15 Key HR Competencies – Is There ONE More Important Than All Others?

by Alan Collins

When you have 90 seconds, check out the video below (be sure to turn up the volume!).  It lays out my very jaded perspective on 15 key competencies needed for HR success.   However, I’d love to get your feedback.  What do you think is the ONE single most important skill or competency for success in HR? Yes, I know HR success is a mix of a lot of factors.  But what’s your opinion – is there ONE key skill that is more important than all others?  Post your answer HERE with your rationale.   See if others agree.   C’mon join in the fun!

About the author: Alan Collins is Founder of Success in HR  and the author of the HR best sellers, UNWRITTEN HR RULES  and BEST KEPT HR SECRETS.   He was formerly Vice President – Human Resources at PepsiCo where he led HR initiatives for their Quaker Oats, Gatorade and Tropicana businesses.  His most recent book, WINNING BIG IN HR, is now available on Amazon.

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69 Responses to “15 Key HR Competencies – Is There ONE More Important Than All Others?”

  1. Zul Says:

    Great montage sharing Alan, thanks.
    HR mgmt is no longer an operational/administrative function. Those were the days. HR mgmt is now becoming more relevant sitting as board members and coined itself as the HR Business Partner. As HR Biz Partner, the fundamental role is to see our peers, workers, managers accomplish success and are in sync with the vision and mission of the Company. And in order to realise that, HR Biz Partner must Know and Understand the Business well. From here, we can program all other competencies needed to achieve the MBO.

  2. Linda Barberena, SPHR Says:

    While most will say Knowing the Business, I believe that Collaboration is key. All of these competencies are expected of HR, but if HR does not collaborate to produce the results needed for operations or production, your integrity and trust will be questioned, and others will lack confidence in you. Very good video. I strive daily to exhibit each of these competencies.

  3. Michael Zroback Says:

    As long as we’re being jaded about this, how about the competency of ‘Political Astuteness”. This is crucial in a such a high profile position where you are pulled in all directions.

  4. MRED Says:

    I think that without relationship building most of the others would be very difficult to accomplish. I do however believe that Business Acumen is Top Priority to become successful in your career. But that takes relationships to learn. What do you think??

  5. D. Wash Says:

    Alan – While all 15 core competencies are essential, I would have to say the power to persuade, “Speaking Persuasively” is the most powerful skill to have of them all.

    As an HR Professional, you need to have the ear of the Power Broker(CEO). The fastest way to see change within an organization comes from the Top. And when you have the power to persuade nothing is impossible.

  6. Noufal Says:

    Great Video , I belive HR should be contribute more to the business by enhancing productivity gaining thorugh the emotional attachmnet to the people.

  7. Peter Edward Says:

    Great Video…Value Addidtion.
    Once again Thanks Alan. Bravo !!!

  8. Helen Says:

    Great video and as cited above all of the skills highlighted are essential, however, for me I believe that HR needs to know the business they’re working in, the culture, the employees, the product and clients to be truly effective in HR.

  9. D'Anne Chesnick Says:

    I’d say having an aptitude for handling loads of information and data–being persnickety and attentive to details is a key personal trait as well as skill for survival in the HR field. But I also agree that “KNOWING THE BUSINESS” is critical. There’s nothing more frustrating for applicants and employees than a HR specialist without a clue. Great video!!

  10. Binh Pham Van Says:

    useful! Thanks Alan!

  11. Matt Murphy Says:

    I see the most prevalent theme above is “knowing the business.” I believe this is a very important key to professional success but the most important competency for personal success (which is the foundation of professional success) is listening. Without this skill your ability to expand your knowledge is limited and your life, business and expertise in HR will fail to evolve with the constantly developing world around you.

  12. Neil Schermitzler Says:

    Good list–but dated; an early HR mentor of mine taught me these and others in the 1970s!!

  13. MRED Says:

    I like your comment Neil, but in response I would ike to add, “when will we ever accomplish these and move into the 21st century and become a true HRBL?”

  14. Alan Says:

    I also like your comment Neil. However, I see nothing here that’s dated. These HR competencies are TIMELESS — just like the best ideas in leadership, teamwork, employee engagement, HR metrics…all of which go back to the pre-1970’s, in fact.

    Frankly, the only contemporary difference I see in HR these days is the over-use of buzzwords (much of which is simply old wine being put in new bottles)….and how HR solutions and services are delivered (via technology, self-service, social media, etc.) which is terrific.

    Don’t knock the 70s (or the 80s, 90s, 00s, for that matter). 😉


  15. Diana Says:

    Knowing the Business. It helps you to sit in the management table and being able to listen and speak their language and understand org/their issues, collaborate with them about addressing problems you can see through same lens of understanding and being a champion of change and giving trusted advice and it would inspire you to achieve and lead courageously.

  16. Diana Says:

    Diana again, THANK You, Alan,always, for sharing and encouraging useful HR discussion.

  17. Jenne Martin Says:


  18. Mike Says:

    Another thought provoking contribution from a man that knows! Thank you for sharing your experiences.
    Listening in the key to the rest, but it is closely followed by Leading Courageously. You have to know before you can lead and you have to listen to learn…

  19. Harvey Ashworth Says:

    #1 Active listening. How else will you #2 learn the business.