T-Shaped HR Professionals

HR Competency Model

The HR Competency Model for T-Shaped HR Professionals helps HR professionals remain relevant by developing an all-round basis of HR competencies with a special focus on future-facing skills.
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Business Acumen
Data Literacy
Digital Agility
People Advocacy
Delivers Impact
Specialist Skills
Leadership Skills
T-Shaped HR Competency Model

A framework for the development of modern and relevant HR professionals who drive business value across the full HR spectrum.

Adopted globally to cater to the need for more strategic and impactful,
 T-Shaped, HR professionals.

It is no longer enough to specialize in one single functional HR competency. HR professionals need to become a generalist in five core HR competencies, and a specialist in at least one functional competency.

The model is in its 3rd iteration and has been updated to reflect the insights from our global HR Community across 140+ countries.

And that’s what International HR Day is about at AIHR! Providing you with the resources to advance while letting the world know about HR’s great work.

Download the full HR Competency Model and Skills Glossary

What is a competency framework?

A competency is a cluster of skills, knowledge, abilities, and expertise needed to become proficient at performing a specific task, activity or job.

The aggregate of competencies that are important to a particular role or (HR) function is what we call a competency model.

A competency model provides a tangible framework for performance management, skill gap analysis, development, and provides a template for what the ideal (HR)
organization and professional will look like.


How are competencies structured?

In this framework, a competency is split up into multiple dimensions. Each construct consists of different behaviors that are described in terms of levels of proficiency.


The Data Literacy competency is divided into two dimensions; “Data-Driven” and “Analytics Translation”. Each of these dimensions has behaviors related to them. For “Data-Driven,” these include the ability to “Read Data, Apply Data, Create Data and Leverage Data.”

Each behavior is described and scored on three proficiency levels, elementary, intermediate and expert.

5 Core HR Competencies

Example of the T-shaped model in practice

Bheki – HR Generalist working in a medium sized manufacturing company.

They lead a team of six: two recruiters, one HR administrator, two HR Business Partners and a Learning Facilitator.

How does Bheki do their job?

They need business acumen to align the HR priorities to the business need. They use context interpretation (part of business acumen) to understand the market and what it means for their company. On its own, this is not enough, and their ability to think analytically about the business challenge (part of problem-solving) allows them to bring these insights home and incorporate specific HR interventions into their plan. They are achievement-focused (part of delivering results) and immediately translate these interventions into tangible KPIs and success measures, and uses their data-driven skills to make it real and tangible.
Bheki is also responsible for Compensation and Benefits and as
such they use this competency when discussing how their approach towards Total Rewards will be determined to help drive employee retention. To do this effectively, they influence their stakeholders (part of Engaging People) to get buy-in for their new idea for a sales incentive.
Bheki also sets direction for their HR team (management competencies) and drives the development of their reports by acting as a coach to them.

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Explore the full HR Competency Model and Skills Glossary in pdf.


Business Acumen


Interprets Context

Identifies, interprets, and applies insight into external business trends and organizational factors.

Commercial Fluency

Holds a clear understanding of organizational financial requirements and performance

Understands Customers

Understands customer needs & applies user-centric principles

Co-creates Strategy

Co-creates business strategy and aligns HR priorities
Market Awareness

Consults various sources to stay Up to date with developments in the macro-environment and industry

“I am informed of changing
market trends and conditions
and can relate it to how it will impact our organization.”

Business Application

Comprehends industry context, business and commercial realities, and the organization’s unique selling proposition (USP)

“I understand the industry
within which our organization operates, the current economic realities and how we are positioned in the market.”

Business and Value Chain Understanding

Uses knowledge of business strategy to interpret business models, value chains and align
HR for impact

“I understand our business
value chain and how HR
contributes value.”

Interprets Financial Data

Uses appropriate knowledge of financials, commercials and accounting to interpret financial information

“I can accurately interpret financial reports and

Manages Budgets and Costs

Effectively apply knowledge and skills to compile, balance, monitor and report on HR budgets

“I can create and manage an HR budget.”

Empathizes with Customers

Empathizes with the customer to understand their experience and diagnose their needs

“I pursue input from customers to uncover their wants, needs and desires.”

Designs Customer-Focused Solutions

Creates value for customers through customer-focused solutions

“I design and implement solutions that meet the needs of the customer.”

Iterates Solutions Based on Feedback

Collects, interprets and acts upon feedback received from customers

“I listen to customer feedback and take corrective actions.”

Understands and Influences Strategy

Uses insight into business strategy to set goals, priorities and future strategies for the business and HR

“I think strategically about
the goals and objectives of the business.”

Aligns HR Value with Business Priorities

Aligns HR with business strategy in an effective way

“I use my knowledge of the business to identify and align HR priorities.”

Demonstrates Strategic HR Impact

Utilizes KPIs, metrics and feedback to demonstrates the strategic impact of HR

“I show how HR is delivering value at a strategic level.”


Data Literacy


Data Driven

Grasps & uses data to make decisions and inform practice.

Analytics Translation

Translates people data into actionable insights.
Reads Data

Analyze and understand data from a variety of sources

“I use various techniques to read data from multiple sources.”

Creates Data

Identifies opportunities to set KPIs and create value-adding data

“I create data that helps the organization answer questions, evaluate outcomes, and forecast trends and probabilities.”

Applies Data (Evidence-Based Practice)

Aggregates and applies data from multiple sources to inform decision-making

“I use data to drive evidence based decision making.”

Ethical Data Application

Works with data in an ethical manner that protects the
confidentiality and rights of all stakeholders

“I use data ethically and responsibly to protect privacy and promote trust in people analytics initiatives.”

Develops Relevant hypotheses

Identifies and defines business problems that can be solved with (people) data analytics

“I identify knowledge gaps and answer specific questions with data analysis.”

Communicates Data Stories

Packages, visualizes and relays key data outcomes in a way that resonates with the target audience

“I consciously package and impart data insights in a way that promotes understanding, decision-making, and actionable outcomes.”

Champions Analytics Adoption

Creates an environment that supports and fosters critical use of data for decision making

“I build a data-driven culture that transcends different technical skill levels and empowers others to utilize data better.”


Digital Agility


Delivers Through Technology

Integrates tech to build efficient, scalable, & impactful HR solutions

Develops Digital Attitude

Motivated to learn and experiment with digital ways of work

Drives Digital Adoption

Creates an environment ready for digital adoption
Follows HR Technology Trends

Informed about the latest digital technology developments and advances

“I actively expand my knowledge of new digital technology through research.”

Applies HR Technology

Uses technology to enhance efficacy and performance

“I deliberately utilize digital technologies in the execution of my job responsibilities.”

Executes Through Technology

Integrates technology in the delivery of HR services

“I successfully implement various technologies to enhance HR service delivery.”

Drives Continuous Improvement

Improves HR practices through the application of digital technologies

“I continuously update and improve processes with the use of digital technology.”

Believes in Value of Digital

Believes that digital applications adds value to personal work-related activities

“I see the benefit of adopting digital as part of my work.”

Openness to Learning digital

Pursues opportunities to acquire new digital skills, knowledge, or experiences

“I pro-actively search for opportunities to learn more about digital tools and applications.”

Confidence in Digital Application

Confidently applies digital tools, skills and technologies

“I trust my knowledge and skills of digital to confidently apply those in practice.”

Creates Digital Readiness

Prepare the organization for digital transformation

“I put structures in place to enable successful digital adoption.”

Creates Digital Capability

Promotes digital upskilling for all stakeholders in the organization

“I actively contribute to building digital capability across the organization.”

Integrates Digital

Uses digital to create seamless and integrated end-user experiences

“I integrate digital touchpoints into practices and processes to optimize user-experience.”

Champions Digital Adoption

Actively promotes and the adoption of digital practices in the organization

“I actively encourage digital adoption in the organization.”


People Advocacy


Drives Culture and Wellbeing

Shapes inclusive performance culture prioritizing well-being

Navigates Change

Builds the change structures and capacity to promote change and resilience

Champions Ethics and Mitigates Risks

Ensures ethical conduct, compliance and mitigates people risks

Drives Sustainability

Leverages HR to identify opportunities to add value to community and society
Inspires Commitment to Vision

Drives commitment to the vision and goals of the organization in a visible manner

“I align leaders and employees to the organizational vision and translate goals into tangible actions.”

Shapes a Performance-Based Culture

Defines, communicates and facilitates behavior changes that contributes to business success

“I apply various culture models and frameworks to drive a culture of high performance.”

Champions Organizational Values

Fosters accountability to act in accordance with organizational values

“I promote our organizational values and have the courage to act when they are disregarded.”

Creates an Inclusive Workplace

Cultivates inclusivity by applying knowledge of DEIB

“I advocate for inclusivity and diversity to create an environment where employees can belong as equals.”

Creates an Environment of Wellbeing

Balances employee well-being needs with organizational demands and productivity.

“I create an environment where employees have the resources and tools to manage their wellbeing.”

Inspires Commitment to Vision

Creates plans, structures and processes to drive and respond to change

“I drive organizational change in a way that is sustainable and creates lasting value.”

Manages Stakeholders

Identifies and manages potential barriers and concerns & creates alignment around a common purpose

“I effectively manage stakeholder resistance and promote adaptability.”

Champions Organizational Values

Uses knowledge of human behavior to foster the capacity to adapt and respond to changes

“I help leaders and employees adopt habits that lead to higher levels of resilience.”

Mitigates Risk

Helps the organization effectively mitigate possible risks

“I proactively identify and enable the organization to manage possible people risks.”

Champions Ethics

Embeds ethical practices and conduct into organizational culture

“I operate transparently and uphold ethical practices.”

Drives Compliance

Applies knowledge of the regulatory environment to ensure compliance

“I ensure that the organization acts in accordance with regulatory requirements.”

Builds Community

Creates opportunities to form relationships and contribute towards shared value with communities

“I create meaningful relationships with partners within the community where our organization operates.”

Champions Sustainability

Applies knowledge of environmental, social and governance to deliver sustainable value

“I champion environmental, social and corporate governance.”

Leverages HR for Good

Creates opportunities for HR to contribute towards human and societal wellbeing

“I apply my knowledge and experience in HR to create a better world for future generations.”


Delivers Impact


Drives Results

Implements actionable and adaptive plans to achieve results

Solves Problems

Finds practical solutions to navigate and overcome obstacles

Engages People

Achieves shared goals using effective interpersonal skills
Planning and Organization

Sets clear objectives, plan tasks, and manage time effectively

“I set realistic and measurable goals that delivers impact.”

Ability to Execute

Takes ownership to achieve objectives and goals within agreed timelines

“I take initiative and responsibility to delivery high quality outputs.”

Adapting and Responding to Change

Adapts and embraces change and deals effectively with ambiguity

“I accept and welcome change and see it as an opportunity for growth.”

Managing Resources

Plans, schedules, and allocates resources to successfully deliver results.

“I plan, schedule, and allocate resources effectively.”

Analytical Thinking

Integrates and assimilates complex information to articulate the core idea

“I set realistic and measurable goals that delivers impact.”

Navigating Paradox

Aligns stakeholders with conflicting views or priorities to agree on a course of action

“I manage differing ideas and priorities among stakeholders and find a tangible way forward.”

Decision-making and Judgement

Makes timely and well-informed decisions based on evidence and context.

“I make timely evidence-based decisions.”

Building Relationships

Forms and maintains productive relationships with others“

“I establish and maintain positive relationships with others to achieve work-related goals.”


Clearly & effectively exchanges information to build shared understanding

“I convey information clearly and effectively to build shared understanding.”


Co-operate and work with others to improve ideas, find solutions and deliver impact

“I work with others and contribute my expertise for the benefit of a shared objective, project, or mission.”

Influencing Others

Builds consensus and alignment to gain support for an idea, agenda, or direction

“I gain agreement and commitment from others utilizing persuasion, negotiation, and conflict management skills”

Acting with Empathy

Acts with empathy, sensitivity and compassion for others

“I have compassion and respect for the feelings and perspectives of others.”

Intercultural Sensitivity

Demonstrates a deep understanding and appreciation of cross-cultural differences

“I create an inclusive environment where others feel appreciated and engaged.”

Specialist Skills

Awareness and Attraction
People Experience and Culture
Business Transformation
Talent Growth
Digital HR
People Operations
Example activities
Employer Branding

Development of an attractive and competitive employer brand that attracts, engages and retain employees and inspires commitment to organizational goals

  • Design employer brand
  • Create employee personas
  • Communicate employer brand
Talent Acquisition

The process of identifying, sourcing, screening, shortlisting, interviewing and selecting candidates in alignment with the needs of the organization

  • Segment talent pools
  • Manage vacancies
  • Source talent
  • Interview

Design and implementation of onboarding activities that enable the integration and engagement of new hires

  • Identify onboarding needs and requirements
  • Design onboarding program
  • Implement onboarding program

Establishment of the practice to set goals, measure progress,provide feedback and calibrate individual performance with overall organizational performance

  • Set and cascade goals
  • Implement contracting
  • Provide feedback on non-performance
  • Run calibration processes
Total Rewards

Establish organisation-wide total rewards philosophy, strategies and mechanisms for various employee groups to incentivise the desired behaviours

  • Design a Total Rewards philosophy
  • Design Reward, Incentivization and Recognition programs
  • Design reward governance and controls
Wellbeing and Health

Develop and implement employee health and wellness programmes to promote a healthy and productive workforce

  • Design organizational wellbeing programs and interventions
  • Implement interventions to improve the wellbeing of employees within the organization
Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging

Develop strategies and programmes to create a diverse and inclusive workplace where individual differences are accepted and respected

  • Design DEIB programs
  • Coach leaders on creating a culture of inclusivity
  • Deal with conflict and bias in the organization
Employee Experience

Design and conceptualization of employee experience practices aligned to the HR value chain and employee lifecycle

  • Design employee personas
  • Apply design thinking to empathize with employee needs
  • Design desired employee experiences
  • Implement employee experiences through processes, systems and human touch points
  • Listen and incorporate feedback
Organizational Development

The design, delivery and optimization of organizational practice that leads to organizational effectiveness and performance

  • Design OD interventions
  • Coach leaders
  • Optimize team effectiveness
  • Drive employee development
  • Diagnose organizational inefficiencies
Change Management

The practice to prepare, support, guide and manage change within the organization from a people, process and technology perspective.

  • Conduct change impact assessment
  • Manage stakeholders
  • Drive change communication
  • Design change interventions
  • Measure change benefits and return on investment


Organizational Design

Develop and facilitate the implementation of organisational design to ensure its effectiveness and alignment with stakeholders’ priorities

  • Design organizational capabilities
  • Design business operating models
  • Design work, roles and skills requirements
  • Guide the business on structuring work, teams and functions
  • Design organizational competencies
Workforce Planning

Develop workforce strategies and plans to determine the manpower and capabilities needed for the future

  • Determine the future workforce demands
  • Determine the current workforce
    skills and competency
  • Design a workforce plan for the future
Talent Management

Design and development of strategies to manage the talent demand and supply of the organization through programs to identify, develop, review and retain employees

  • Segment talent pools according to scarcity and criticality
  • Determine talent demands and supply
  • Design succession programs
  • Identify internal mobility requirements
  • Determine bench strength
  • Design career frameworks and practices
Leadership Development

Build a culture of strong leadership and drive initiatives
to facilitate the development of leadership capabilities in the organisation

  • Identify required leadership competencies for success
  • Design and develop leadership development programs and experiences to build leadership skills and capacity
  • Coach and guide leaders
Learning and Development

Establish and implement learning and development programmes and channels to facilitate employees’ growth and capability building

  • Conduct skills gap analysis to identify organizational learning needs
  • Design learning journeys and curricula to develop employees in line with organizational goals
  • Identify, design and implement learning channels and methodologies
People Analytics

The practice of collecting and applying organizational, people, and talent data to improve critical business outcomes.

  • Read, collect, and interpret data
  • Build data models
  • Interpret data in line with business requirements
  • Utilize dashboards and data visualization tools
  • Communicate data insights to
    drive business decision-making
HR Technology

Design, implements and maintains HR hardware and software aligned to IT governance.

  • Design HR technology architecture
  • Design HR software
  • Maintain HR technologies
  • Ensure uptime of HR technology services
  • Digitization of HR
Compensation and Benefits

Management of the design, implementation and administration of compensation and benefits to all employees.

  • Design compensation packages
  • Conduct salary surveys
  • Design incentive and benefit programs
  • Administer reward reviews and audits
Employee Relations

Management of labour relations to support, enhance and strengthen the relationship between employees, their representatives and employers.

  • Understand labour legislation
  • Grievance procedures
  • Disciplinary procedures
  • Legal representation

Design and implementation of formal processes to manage voluntary and involuntary exit from the organization.

  • Design off-boarding process
  • Report on off-boarding processes
HR Policies and Procedures

Develop and review HR policies and procedures against organisational needs, and in compliance to legislative, ethical and regulatory standards.

  • Design HR policies and procedures
  • Implement HR Policies and Procedures
  • Manage HR Policies and Procedures

Collect, process and manage
end to end payroll policy, process and systems.

  • Determine the future workforce demands
  • Determine the current workforce skills and competency
  • Design a workforce plan for the future

Leadership Skills

The ability to build, manage and lead teams, inspire and motivate others and deal with conflict.
Sets Direction

Provides clear direction and guides behavior to realize organizational goals.

Example activities:
  • Provides guidance
  • Communicates strategy
  • Clearly articulates success
Develops and Coaches

Provides feedback and facilitates skills development and knowledge transfer

Example activities:
  • Provides Feedback
  • Listens without judgement
  • Facilitates and Guides action
Builds Trust

Consistently acts in a way that builds trust with team members.

Example activities:
  • Consistently acts in a way that builds
    trust with team members
  • Builds trusting relationships
  • Creates an environment of safety
  • Acts in a consistent and fair manner
Leads with Empathy

Shows empathy and demonstrates care towards others

Example activities:
  • Understands others emotions
  • Listens without judgement
  • Acts with compassion
Manages Conflict

Manages conflict and resolves issues in a fair and transparent manner

Example activities:
  • Knows when to compromise
  • Acts in a consistent and fair manner
  • Acts diplomatically
Inspires and Motivates

Reflects on how actions are perceived and words and implements feedback

Example activities:
  • Seeks feedback
  • Admits mistakes
  • Reflects on own behavior
  • Applies insight to future action

Reflects on how actions are perceived and words and implements feedback

Example activities:
  • Seeks feedback
  • Admits mistakes
  • Reflects on own behavior
  • Applies insight to future action


Have more questions? Get in touch with one of our sales consultants.

What is an HR competency framework?

An HR competency framework describes the skills, knowledge, and attributes required by an HR team to deliver specific tasks, behaviors, or functions.

How does a competency framework help my team perform?

The AIHR competency framework clearly describes what is expected from HR professionals at different proficiency levels. A competency framework is a valuable method to clarify expectations and guide individuals in developing their skills to progress over time.

If implemented well, the competency framework can be the blueprint against which the development and performance of the HR Team are measured.

What is the T-shaped competency framework?

The T-shaped competency model provides HR teams with an overview of the skills, behaviors, and knowledge required to deliver on business objectives successfully. The model is shaped as a T, which differentiates between core competencies in the bar and functional and leadership competencies in the stem of the T.

The bar of the T-shape refers to the five core competencies of Business Acumen, Data Literacy, Digital Agility, People Advocacy, and Delivering Results. These are the core competencies that all HR professionals need regardless of level, role, or organizational size.

The stem of the T compliments these core skills by defining several functional competencies that guide specialist HR expertise, such as Talent, EVP, or DEIB. We believe all HR professionals need to be proficient in at least two of these areas.

Last, many HR professionals also manage teams, and as such, the T-shaped model identifies people management behaviors that are crucial for the HR leader to be successful at the bottom of the T-shape.

Each competency in the AHIR Competency Framework consists of several dimensions. These dimensions represent interdependent elements that make up each competency and must be used together to enable proficient performance. This means proficiency levels for the different competencies are not based on specific tasks or behaviors but rather on an integrated and holistic approach to performance. In turn, each dimension comprises several measurable and observable behaviors that exemplify what the skill, knowledge, or attribute looks like at various proficiency levels.

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 many proficiency levels does the T-shaped model have?

The T-shape competencies are measured on three proficiency levels: elementary, intermediate, and expert. Each level has its own defined behaviors and builds on each other, assuming that you have mastered a specific level of proficiency before moving on to the next.

Does my team need to perform at an expert level on all the competencies?

No. The idea is that the team will have some level of proficiency within the five core competencies of Business Acumen, Data Literacy, Digital Agility, People Advocacy, and Delivering Results. Depending on their respective roles and responsibilities, they will require additional proficiency in the functional areas applicable to their role.

For example, a Talent Acquisition Specialist will require proficiency in all five core competencies and in-depth proficiency in Recruitment, On-Boarding, and Employment Brand.

Similarly, an HRIS Analyst will require some proficiency in the five core competencies while having more in-depth proficiency in HR Technology.

How can we incorporate the competencies into our work?

The T-shaped competencies can be incorporated in various ways. Some of the most beneficial ways include:

  • HR Role Descriptions
  • Performance Contracts
  • Performance Feedback and Evaluations
  • Stakeholder Feedback
  • Career Pathing

How can my team develop these competencies?

There are various ways to develop competencies which include formal and informal development. A blend of formal development such as online courses, articles, and training combined with on-the-job exposure and application is the best way to develop and enhance proficiency.

How can we adopt the T-shaped competency model?

After deciding to adopt the competency model, it is crucial to focus on upskilling your team. This involves providing them with the necessary training and resources to develop the required competencies. By investing in their development, you can expect to see lasting behavior change and significant business impact.

Looking for support in your upskilling journey? Schedule a call with one of our HR Learning Specialists to find out how we can help.

Where do we get started as a team?

Deciding to adopt a new competency model is just the start.

True business impact only happens once you start upskilling your team with the relevant competencies and start to see lasting behavior change.

Schedule a call with one of our HR Learning Specialists to find out how we can support you on this journey.

Download the Full HR Competency Model & Skill Glossary (pdf)

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Do you see the need to upskill your team and are interested in finding out how AIHR’s solutions can help? Or do you have specific questions? Let’s have a chat.

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Ramina Nabieva – HR Learning Consultant (contact me at [email protected])

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