* Company internet resources (15)

In some cases (13), these development planning tools were the same as those provided to professionals in all areas of the company: "It is part of our annual goal setting process, but it is crude and unevenly used." "We have been careful not to reinvent processes that we have in place elsewhere."

An additional eight companies adapted the company-wide process to fit the specific needs of HR professionals: "The process is similar to, but not exactly the same as our company-wide process." "It has elements of processes used in other functions." "We are redefining our protocols to apply in HR."

Ten companies designed their own process for human resources. One reported adapting a process used by another company. "We developed an assessment tool for rating skill levels in HR functional areas and assessing behaviors." "We are doing this in each functional area of the company.

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