J. Serv. Sci. & Management, 2008,1: 259-265
Published Online December 2008 in SciRes (www.SciRP.org/journal/jssm)
Copyright © 2008 SciRes JSSM
Examining Human Resource Competencies and Their
Relationship to the Success Factors of HR Profession
Choi-Sang Long
School of Business & Management, Southern College Malaysia
Email: cslong_1@yahoo.com
Received October 4
, 2008; revised November 11
, 2008; accepted November 25
, 2008.
This study examines competencies of Human Resource (HR) professionals in the manufacturing companies of Malaysia.
The Human Resource Competency Survey (HRCS) model is used in this study. The competencies that are examined in
this study are business knowledge, strategic contribution, HR delivery, personal credibility and HR technology. All
these competencies will be tested whether or not they are significantly related to a firm’s performance. Furthermore,
researcher wanted to study the relationship of these competencies with variables such as experience, education level,
firm’s size and salary of the sample. The sample employed here consists of HR professionals from Malaysian manufac-
turing companies in Johor, the southernmost state of Malaysia.
human resource, competencies, manufacturing, success factors, performance
1. Introduction
Human resource professionals needed to function strate-
gically. To play more critical roles more effectively, HR
professional must master the necessary competencies,
and that mastery of HR knowledge comes only from be-
ing familiar with the concepts, language, logic, and prac-
tices of HR that are the result of research and training.
Furthermore, mastery of the above abilities comes from
being able to apply the knowledge within specific busi-
ness settings [1].
Nowadays, competencies are used in many facets of
human resource management, ranging from individual
functions such as recruitment and performance management
to organizational strategic planning and design of organ-
izational structure and culture. HR competencies are said
to be a set of characteristics contributing to the effective
HR performance that enables an organization to carry out
its business strategies in a competitive market. However,
many HR executives are not invited to the strategic plan-
ning table because they have failed to display the re-
quired competencies [2]. In fact, it is suggested that the
competency level of the HR manager has an influence on
whether he or she is able to get into the executive board
chamber [3].
2. Review of the Literature
There are several major studies available on HR competencies
[4]. One study surveys 3000 HR professionals, consult-
ants, line executives and academicians. That study reports
that line executives thought that computer literacy was the
most critical HR competence; while academicians argue that
a broad knowledge of and a clear vision for HR were the
most important issues, and consultants believe that ability
to change things is the most important factor in the ex-
cellent or HR performance. Another study, examining
300 HR professionals from various sectors, establishes a
set of core HR competencies consisting of leadership
style, management intuition, functional abilities and per-
sonal attributes [5]. One of HR competency surveys sug-
gests that HR professionals needed to be more knowl-
edgeable about financial management, external competi-
tion and customer demands [6].
The survey data of the Human Resource Competency
Study (HRCS) were collected in 2003 under the initiative
of the University of Michigan. The study was carried out
online (web-based). The respondents of the European
HRCS were HR professionals and line managers of mul-
tinational companies located in Europe [7]. In this survey,
five domain factors emerged as making a difference in
terms of performance. The domains are as follows:
1) Strategic Contribution
High-performing companies have HR professionals
involved in the business at a strategic level. These HR
professionals manage the culture, facilitate rapid change,
and are involved in the strategic decision making and
create market-driven connectivity of the operation [7]. In
this competency area, culture management, rapid change
efforts, and a business partner role along with customer
focus emerged as important factors for HR professionals,
260 Choi-Sang Long
Copyright © 2008 SciRes JSSM
making their impact on their organizations' financial per-
formance significant [8].
2) Personal Credibility
HR professionals must be credible to both their HR
counterparts and the business line managers whom they
serve. They need to promise and deliver results and es-
tablish a reliable track record. Furthermore, working well
with others by building good relationship is vital in de-
veloping the ability to work together with others effec-
tively. In addition, HR professionals must have effective
writing and verbal communication skills [7]. The findings
of the study by [7] correspond with the prior research of
[9], who found that that the personnel directors require
professional competence in social skills to develop effec-
tive interpersonal relations with other board directors.
This is one of the competencies of personal credibility.
3) HR Delivery
HR professionals deliver both traditional and opera-
tional HR activities to their business in four major cate-
gories. First, by designing developmental programs and
challenging work experiences. This is done by offering
career planning services, and facilitating internal com-
munication processes. These efforts include both indi-
vidual development as well as organisation-wide devel-
opment. Second, by structuring and HR measurement:
restructuring the organisation, measuring impact of HR
practices, and managing global implications of HR prac-
tices. Third, by attracting, promoting, retaining, and
out-placing appropriate people. Finally, by performance
management in terms of designing performance-based
measurements and reward systems and providing com-
petitive benefit packages [7].
4) Business Knowledge
To become key players in the organisation, HR profes-
sionals must understand the business or industry of the
company they serve. Key areas of knowledge include
applied understanding of the integrated value chain (how
the firm horizontally integrates) and the firm’s value
proposition (how the firm creates wealth). The labour
factor, representing institutional constraints such as la-
bour legislation, is the third factor that constitutes the
domain of business knowledge [7]. Human resources pro-
fessionals must understand how their business or agency
operates. This includes the organization’s strategy, how the
organization makes money or achieves its primary purpose,
its technological processes and organizational capabilities,
etc. [10].
5) HR Technology
HR professionals need to be able to leverage technol-
ogy for HR practices and use e-HR/web-based channels
to deliver value to their customers [12]. [12] further ar-
gues that the pace of technological innovation will con-
tinue to accelerate. HR can take advantage of these
changes by automating HR processes and becoming more
effective in communicating with its internal /external cus-
tomers. More importantly, by absorbing the latest tech-
nology, HR can project a forward looking image that will
help it earn the respect of skeptical colleagues. According
to a recent survey by Society for Human Resource Man-
agement, the top workplace trend identified was technol-
ogy [12].
2.1. The Relationship between HR Competencies and a
Firm’s Performance
Researchers in the field of strategic human resource
management have emphasized that human resource prac-
tices may lead to higher firm performance and be sources
of sustained competitive advantages [13]. Competing in
today’s tumultuous global economy provides additional
challenges to the HR function in creating the expected
value to create and sustain competitive advantages. To
function effectively, HR professionals must master the
necessary competencies, and that mastery of HR knowl-
edge comes from knowing the concepts, language, logic,
research, and practices of HR [1]. Furthermore, mastery
of these abilities comes from being able to apply that
knowledge to specific business settings.
[14] have convincingly argued that HR professionals
need to become more effective strategic business partners.
[15] argue further that HR professionals must make the
transition from being strategic business partners to be-
coming contributors in their organizations. Several stud-
ies have shown a positive relationship between certain
HR competencies and firm performance [7,13,16,17,18]
have stated that there is an emerging group of human
resource professionals who see the opportunity to turn
human capital strategy into a long-term competitive ad-
vantage. They observe that in the 1990s there was a
wake-up call for the human resource profession. More
than ever, organizations now seek greater creativity and
productivity from people. Part of the strategy in being
creative and maximizing productivity is to possess the
necessary competencies for enabling these outcomes.
The research by Brockbank [1] showed that HR activi-
ties positively impact business performance by approxi-
mately 10% (defined as the financial performance of the
business over the last three years compared to its major
competitors). Strategic contribution accounts for 43 per-
cent of HR total impact on business performance which is
almost twice the impact of any other domain. These are
all reasons why competencies are being discussed by
academicians and practitioners alike as ways of creating
sustainable competitive advantages.
A study by [7] indicates the domain of strategic con-
tribution is positively correlated with financial competi-
tiveness, while the domain of HR technology is nega-
tively correlated with this performance outcome. This is
not completely in line with the global HRCS findings. In
the Europe, the study found only one domain (strategic
contribution) to be positively related to financial com-
petitiveness, in contrast to the global results that suggest
four out of five domains to be positively linked to finan-
Examining Human Resource Competencies and Their Relationship to the Success Factors of HR Profession 261
Copyright © 2008 SciRes JSSM
cial competitiveness. Fourth, all domains reveal relatively
high correlations with each other.
2.2. Relationship between HR Competencies and
Success Factors of HR Profession
In this study, researcher wanted to see if there are any
impact on HR professionals’ competencies with selected
success factors like the working experience, education
level, firm’s size and salary. [17] study found that salary
was significantly related to years of HR experience as
well as to self-rated competency in six of the competency
areas. The six competency area are delivering HR, tech-
nical competence, managing change, understanding busi-
ness, strategic contribution and accounting. Interestingly,
although experience was related to self-ratings of com-
petencies in six areas, education was not related to any of
the self-ratings of competence. This result contradicts
with [19] study which found that education level of the
HR practitioners does influence their competencies. [19]
further claim that leading companies, such as General
Electric and Amoco, seek entry-level HR/IR practitioners
who have the capacity to become strategic business part-
ners and align themselves with the other functions to en-
sure organizational success. Specifically, those who seek
admittance to General Electric’s prestigious HR man-
agement development program must possess a graduate
degree or bachelor’s degree from a reputable HR/IR pro-
gram [20].
[17] study shows the various relationships existing
among the core HR strategies, factors leading to im-
provement in the competencies, impact of education and
the competencies on compensation, and the relationship
between education and the respective competencies. The
results provide a reminder to HR professionals of the
value of graduate degrees and other means of developing
higher levels of HR technical competence, understanding
the benefits of accounting, marketing, and other different
functional areas in effectively developing and imple-
menting HR strategies. By understanding the impact of
the competencies on the various organizational practices,
there could be a more directed strategy in developing
expertise among HR professionals, hence, a more credi-
ble and effective function [17].
[21] in their study mention that HR professionals
working in small companies may be so focused on solv-
ing problems on a daily basis that they have no time for
focusing being a strategic business partner. Customer
service skills are more important to HR practitioners in
large companies. HR Practitioners from small companies
gave more importance to organizational skills. Anyway,
no differences emerged between upper and middle level
managers of their HR competencies in this study. Fur-
thermore, upper managers described the HR department as
designing, implementing, and evaluating HR strategies and
programs, acting as an internal consultant, supporting line
management, and being both a member of the executive
management team and a strategic partner with top man-
agement. HR professionals from the manufacturing sector
reported two roles that HR plays in their companies, that
of change agent and outsourcer of HR programs. The
study from [21] shows significant differences in the task
of HR practitioners from large and small companies.
Small companies reported that their HR departments
monitored legal compliance and motivated employees
and large companies reported that their HR department
outsourced HR programs.
3. The Study
The purpose of this study is to attempt to understand bet-
ter the Human Resource (HR) professional’s competencies in
the manufacturing sector of Malaysia. Furthermore, these
finding will be tested in order to determine if they are
linked to a firm’s performance. In this research, the tool
of Human Resource Competency Study (HRCS), which
has been designed by Wayne [8], will be used to assess
HR competencies among the HR professionals. HR pro-
fessionals need to endure and overcome many barriers to
reach the ultimate goal of becoming a strategic partner in
his of her organization. It is hoped that by making this
examination, we will be able to develop a realistic picture
of the competencies of the HR professionals in the manu-
facturing firms of Malaysia. Another purpose of this
study is to determine the relationship between HR com-
petencies and possible success factors of HR profession
eg. experience, education level firm’s size and salary.
4. Research Methodology
4.1. Sample
The sample employed here consists of HR professionals
from Malaysian manufacturing companies. All respon-
dents work for manufacturing companies in the southern-
most state of Malaysia, Johor. These industries were cho-
sen because of their relatively large. The list of firms in the
manufacturing sector was drawn from the “FMM directory
of Malaysian Manufacturers 2007.” Only firms with at
least 50 full-time employees were studied. This is because
other studies have shown that firms with smaller employ-
ment size are less likely to have HRM departments [22].
Out of the entire list in the directory, the research focused
on a sample population in the Southern region of Malaysia
(State of Johor). A total of about 300 firms were included
in the list for this area. The total number of firms involve
in this study are 32 respondents.
4.2. The Instrument
The data collection instrument used in this research is the
a quantitative methodology with a survey instrument de-
veloped based on the five competency domains and 17
competency factors identified in the Human Resource
Competency Study (HRSC) [8]. To improve statistical
reliability, the HR technology domain was divided into
two competency factors; one was operational and one
262 Choi-Sang Long
Copyright © 2008 SciRes JSSM
strategic. This resulted in 18 competency factors that re-
sided within the five competency domains. A Likert scale
was used on the questionnaire with the following ratings:
1–strongly disagree, 2–disagree, 3–moderately agree,
4–agree and 5–strongly agree. The respondent was asked
how well they performed the competencies identified in
the HRSC. A statement describing each competency
factor is listed on the questionnaire. The 18 items in the
instrument are arranged in groups of five competency
Firm performance was measured by the self-reported
rating of the respondents concerning the indicators of
financial and operational performance, sustainability of
profits, staffs turnover and the opportunity for growth
for staff. A Likert scale was used on the questionnaire
with the same rating scale as above. However, for nega-
tive questions, the rating procedures are opposite. The
respondent was asked to choose the number that accu-
rately represented their firm’s performance. There are 5
items in this section that assess a firm’s performance.
The research used three negative questions to ensure
No researcher can completely eliminate measurement
error, but he or she can reduce it in several ways, such as
by conducting a pilot study. If the measurement error is
reduced, the reliability of the measurement technique is
increased [23]. Therefore, a pilot study was done to test
the research instrument in this study. The researcher of
this study used Cronbach alpha co-efficient method for
this purpose. The result of the reliability test shows that
the alpha value base in each domain of the instrument is
between 0.62 to 0.89. Components that are tested are
strategic contribution (alpha = .89), personnel contribution
(alpha value=0.67), HR delivery (alpha value=0.62),
Business knowledge (alpha value=0.76), HR technology
(alpha value=0.88) and firm performance (alpha
value=0.86). According to [24], any measurement in-
strument should have reliability value of more than 0.60.
[23] stressed that a measurement instrument can be con-
sidered reliable if the results are consistent from one time
to another and that the reliability value is 0.70 or greater.
Therefore, from the alpha value obtained, we can con-
clude that the research instrument is reliable and consis-
5. Analysis
Table 1 show that the top nine ranking HR competency
factors are from the domain of personal credibility and
HR delivery. The respondents' self-rated competency
shows that personal communication, legal compliance,
effective relationship and performance management rank
above all other factors. It would follow that respondents
are most competent in these areas.
HR Professionals need to develop a relationship of
trust with their clients, i.e. management team and line
managers to instill confidence. These findings show posi-
tive development to the HR professionals in Malaysia
because personal credibility competency is the founda-
tion for a HR professional to become intimately involved
at the strategic level in an organization once given the
opportunity. Without this foundation of trust, HR Profes-
sionals may very well find themselves excluded from the
strategy table. However, this study has
Table 1. Rank order of means of HR competency factors in each domain
Competency Factors Mean Std. Deviation Rank
Strategic Contribution Culture management 2.91 0.89 18
Fast change 3.06 0.95 15
Strategic decision-making 3.03 0.69 16
Market driven connectivity 2.97 0.78 17
Personal Credibility Achieving results 4.16 0.68 7
Effective relationships 4.38 0.66 3
Personal communication 4.63 0.49 1
HR Delivery Staffing 4.31 0.78 5
HR development 4.16 0.95 8
Organization structure 4.28 0.85 6
HR measurement 4.13 0.79 9
Legal Compliance 4.44 0.80 2
Performance management 4.38 0.79 4
Business Knowledge Value chain knowledge 3.31 1.03 13
Value proposition knowledge 3.44 0.88 12
Labor knowledge 3.53 0.88 10
HR Technology User of technology to deliver HR services 3.31 0.69 14
Strategic HR technology 3.47 0.95 11
Examining Human Resource Competencies and Their Relationship to the Success Factors of HR Profession 263
Copyright © 2008 SciRes JSSM
found that respondents score lowest for strategic contri-
bution competency. Based on competency factors in each
domain, all strategic contribution factors score the lowest
mean score in terms of mean ranking as shown in Table 1.
This shows that HR professionals in Malaysian manu-
facturing sector are extremely weak in culture manage-
ment, market driven connectivity, strategic deci-
sion-making and fast change. This result is indeed a con-
cern because HR professionals should be able to identify
and implement organizational cultures that help firms win
the marketplace and successfully implement business
strategies. Furthermore, if HR professionals are not able
to facilitate change management processes and adapt
learning to new change initiatives, they would have
problems working with key individuals to ensure deci-
sions are made quickly and to ensure resources are
aligned with desired changes [8].
As shown in Table 2, not all HR professional competen-
cies (Strategic Contribution, Business knowledge, Personal
credibility, HR delivery and HR technology) have signifi-
cant correlation with a firm’s performance. Competencies
such as strategic contribution, business knowledge and HR
technology have significant correlation with firm per-
formance. These competences obtained Spearmen’s rho
value at 0.542 (p0.01), 0.542 (p0.01) and 0.373 (p
0.05). However, no correlation was found between per-
sonal credibility and HR delivery in assessing
Table 2. Relationship of HR competencies to firm per-
Spearman’s rho analysis Firm per-
Correlation Coefficient 0.542**
Sig. (2-tailed) 0.001
credibility Correlation Coefficient 0.144
Sig. (2-tailed) 0.433
HR delivery
Correlation Coefficient 0.016
Sig. (2-tailed) 0.930
knowledge Correlation Coefficient 0.542**
Sig. (2-tailed) 0.001
HR tech-
nology Correlation Coefficient 0.373*
Sig. (2-tailed) 0.036
* Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (2-tailed).
** Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).
a firm’s performance. Both of these competencies obtained
a Spearmen’s rho value at 0.144 and 0.016.
This result partially supports the earlier research from
[7]. While a study by [7] indicates that the domains of
strategic contribution, business knowledge, personal credi-
bility and HR delivery are positively correlated with finan-
cial competitiveness, although there is no correlation be-
tween HR technology and financial performance.
As shown in Table 3, only two out of five HR compe-
tencies have significant correlation with independent
variables. HR competencies such personal credibility has
significant correlation with HR experience, education
level and salary but show no correlation with the firm’s
size. Business knowledge competencies have significant
correlation with all success factors (HR experience, edu-
cation level, firm’s size and salary).
The findings from this section is supported by the
study from [17] that indicates that salary was signifi-
cantly related to competency such as understanding
business knowledge. [17] study also shows that the im-
pact of education and the competencies on compensation.
The result provide a reminder to HR professionals of the
value of education level such as graduate degrees devel-
oping higher levels of HR technical competence, under-
standing the benefits of accounting, marketing, and other
different functional areas in effectively developing and
implementing HR strategies. This study also indicates
that HR experience is significantly related to HR compe-
tencies such as delivering HR, strategic contribution,
understanding the business and technical competence.
Table 3. Correlations between HR competencies and HR
experience, education level, firm size and salary competencies
HR ex-
perience Education
level Firm's
size Salary
0.185 0.078 0.326 0.138
credibility 0.436* 0.549** 0.294 0.612
HR delivery
0.174 0.011 0.231 0.244
knowledge 0.367* 0.468** 0.417*
HR tech-
nology 0.060 0.039 0.213 -0.069
HR experi-
ence 1.000 0.442* 0.669**
level 0.442* 1.000 0.430 0.613
Firm’s size 0.669** 0.430* 1.000 0.576
Salary 0.676** 0.613** 0.576**
* Correlation is significant at the 0.05
level (2-tailed).
** Correlation is significant at the 0.01
level (2-tailed).
264 Choi-Sang Long
Copyright © 2008 SciRes JSSM
The study from [19] show significant differences in the
task of HR practitioners from large and small companies
(firm’s size). Small companies reported that their HR
departments monitored legal compliance (one of the fac-
tors in the competency of HR delivery) and large compa-
nies reported that their HR department outsourced HR
programs. However, this result could not be supported by
this research as no significant relationship was found
between firm’s size and HR delivery.
6. Discussion
[14] have argued that HR professionals need to become
more effective strategic business partners. [25] argue
further that HR professionals must transition from being
strategic business partners to becoming contributors in
organizations. Given that numerous studies have shown a
positive relationship between strategic HRM practices
and firm performance, this study sought to identify the
competencies needed for HR professionals to become
effective business partners and contributor in organiza-
As [26] have shown strategic contribution, personal
credibility, HR delivery, business knowledge, and HR
technology are all pivotal to HR being effective business
partners and players. This study enabled readers to de-
termine the various relationships existing among the core
HR strategies, factors leading to improvement in the
competencies, impact of education and the competencies
on compensation, and the relationship between education
and the respective competencies. The results provide a
reminder to HR professionals of the value of graduate
degrees and other means of developing higher levels of
HR technical competence, understanding the benefits of
accounting, marketing, and other different functional
areas in effectively developing and implementing HR
strategies. By understanding the impact of the competen-
cies on the various organizational practices, there could
be a more directed strategy in developing expertise
among HR professionals, hence, a more credible and ef-
fective function.
The findings of this study support notions of [17] and
Becker et al. [27] who emphatically stated the need for
metrics as a core component of the HR strategy. Al-
though there are many positive results for the HR profes-
sion in general from this study, there are clearly many
areas that are lacking. To be a true strategic partner and
player, HR professionals and other executives of organi-
zations must focus on developing the critical competen-
cies necessary to enhance HR effectiveness and hence
maximization of shareholder value.
HR professionals need to be proactive and flexible in
their mind set. They should not think that they play only
a supportive role but also their contribution can give im-
pact to an organization performance. One major finding
of this study is that HR professionals often lack the com-
petencies related to business. It is clearly shown that
competency such as culture management, market driven
connectivity, strategic decision making, rapid adaptability,
value-chain knowledge and HR technological know-how
are lacking and are among the weakest abilities of a HR
professionals in the Malaysian manufacturing sector.
7. Conclusions
The findings of this research show that HR professional
in the manufacturing companies of the southern region of
Malaysia are lacking in business related human resource
competencies. This is one of the main barriers to be sur-
mounted if local HR professional are to become strategic
partners in their organizations. As this study has shown,
these competencies contribute to a firm’s effective per-
formance. Therefore, it is vital for HR professional to
possess the right competency to improve overall firm’s
productivity and performance. Furthermore, they must
take initiative to excel in many area especially knowledge
beyond HR practices. This may be the only road to suc-
cess for all HR profession in the future.
8. Acknowledgement
The author is grateful to Dr. Richard Spear for his valu-
able comments on this paper. The author also would like
to take this opportunity to acknowledge the contribution
and generous support of the firms that have participated
in this study.
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