HR professionals: Study capability frameworks to improve applications

When human resource practitioners apply for jobs they would be wise to consider what capabilities are considered key to business success, otherwise they may well fall into the trap of focusing on transactions and compliance.

The APSC’s 2012-13 State of the Service Report commented on the role of human resource practitioners in building long-term success and sustainability. Specifically, they have a role to play in workforce capability, change management, performance management, supporting a culture of high performance. These are critical contributions to business strategy, including designing supporting frameworks and systems, and providing high-quality advice. Yet HR practitioners are often focused on transactions and compliance.

The report suggests there is a case for defining required capabilities and answering four key questions:

  • ‘What contribution should HR make in assisting to address current and emerging business issues in the APS?
  • Should standards be set for the technical skills and other capabilities needed to competently practice the strategic components of HR in the APS?
  • How should HR resources be structured to maximise efficiency and effectiveness at agency and APS-wide level?
  • How best to organise enabling HR systems to ensure they represent good value for money and provide the business intelligence needed to support leaders to make decisions?’

Capability frameworks already exist for HR professionals.

The Australian Human Resources Institute has a  model of excellence that identifies seven key areas:

  • Business driven
  • Strategic architect
  • Expert practitioner
  • Ethical and credible activist
  • Workforce and workplace designer
  • Stakeholder mentor and coach
  • Culture and change leader

Character traits of HR practitioners include being:

  • credible
  • courageous
  • solutions driven
  • future oriented
  • a critical and enquiring thinker
  • collaborative
  • a person who understands and cares.

The Tasmanian, Victorian, Western Australian and Northern Territory public sectors have developed capability frameworks for human resource practitioners. These frameworks are primarily designed for career planning, performance management, and learning and development. They can also be used for recruitment and workforce planning.

The WA Human Resources capability framework defines seven interrelated core capabilities for both the human resources function and of the human resources practitioner:

  • Strategic alignment
  • Results driven
  • Workforce capacity
  • Relationship management
  • Credible influence
  • Professional expertise
  • Culture and change management.

These capabilities represent what the HR function must develop if it is to build its internal capability to be recognised as a source of expertise and guidance.

The framework complements the WA Capability profile: levels 1-6 and the Leadership capability profiles (level 7 to class 4).

The HR function capabilities above are the basis on which the practitioner capabilities are defined. The framework provides both individual and comparative profiles. These profiles define the degree of activity and knowledge expected of individuals. At the lower range activity focuses on administration, support and processing, and knowledge focuses on basic principles of HR. Complexity increases with seniority.

The Tasmanian HR Capability Framework comprises an HR Capability Model, an HR Capability Structure, and a supporting Professional Development Guide. The HR Capability Model has seven capabilities:

  • Designing an organisation for the future.
  • Advancing culture and change.
  • Being an expert practitioner.
  • Being credible.
  • Leading and maintaining productive relationships.
  • Designing and contributing to workforce structures and performance.
  • Understanding and applying the Service Values.

The Victorian HR Capability Framework is similar in structure to that of WA. The seven interrelated capabilities in the Victorian framework are, except for the seventh, expressed as roles:

  • Workforce designer
  • Strategy Driver
  • Culture and Change Facilitator
  • Relationship Manager
  • Credible Activist
  • Expert Practitioner
  • Service Driven.

Similarly, the NT HR Capability Framework identifies six capabilities, expressed as roles:

  • Strategy Driver
  • Innovator and Integrator
  • Capability Builder
  • Credible Adviser
  • Relationship Manager
  • Change Champion.

What is common to either all or most of these lists are:

  • Strategy Driver
  • Workforce Designer/Capability Builder
  • Credible Activist
  • Change Agent
  • Relationship Manager.

Plus professional expertise and delivering service are common to a couple of the lists.

People applying for HR roles would be wise to study these documents in order to:

  • Assess themselves against the capabilities.
  • Identify role names to use in applications.
  • Identify behaviours relevant to an HR role.
  • Pitch an application to the appropriate level.

While only the WA framework mentions results, an applicant would also be wise to consider what results they produce, beyond transactions and compliance.

The Victorian Public Sector Commission offers a Dictionary of People Metrics which explains 47 measurement tools for data collection and reporting. The application and limitations of each is explained, thereby providing useful information for both applications and interviews.

Dr Ann Villiers, career coach, writer and author, is Australia’s only Mental Nutritionist® specialising in mind and language practices that help people build flexible thinking, confident speaking and quality connections with people.