The Validation of a Human Resource Management Professional Competence Model for the South African Context

By Schutte, Nico; Barkhuizen, Nicolene et al. | SA Journal of Industrial Psychology, January 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

The Validation of a Human Resource Management Professional Competence Model for the South African Context


Schutte, Nico, Barkhuizen, Nicolene, van der Sluis, Lidewey, SA Journal of Industrial Psychology


Introduction

The development of human resources (HR) competence models has a gained a great deal of attention over the past decade, assisting organisations to adapt to ongoing changes in the business world (Abdullah, Musa & Ali, 2011). HR practitioners in organisations are expected to play a dual role by on the one hand becoming a business partner and protecting employees' interests and on the other hand managing and implementing strategies and practices that respond to economic circumstances (O'Brien & Linehan, 2014). Competence models that allow for the description of different competences can therefore assist HR professionals to support their organisations in achieving success and sustainability (Sikora & Ferris, 2014; Ulrich, Brockbank, Johnson, Sandholtz & Younger, 2008).

Empirical research on competency requirements for HR professionals in the South African context is scant. The few detailed empirical studies that were conducted in this field focused primarily on the desired roles and practices of HR practitioners in South African organisations (Coetzee, Mitonga-Monga & Swart, 2014; Magau & Roodt, 2010; Scheepers & Schuping, 2011; Schultz, 2010; Steyn, 2008; Van der Westhuizen, Van Vuuren & Visser, 2003; Van Vuuren & Eiselen, 2006; Van Wyk, 2006). Furthermore, the results of these studies illustrate the confusion regarding the roles and responsibilities of HR practitioners and their lack of competence to fulfil key roles.

Therefore, there is a need to establish and empirically validate a professional HR competence model that can be applied by HR professionals in the South African context. The South African Board for People Practices (SABPP) introduced a new competence model in 2012 to guide the professional conduct of HR professionals in South Africa. This model, however, still needs to be empirically validated. Schutte (2015) used the SABPP's model in conjunction with other HR professional competence models to develop a competence measure as a foundation to assess a complete model that HR professionals can use in the further professionalisation of the HR profession in South Africa. The present article discusses the validation of this measure, as well as its equivalence in a culturally diverse South Africa.

This article is structured as follows. Firstly, we present a critical overview of the available measures of HR roles, responsibilities and competencies in the South African context. This is followed by a discussion of the research method employed in the present study. Thereafter, the empirical results of the research are reported. The research concludes with a discussion of the results, together with recommendations for both practice and future research.

Literature review

Human resource management assessments in the South African context

An extensive review of literature revealed three trends in assessing HR practitioners' roles, responsibilities and competencies in the South African workplace. Studies to date adopted global or consultancy measures to assess HR practitioners' roles and the application of HR practices in the workplace. Secondly, authors developed their own measurements to assess the application of global HR frameworks in the South African context. Finally, authors develop their own measures to assess specific areas of the HR field, such as competencies, ethics and professionalism. Only nine quantitative research studies could be found that focused specifically on the assessment of the roles, practices and competencies of HR practitioners in South African organisations. A critical overview of the assessment of HR roles, responsibilities and practices, as well as their applicability in the South African context, is provided hereunder.

Steyn (2008) and Walters (2006) used the Human Resource Role Assessment of Ulrich (1997) to explore the strategic role of HR professionals in the South African context. The survey consisted of 40 statements that measure four roles: strategic partner, change agent, employee champion and administrative expert, using operational phrasing and describes concepts, practices and activities of the HR function. …

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