Competencies and Educational Objectives in HR Management Education: the Ukrainian case study
In order to analyze training needs and educational objectives for HR managers this paper examines current expectations concerning the HR effectiveness: which notions about the HR effectiveness are common among the experts. The result of the group discussion indicates the most expected areas of HR competencies perceived by HR professionals in Ukraine: personal competencies dealing with the self and social competencies dealing with others. Also important feature is the transformation of HR manager into the strategic partner. However, there are very few expectations about cognitive competencies, as workforce planning and analytics, business knowledge, mastering HR processes and talent management. In other words effectiveness of HR manager depends mostly on relationships with colleagues and management, on social approval of his/her works by the chief rather than on indicators of the company success in the market. That indicates an insufficiency of systematic development of the HR profession in Ukraine and the lack of clear vocational standards of work performance and a nation-wide unified system of work-based qualifications.
Keywords: HR competenciestraining needseducational objectives in HR management educationHR knowledgeskills and abilities (KSAs)expectations of HR manager’s effectiveness
The main problem in the modern management education is how to find a way of developing
‘competent people’ who would be able to function well in a global business environment and at the same
time, in local business environment. In order to be effective, an educational program for HR managers has to develop a set of competencies that enable them to improve their working performance. According
to Boyatzis, Lingham and Passarelli (2010) there are two fundamental questions in management
education. First, what competencies make managers effective? Second, how can we inspire managers to
develop them? Management education can be divided into three categories: acquiring knowledge,
learning to use that knowledge effectively, and discovering why one is driven to use one’s knowledge and
competencies. The aim of the study is to define expected educational objectives, training needs and core
HR competencies by HR professionals which affect the perceived effectiveness of HR professionals.
Nowadays, global HR competencies depend on the development of HR profession. According to
Ulrich, Younger, Brockbank, & Ulrich, over the last 25 years the global development of HR profession
has been going through several general stages (Ulrich, Younger, Brockbank, & Ulrich, 2013). At the first
stage, the central tendency for HR departments was administrative and transactional. The second stage
emphasized the design of innovative HR practices in sourcing, compensation or rewards, learning,
communication, and so forth. The third one was focused on the connection of individual and integrated
HR practices with business success through strategic HR. And now there is the fourth stage, which uses
HR practices to derive and respond to external business conditions. HR practices must be innovative and
integrated; and HR must turn strategic aspirations into HR actions (Ulrich, Younger, Brockbank, &
Special HR competencies and educational needs depend on the development of HR profession in
local business environment which include national culture value orientations, general economic
conditions, investment climate etc. Over the last 15 years, the HR profession in Ukraine has experienced
the transformation from curiosity to a complete neglect in the business environment. It has begun as an
administrative function with the focus on terms and conditions of work, and delivery of HR services. The
transition to the second wave of the evolution of HR profession was very painful and difficult in
Ukrainian reality. Wave 2 (by Ulrich, et al., 2012) emphasized the design of innovative HR practices in
sourcing, compensation or rewards, learning, communication, and so forth. But unstable economic and
political conditions, general social trends have not contributed to the development of the HR work in the
company. The HR profession in Ukraine became to be perceived as useless function, which spends
money and does not lead to the profit of the company. This caused a big gap between the international
standards of the HR profession and the peculiarities of its development in Ukraine. The recent politic and
economic situation in Ukraine has changed the perception of HR profession. Therefore it is very
important to analyze the current expectations about the HR effectiveness in Ukraine among experts and to
identify the difference between global and local trends in HR profession.
In the end of the 20th century the trend to use competency-based approaches has been utilized by
business and industry in education and training, assessment, and development of workers. The
competence approach starts from observing successful and effective job performers to determine how they differ from less successful performers. This is the tradition followed by McClelland, Boyatzis,
Spencer and Spencer who defined competency in terms of characteristics of people that are causally
related to effective or superior performance in a job, generalizing across situations, and enduring for a
reasonably long period of time (McClelland, & Boyatzis, 1980; Spencer and Spencer, 2008).
In the UK during the 1980s a competence-based approach was introduced in order to establish a
nation-wide unified system of work-based qualifications. Vocational qualifications (VQs) were based on
occupational standards of competence, grounded in functional analysis of occupations in a variety of
contexts (Le Deist, & Winterton, 2005). The definition of competence includes a mix of models: work
expectations, input measures (knowledge and skills) and psychological attributes (Mansfield and
Mitchell, 1996). With a functional competence-based approach, the emphasis is on functional competence
as the ability to demonstrate performance to the standards required of employment in a work context; the
ability to apply knowledge, understanding and skills in performing to the standards required in
employment. This includes solving problems and meeting changing demand (Le Deist, & Winterton,
Within German and Austrian scientific tradition the main emphasis is on specifying the necessary
learning inputs, rather than outcomes, to master a trade. Occupational competence is related with
vocational training theory and associated pedagogy. A standard typology of competences appears in terms
of domain or cognitive competence, personal competence and social competence. Domain or cognitive
competence is defined as skills and abilities for mastering tasks and developing appropriate problem-
solving strategies. Personal competence comprises key qualifications for dealing with oneself and is
defined in terms of ability and willingness to develop personally. Social competence is largely concerned
with dealing with others and is defined as the ability and willingness to cooperate, to interact with others
responsibly and to behave in a group and relationally oriented way (Archan and Tutschek, 2002). A
balance of domain (cognitive), personal and social competence is the prerequisite for ‘method and
learning competence’ which arises from the implementation of transversal strategies and processes of
invention and problem-solving, while learning competence equates to the meta-competence ‘learning how
to learn’ (Le Deist, & Winterton, 2005).
A review of theory-grounded approaches to competence reveals that there is no single use of the
concept of competence and no broadly accepted definition or unifying theory (Rychen, & Salganik,
Educational needs and objectives for HR professionals
According to recent researches about the greatest challenges to HR over the next 10 years, more
than one-half of surveyed HR professionals chose ‘retaining and rewarding the best employees’ and
‘developing the next generation of corporate leaders’. About one-third chose ‘creating a corporate culture
that attracts the best employees, ‘remaining competitive in the talent marketplace’, and ‘finding
employees with the increasingly specialized skills the organization needs.’ Nowadays HR professionals
are more concerned with ‘remaining competitive in the talent marketplace’, and ‘developing future
leaders’ (Lee & Yu, 2013). Therefore it is extremely important to analyse the current notions about the HR effectiveness in the local regions: which notions about the HR effectiveness are there among the HR
experts and how they determine the local business environment.
The study is based on three focus groups of HR professionals from different companies in Ukraine
which represent a diversified sample that covers organizations of various sizes and industries. Participants
were 30 HR managers, involved in educational MA program in Human Resources and Organizational
Development, Lviv Business School of UCU (LvBS). The sample consisted of 30 employees, 3 males
and 27 females. Their ages ranged from 23 to 42 years, and the average age was 32 years (SD = 7.11).
The study is developed within a qualitative research framework. Methods of data collecting
include the focus group discussions (FGDs). A focus group research is “a way of collecting qualitative
data, which involves engaging a small number of people in an informal group discussion (or discussions),
"focused" around a particular topic or set of issues” (Wilkinson, 2004, p. 177). Participants are selected
on the criteria that they would have something to say on the topic, have similar socio-characteristics and
would be comfortable talking to the interviewer and each other (Rabiee, 2004). Interview standardization
refers to whether the same questions are asked of every group. Moderator involvement refers to the
management of the group dynamics—that is, the extent to which the moderator either controls the
discussion or allows relatively free participation (Morgan, 1997). Structured group discussion and a high
level of moderator involvement keep the discussion concentrated on the topics that interest the researcher
rather than extraneous issues.
In order to identify expected HR competencies the participants of the focus group discussions
(FGDs) were discussing the question: what competencies HR managers need to be effective? The
procedure of the focus group discussions (FGDs) includes an individual and a small group work. The
method of qualitative data analyzing is the content analysis. The tool for analysing data is the thematic
manual analysis which consists of four stages: (1) coding; (2) categorization of the data, (3) integration of
data and finding themes, and (4) integrating all of the data. According to Krueger (2000) and Rabiee
(2004) there are several criteria, which suggest the following headings as a framework for interpreting
coded data: words; context; internal consistency; frequency and extensiveness of comments; specificity of
comments; intensity of comments; extensiveness; big ideas.
We analyzed sets of needs and expectation among HR managers about the effectiveness of their
professional work and identified several clusters of skills, which nowadays are very important for the
effectiveness of HR managers in Ukrainian business environment (see Table 1). As we see from the Table
1, there are 9 clusters of expected HR needs and competencies. The most important cluster of an effectiveness of HR manager is the “Personal efficacy”. The term "Personal efficacy" is related to the
psychological term self-efficacy. In this study the cluster “Personal efficacy” is slightly similar to the
Emotional Intelligence competencies proposed by Boyatzis (2011) and refers to HR managers’ beliefs
about their capability to accomplish challenging goals, and includes the ability to prioritize, to be flexible,
to resist stress and to behave consistently in achieving goals.
The next three clusters of our study: “Effective communication”, “Relationship management” and
“Organizational culture” correspond to the concept of Social competencies (Boyatzis, 2011; Archan and
Tutschek, 2002). The “Relationship management” cluster is about building effective relationships;
understanding others and establishing credibility and the "Effective communication" cluster refers to an
effective communication between HR manager and owner and with people at all levels. The cluster
“Organizational Culture” indicates on the importance of creating and maintaining organizational culture,
creating a positive image through social media, enhancing employees’ participation and commitment.
The rest of the clusters can be roughly marked as cognitive competency which include systems
thinking and problem solving (Boyazis, 2011; Archan and Tutschek, 2002). The first cluster within the
frame of cognitive competencies is the “Strategic contribution” which deals with such ideas as making
strategic choices, having a strategic vision, creating a strategic agenda. These statements suggest that the
important field in the HR work is building of strategic HR management and developing of relevant skills
of HR managers. The next cluster “Business Knowledge” indicates the ability to understand the general
business conditions (social, technological, economic, political, environmental, and demographic trends)
that affect their industry. The cluster “Workforce planning and analytics” underlines analytical and
system thinking of HR manager, in particular, the ability to perform organizational diagnoses and audits;
analyze the career path of individual employees and predict future outcomes. The administrative work also is important for HR professionals. The “Mastering HR processes” cluster means that HR managers
resolve business problems through integrating innovative HR practices, facilitating establishment of clear
performance standards, updating rewards system in an organization and managing employees’ relations.
The latest cluster of HR competency expectation within the frame of cognitive competencies is the
“Learning and personnel development” which focuses on designing and delivering training programs;
developing innovative, thought-leading learning and talent development approaches.
By applying some basic tenets of the behavioral approach to emotional, social and cognitive
intelligence (Boyatzis, 2011) and a holistic competence framework (Archan and Tutschek, 2002; Le
Deist, & Winterton, 2005), the present study defined the typology of expected educational needs and HR
competencies in the Ukrainian business environment which includes three dimensions: personal, social
and cognitive (Table 2). Personal competence comprises key qualifications for dealing with oneself and is
defined in terms of ability and willingness to develop personally. Social competence is concerned with
dealing with others and is defined as the ability and willingness to cooperate, to interact with others
responsibly. Cognitive competency is an ability to think or analyze information and situations that leads
to or causes effective or superior performance (Boyatzis, 2011; Archan and Tutschek, 2002).
As a result of the study the most expected areas of HR competencies perceived by HR
professionals in Ukraine's business environment are personal competencies dealing with the self and
social competencies dealing with others. Therefore the personal efficacy of HR manager and his/her communication skills directly affect the effectiveness of the HR professional work. This idea is also
related to results of the empirical study conducted by Luthans and Peterson, which indicate that the
manager’s self-efficacy is a partial mediator in the relationship between employees’ engagement and the
manager’s rated effectiveness (Luthans, & Peterson, 2002). Other research has found that self-efficacy
predicts several important work-related outcomes, including job attitudes, training proficiency and job
performance (Chen, Gully, & Eden, 2001).
We also have found the support the idea that HR managers in Ukraine are focused on the
connection of individual and integrated HR practices with business success through strategic HR. That
result can indicate the third stage of the development of HR profession according to the Ulrich model
(Ulrich, et al., 2012). Managers need to concentrate on how to align the HR systems and workforce
investments at the level of the strategic business process (Becker, & Huselid, 2006).
However, very little attention was paid on the expectations of HR managers on such topics as
workforce planning and analytics, business knowledge, and mastering HR processes which indicate the
ability to understand general business conditions, the ability to analytical and system thinking, the ability
to apply the principles and practices of HRM to contribute to the organization’s success. Of particular
note is the fact, that "Learning and personnel development" cluster scored lowest rate expectations about
HR manager's effectiveness. The result runs counter to recent trends in HR management which emphasize
the importance of talent development and innovation. We obtained very few expectations with regard to
the innovative, thought-leading learning and talent development approaches. This may mean that HR
management in Ukraine does not develop systematically and is based only on the personality of the HR
manager and his/her ability to build personal relationships with people at all levels and to influence others
in a positive way. The next question that arises in the course of our research: what does it mean the
subjective success for HR manager? And our assumption is that subjective success for HR manager
depends mostly on relationships with colleagues and management, on social approval of his/her works by
the chief rather than on indicators of the company success in the market. These results point out
limitations of the study and outline future directions of analysis.
Summing up, the results of this study help to broaden our understanding about HR manager’s
effectiveness in Ukraine. The most expected areas of HR competencies perceived by HR professionals
are personal competencies dealing with the self and social competencies dealing with others. Therefore
the personal efficacy of HR manager and his/her ability to build constructive relationships directly affect
the effectiveness of the HR professional work. Also important is the transformation of HR manager into
the strategic partner which indicates the ability to create organization’s strategic response to business
conditions and requires new knowledge and skills, based on new style of thinking.
However, there are very few expectations about workforce planning and analytics, business
knowledge, mastering HR processes which indicate the ability to analytical and system thinking to
contribute to the organization’s success. Moreover there are extremely few expectations about HR
effectiveness with regard to the innovative, thought-leading learning and talent development approaches.
This may mean that HR management in Ukraine does not develop systematically and is based mostly on the personality of the HR manager and his/her ability to build personal relationships with people at all
levels and to influence others in a positive way. This fact indicates the need to pay attention to the
development of the HR profession in Ukraine, to analyze vocational standards of work performance and
to establish a nation-wide unified system of work-based qualifications.
We thank our colleagues from Lviv Business School of UCU (LvBS) who provided the great assistance in conducting our research.
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