HR Competency Model

National HR Competency model sets benchmark for HR professionalism

Part I: The Framework for the HR Competency Model

On 10 May 2012, the HR professional body of South Africa, the SA Board for People Practices (SABPP), launched a national HR Competency Model at the HR Excellence in Gauteng Provincial Summit of SABPP.

A competency model is an important component for any profession as it clearly expresses what professionals in that field should be able to deliver. An HR Competency Model provides a foundation for the continuous professional development (CPD) of HR professionals.

The competency model builds on the previous SABPP model published in 1990. Over the last three decades a multitude of HR competency models evolved, mainly in the US and Europe. However, the national HR Survey 2011 conducted by Knowledge Resources and SABPP showed that only 20% of South African companies have an HR competency model in place. Of those companies that do use a model, most simply used these overseas models as their HR competency models without taking cognisance of the unique South African context. The SABPP is of the view that the local context is of such importance that the competency model must speak to it. The figure below depicts the 2012 South African HR competency model.


The HR competency model is based on the following design principles:

  • The competency model emerged from an overarching HR profession map covering all functions, elements and components of the HR profession.
  • While there was a clear intention to learn from previous models, the overall approach used was to integrate the best elements of other models based on leading HR competencies world-wide.
  • Having said that, we decided not to duplicate from global models, given the fact that despite global benchmarking, HR in South Africa is unique according to a very specific context and environment that is totally different than the rest of the world. Hence, the model had to be relevant to South Africa with a unique local focus.
  • The model achieves a balance between personal, business and HR competencies.
  • While we can learn from HR competency models over the past 25 years, a clear focus on the needs and requirements of the present and future HR operating environment guided the developers in creating the HR competency model.
  • The model must be general enough to be internalised by all HR professionals, irrespective of their level in the organisation, or area of specialisation.


A systematic process was used to develop the competency model:

  1. In-depth content analysis of all global and local HR competency models and studies;
  2. Learning from leading companies that have developed their own HR competency models;
  3. Inputs from various thought leaders and specialists on HR competencies such as Lydia Cillier-Schmidt, Terry Meyer, Theo Veldsman and Otto Pretorius.


The four pillars of HR professionalism form the foundation of the HR Competency Model:

  • Duty to society: HR professionals have a duty to society in delivering high quality HR work that has an impact on society.
  • Ethics: HR professionalism should contribute to ethics in organisations and drive ethics in accordance with the SABPP HR Guide on Ethics.
  • Professionalism: HR professionals should manage themselves professionally in acting and behaving like true professionals in the standard of HR work they deliver.
  • HR and Business knowledge: HR professionals must have good HR and sound business knowledge if they want to be successful as professionals and strategic partners.

Considering these pillars, one could also say that our duty to society forms the foundation of the HR competency house. Ethics and professionalism are the walls. If the foundation and walls are not strong, the house will fall down. Furthermore, HR and business knowledge is the ceiling of the house, thus acquiring sound HR and business knowledge opens up opportunities for HR professionals to move to the strategic level of the HR house, i.e. the roof.


The five core competencies constitute the different layers of bricks or building blocks of the house. These competencies are the basic competencies all HR professionals need to be effective in the workplace:

  • Leadership and Personal Credibility: All HR professionals should possess leadership skills to drive the HR profession. Likewise, HR professionals should have personal credibility in organisations, irrespective of level in the organisation, but this can only be achieved if they display a high level of competence in executing professional HR work.
  • Organisational capability: Understanding the organisational context and needs of the business is critical in the process of planning and delivering HR practices.
  • Solution Creation and Implementation: HR professionals create, plan and implement HR solutions, including interventions and practices according to the needs of the organisation.
  • Interpersonal and communication skills: All HR work depends on successful relationships, and excellent interpersonal and communication skills are of utmost importance.
  • Citizenship for the future: Over and above the HR strategic partner role, the new business environment requires HR professionals who can drive innovation, optimise technology and contribute to sustainability. Thus, HR professionals become citizens for the future in ensuring sustainability of organisations and the environment.


Applying five strategic capabilities in driving business excellence, HR professionals are rising to the roof of the HR house. Once they can apply the basics of HR professionalism, they are ready to do high level strategic HR work. Typically, the five strategic HR capabilities are as follows:

  • Strategy: HR professionals contribute to business strategy by drafting HR strategies aligned to the overall strategy of the organisation. However, this is more than just alignment, it requires the ability and influence to create people-driven business strategy in partnership with other executives.
  • Talent management: Once business and HR strategy are clear, HR professionals should work with line management in implementing a talent management plan for an organisation.
  • HR governance, risk and compliance: Governing the HR function to make effective people decisions for the business, including managing HR risks and ensuring compliance to employment laws, rules, codes and HR standards elevate HR from business partners to HR governors.
  • Analytics and measurement: Another core capability is to be able to generate a systematic and integrated approach to HR analytics and measures in demonstrating HR impact on the business.
  • HR service delivery: Ultimately HR professionals should be able to deliver high quality HR products and services for the organisation and meeting or exceeding the needs of management, employees and other key stakeholders.


The new SABPP HR Competency model sets the benchmark for HR professionalism in the modern South African work environment. The three areas of the HR Competency House are the pillars as the
foundation of HR professionalism, the five core HR competencies, and the five HR capabilities to leverage the strategic contribution of HR. Under this comprehensive framework for HR competence in South Africa, the further development of the HR competency model will include a competency grid with a full list of HR competencies under each one of the broader HR competencies outlined in the model, a mapping to the SABPP levels of professional registration and an assessment tool. SABPP acknowledges the inputs from several HR professionals and thought leaders for their inputs during the stakeholder engagement process. In particular, a special word of thanks to Lydia Cillier-Schmidt and Terry Meyer for their pioneering work as conceptual background for the development of the HR competency model.

Download PDFDownload The HR Competencies Final
Download PDFDownload The HR Competency model Assessment
Download PDFDownload The HR Competency model HR Future
Download PDFDownload The HR Foundation


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