HR 2025 Competency Framework

Become a T-Shaped HR Professional

Digitalization, automation, increased quantities of data, virtual communication, cross-functional teams – today’s business challenges all require HR professionals to develop a new set of skills, on top of their specialization.

The 2025 HR Competency Model helps HR Professionals remain relevant by developing T-Shaped competency profiles. At the base of the competency model there are four essential HR competencies and that every HR professional should master on top of their functional specialism within HR.

What is a T-shaped HR Professional?

FUNCTIONAL COMPETENCIES

Functional competencies

On top of being proficient in each of the four core HR competencies, every T-shaped HR Professional should specialize and master (at least) one functional competency. Examples of such functional competencies within HR are:

  • Learning & Development
  • Metrics & Reporting
  • Talent Acquisition
  • Workforce Planning
  • Talent Management
  • Diversity & Inclusion
  • Compensation & Benefits
  • Engagement, Health & Wellbeing
  • Organizational Effectiveness
  • HR Leadership & Strategy
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Free assessment or Skills gap analysis

It only takes 5 minutes to get your own personal dashboard and find out how you score on each of the four core HR competencies and if you may call yourself a T-shaped HR Pro!

NEW: Considering rolling out the assessment for a larger HR population to get a consolidated overview? Contact Vincent Cohen for more information.

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What is a T-shaped HR Professional?

Being ‘T-shaped’ quite literally refers to the letter T, which consists of a horizontal and vertical bar. Put simply, a T-shaped professional is a balanced combination of a generalist and a specialist within one profile. Someone who has breadth in how they collaborate and innovate across disciplines, and depth in specific areas of expertise.

The horizontal bar of the letter T represents the generalist who possesses a broad understanding of different functional areas within their domain. The vertical bar of the T represents the specialist who has a deep understanding of knowledge in their area of expertise.

As a generalist, the HR professional has a broad understanding of the core competencies relevant to the overall discipline, which are data literacy, business acumen, digital integration, and people advocacy. As a specialist, they possess deep knowledge of at least one functional area within HR.

Why do we need T-shaped profiles within HR?

Within today’s increasingly complex business environment, projects rarely remain limited to one specific area of expertise. Instead, they are usually cross-functional challenges that require a wide range of knowledge and skills.

The combination of being a generalist and specialist positions the T-shaped HR Professional as the ultimate all-rounder. This person can take on key strategic challenges and navigate issues like diversity and inclusion, digital transformation, and strategy & leadership.

More efficient and faster

T-shaped HR professionals are more efficient at their jobs as they don’t have to spend time and effort transferring their ideas from person to person, or waiting on other specialists before being able to move forward on a project. Having a T-shaped competencies profile enables them to be much more efficient and effective at their job.

Communicating more effectively

As a bonus, T-shaped HR professionals tend to communicate more effectively than their peers. Having a broader competency profile helps them communicate more effectively as they have a better understanding of various perspectives within HR.

How can I become T-shaped?

Any HR Professional who is committed to their personal development and learning can expand their competency profile to become a T-shaped HR Professional. The Academy to innovate HR is the place to learn the skills to remain relevant and become a balanced combination between an HR generalist and a specialist.

  1. Complete the T-shaped HR assessment
    Find out to what extent you are proficient in the four core HR competencies that form the horizontal bar of your T-shaped profile by completing the free T-Shaped HR Assessment.
  2. Get full academy access
    Start working on developing your competencies by enrolling with AIHR and getting access to the largest curriculum of online HR training courses and HR certifications available online.
  3. Hone your specialization
    Enroll in a Certificate Program that matches your specialization to hone the depth of your functional competencies.

Digital Integration

Though technology is everywhere in business, digital initiatives often operate independently from each other in HR. In the future, digital tools will be seamlessly integrated with the way we work to the degree that it will be nearly impossible to remember how anyone got anything done “the old way”.

At the same time, digital solutions will be integrated horizontally, meaning that all HR data over the full employee journey is integrated with each other. This will lead to much better HR service delivery, high quality and actionable data, and tangible opportunities to better deliver the HR strategy.

Definition

Digital integration is the ability to leverage technology to increase efficiency and to drive HR and business value.

Example

Skilled digital integrators know the technology that is out there and embed relevant technology in the business to make existing processes more efficient and drive HR impact. They are also digital culture builders, both in HR and in the business. A digital culture emphasizes automation, smart working, and is more adaptable and able to integrate technology quicker.

Underlying dimensions & behaviors

To determine if someone is a digital integrator, the competency is split up into three dimensions, each of them consisting of several underlying behaviors and, in turn, measured across three different proficiency levels.

  • Technological awareness
    Informed of the of technology in the world of work and understanding of the digital landscape
  • Technology embedding
    Leveraging technology as an enabler of HR and business strategy
  • Digital culture building
    Building a technology-first culture to optimize the employee experience, add more value to the business, and build digital skills in the workforce.

Download the full HR Competency Framework for a detailed overview of the underlying behaviors of each dimension of digital integration and corresponding proficiency levels.

Related online HR training courses

Data Literacy

The work of HR is becoming more and more defined by data. Metrics, KPIs, scorecards, or dashboards are necessary to make informed and fair decisions. The HR professionals need to be able to understand the results gathered from these data and translate them into actions that create business value.

Not all HR professionals need to become data analysts, but they need to have data literacy – meaning that they need to be able to read data and understand how different data points contribute to strategic HR and business goals.

Definition

Data literacy is the ability to read, apply, create, and communicate data into valuable information to influence decision-making processes.

Example

If you think that an HR person should be a “people” person instead of a “numbers” person, think again. HR is the link between people and the business. The ability to analyze and understand data will allow the HR Professionals to provide data-driven advice which will provide the business with quantifiable and actionable insights.

An HR Business Partners who looks at both HR and business data prior to meeting with line managers is able to provide actionable recommendations and identify where HR can bring the most value. Looking at the data of the manager’s team and comparing it with other teams, will for instance help HRBPs identify potential turnover, absenteeism, engagement, or L&D issues and address those proactively.

Underlying dimensions & behaviors

To determine the extent to which an HR Professional can be considered fully data literate, the competency is split up into two dimensions, each of them having several related behaviors and in turn, measured on three different proficiency levels.

  • Data driven
    Reading and applying data, metrics, and KPIs
  • Analytics translation
    Translating people analytics insight into actions

Download the full HR Competency Framework for a detailed overview of the underlying behaviors of each dimension of data literacy and corresponding proficiency levels.

Related online HR training courses

Business Acumen

Business acumen is the HR competency that has received the most attention in the past three decades. To achieve this, HR professionals need to develop a solid understanding of the business, its customers, and its shareholders.

This will help them better understand the problems that line managers and executives are trying to solve, and it will help HR position the business to win in its marketplace. Only then will the HR professional be able to participate in strategic co-creation, practicing strategic human resource management, and co-creating business strategy.

Definition

Business acumen, also known as business savvy or business sense, is the ability to translate the organization’s purpose, mission, goals, and business context into strategy, positioning HR policies and activities to best serve the organization’s interests.

Example

HR professionals who have business acumen understand the global context of work and the internal organizational dynamics. We call this process context interpretation. They understand the end customer and align HR policies with them to optimize delivered value. They are also co-creators of HR and business strategy.

Underlying dimensions & behaviors

To determine the extent to which an HR Professional can be considered proficient in business acumen, the competency is split up into three dimensions, each consisting of several underlying behaviors and in turn, measured across three different proficiency levels.

  • Context interpretation
    Understanding the global context of work and the internal organizational dynamics
  • Customer orientation
    Understanding the end customer and aligning HR policies to optimize delivered value
  • Strategy co-creation
    Practicing strategic HRM and co-creating business strategy

Download the full HR Competency Framework for a detailed overview of the underlying behaviors of each dimension of business acumen and corresponding proficiency levels.

Related online HR training courses

People Advocacy

It is HR’s role to help get the best out of people and make the organization—a collection of different people with different interests and personalities—a place where everyone thrives and works towards a common goal. This is why a better name for Human Resources management is people management.

Traditionally, HR has been strong in people advocacy. HR professionals are often perceived as a trusted partner who is inclusive, promotes diversity, creates an inclusive work environment, and is excellent in connecting with different people inside the organization. At AIHR, however, the idea of an effective people advocate goes beyond this.

Definition

People advocacy is about creating a strong internal culture, getting the best out of people, and acting as a trusted champion and communications expert.

Example

A proficient professional is trusted by employees and managers, able to build a high-performance organizational culture, spots conflicts and is able to resolve them, champions diversity and inclusion, and is able to do all of this effectively by being a skilled communicator.

Underlying dimensions & behaviors

To determine the extent to which an HR Professional can be considered a people’s advocate, the competency is split up into four dimensions, each consisting of several underlying behaviors and in turn, measured across three different proficiency levels.

  • Culture building
    Safeguarding and shaping the desired organizational culture.
  • People practices
    Working efficiently and being an effective HR professional.
  • Workplace champion
    A credible, trusted, and ethical figurehead who advocates for the overlooked.
  • Communications expert
    A highly effective communicator who drives impact.

Download the full HR Competency Framework for a detailed overview of the underlying behaviors of each dimension of people advocacy and corresponding proficiency levels.

Related online HR training courses

Download the full HR competency framework (pdf)

Each competency is a cluster of skills, knowledge, and expertise needed to become efficient at performing a specific job.

The full (pdf) version of the framework provides a detailed overview of all the underlying constructs, sub-dimensions, and various proficiency levels for each of the four core HR competencies.

Download framework

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