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Human Resources Specialist (Employee Relations) — Expert / Managerial, GS-13/14/15

Career Stage
Career Stage Flowchart
Flowchart Description: Employees advance to GS 13 Expert or Supervisory Level, then to GS 14 Expert or Supervisory Level, then GS 15 Expert or Supervisory Level and then finally to SES. Employees may be hired from outside the government to GS 13, GS 14, or GS 15 Supervisory Level, but this is a less common career advancement. Current Federal employees also may change to a different technical area after GS 13 expert and Supervisory Level, and also after GS 14 Expert and Supervisory Level.
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General Competencies
General Competencies
Understanding the Competency Information

General Competencies Proficiency Level
GS-13 GS-14 GS-15
Attention to Detail: Is thorough when performing work and conscientious about attending to detail. 4 4 4
Client Engagement/Change Management: Knowledge of the impact of change on people, processes, procedures, leadership, and organizational culture; knowledge of change management principles, strategies, and techniques required for effectively planning, implementing, and evaluating change in the organization. 3 4 4
Creative Thinking: Uses imagination to develop new insights into situations and applies innovative solutions to problems; designs new methods where established methods and procedures are inapplicable or are unavailable. 4 4 5
Customer Service: Works with clients and customers (that is, any individuals who use or receive the services or products that your work unit produces, including the general public, individuals who work in the agency, other agencies, or organizations outside the Government) to assess their needs, provide information or assistance, resolve their problems, or satisfy their expectations; knows about available products and services; is committed to providing quality products and services. 4 4 5
Decision Making: Makes sound, well-informed, and objective decisions; perceives the impact and implications of decisions; commits to action, even in uncertain situations, to accomplish organizational goals; causes change. 4 4 5
Flexibility: Is open to change and new information; adapts behavior or work methods in response to new information, changing conditions, or unexpected obstacles; effectively deals with ambiguity. 4 4 4
Influencing/Negotiating: Persuades others to accept recommendations, cooperate, or change their behavior; works with others towards an agreement; negotiates to find mutually acceptable solutions. 4 4 4
Information Management: Identifies a need for and knows where or how to gather information; organizes and maintains information or information management systems. 4 4 4
Integrity/Honesty: Contributes to maintaining the integrity of the organization; displays high standards of ethical conduct and understands the impact of violating these standards on an organization, self, and others; is trustworthy. 4 4 5
Interpersonal Skills: Shows understanding, friendliness, courtesy, tact, empathy, concern, and politeness to others; develops and maintains effective relationships with others; may include effectively dealing with individuals who are difficult, hostile, or distressed; relates well to people from varied backgrounds and different situations; is sensitive to cultural diversity, race, gender, disabilities, and other individual differences. 4 4 5
Legal, Government, and Jurisprudence: Knowledge of laws, legal codes, court procedures, precedents, legal practices and documents, Government regulations, executive orders, agency rules, Government organization and functions, and the democratic political process. 4 4 5
Oral Communication: Expresses information (for example, ideas or facts) to individuals or groups effectively, taking into account the audience and nature of the information (for example, technical, sensitive, controversial); makes clear and convincing oral presentations; listens to others, attends to nonverbal cues, and responds appropriately. 4 4 5
Organizational Awareness: Knows the organization's mission and functions, and how its social, political, and technological systems work and operates effectively within them; this includes the programs, policies, procedures, rules, and regulations of the organization. 4 4 4
Planning and Evaluating: Organizes work, sets priorities, and determines resource requirements; determines short- or long-term goals and strategies to achieve them; coordinates with other organizations or parts of the organization to accomplish goals; monitors progress and evaluates outcomes. 4 4 4
Problem Solving: Identifies problems; determines accuracy and relevance of information; uses sound judgment to generate and evaluate alternatives, and to make recommendations. 4 4 4
Project Management: Knowledge of the principles, methods, or tools for developing, scheduling, coordinating, and managing projects and resources, including monitoring and inspecting costs, work, and contractor performance. 3 4 4
Reading: Understands and interprets written material, including technical material, rules, regulations, instructions, reports, charts, graphs, or tables; applies what is learned from written material to specific situations. 4 4 5
Reasoning: Identifies rules, principles, or relationships that explain facts, data, or other information; analyzes information and makes correct inferences or draws accurate conclusions. 4 4 5
Self-Management: Sets well-defined and realistic personal goals; displays a high level of initiative, effort, and commitment towards completing assignments in a timely manner; works with minimal supervision; is motivated to achieve; demonstrates responsible behavior. 4 4 4
Stress Tolerance: Deals calmly and effectively with high stress situations (for example, tight deadlines, hostile individuals, emergency situations, dangerous situations). 4 4 4
Teamwork: Encourages and facilitates cooperation, pride, trust, and group identity; fosters commitment and team spirit; works with others to achieve goals. 4 4 4
Technical Competence: Uses knowledge that is acquired through formal training or extensive on-the-job experience to perform one's job; works with, understands, and evaluates technical information related to the job; advises others on technical issues. 4 4 5
Workforce Planning: Knowledge of HR concepts, principles, and practices related to determining workload projections and current and future competency gaps to align human capital with organizational goals. 3 4 4
Writing: Recognizes or uses correct English grammar, punctuation, and spelling; communicates information (for example, facts, ideas, or messages) in a succinct and organized manner; produces written information, which may include technical material that is appropriate for the intended audience. 4 4 4
Technical Competencies
Technical Competencies
Understanding the Competency Information

Technical Competencies Proficiency Level
GS-13 GS-14 GS-15
Performance Management: Knowledge of performance management concepts, principles, and practices related to planning, monitoring, rating, and rewarding employee performance (5 C.F.R. Part 430 and 451). 4 4 4
Employee Relations: Knowledge of laws, rules, regulations, case law, principles, and practices related to employee conduct, performance, and dispute resolution (5 C.F.R. Part 432 and 5 C.F.R. Part 752). 4 4 4
Labor Relations: Knowledge of laws, rules, regulations, case law, principles, and practices related to negotiating and administering labor agreements (5 USC Chapter 71). 4 4 4
Supervisory Competencies
HR Specialists at the Expert level may either be specialists or supervisors. Supervisory competencies are determined by the hiring agency. OPM developed guidance for agencies to help them determine requirements for supervisory positions including supervisory competencies. For more information on OPM’s Supervisory Qualification Guide, click on
Critical Developmental Activities
Critical Developmental Activities
Understanding the Critical Developmental Activities

Developmental Activities for Expert or Supervisory Positions
To Strengthen Core Competencies
  • Lead a team working on multiple projects.
  • Act as a subject matter expert (SME).
  • Acquire resources or support from outside organization for a project.
  • Mentor others informally or formally, providing technical and career guidance.
  • Share knowledge of lessons learned with your team and management.
  • Serve as an advisor to teams working on high visibility projects.
  • Develop relationships with customers to understand the customer base.
  • Expand your professional network (including contacts with people in industry, academia, and other relevant organizations) through joint projects, participation in workshops, memberships in professional and trade associations, and internal and external customer relationships.
  • Present invited talks or papers at technical conferences.
  • Maintain awareness of trends and state-of-the-art in your field.
  • Interview someone who is faced with pressure to make decisions constantly. Ask him or her to describe the criteria he/she uses to evaluate the quality of potential decisions, the methods/techniques he/she uses to make decisions, and the lessons he/she has learned about thinking through decisions.
  • Evaluate proposals with the guidance of senior staff members.
  • The next time you face a major policy or procedure change, find a way to access a broad range of ideas. Pose difficult challenges and ask for others’ thoughts or related experience.
  • Participate on a workforce planning team.
To Strengthen Technical Competencies
  • Serve as Center Point of Contact (POC) for Performance Management to an agency team or cross-agency team.
  • Train senior level managers and supervisors on employee relations, labor relations, and performance management.
  • Research complex conduct and performance issues, and prepare recommendations on an appropriate course of action. Be able to advise legal as the technical expert in appeals.
  • Develop and/or re-negotiate a local union agreement.
  • Facilitate labor management forums and/or discussions with union reps and managers.
  • Respond to an unfair labor practice (ULP).
  • Assist management in responding to grievances and facilitate grievance hearings.
  • Work an unfair labor practice charge: gather the facts of case, pinpoint violations, develop proposed settlement options, and work with legal representation in the process.
  • Represent the agency in an arbitration case: gather the facts of case, prepare witnesses, and develop opening and closing statements.
  • Develop the agency’s request for SES or SL/ST appraisal system certification.

Additional Developmental Activities for Supervisory Positions Only
  • Find an opportunity to clearly communicate your vision and the values of your organization or work group, along with the message that you expect people to excel.
  • Gain commitment from necessary players and maintain their support throughout a change process.
  • Pay attention to advances or changes in technology. Look for ways that new or different technology could improve your work processes or the quality and/or efficiency of your work.
  • Identify people who hold similar positions to yours. Choose one or two who share common job concerns or problems, and meet with them informally to ask for ideas on resolving problems and expediting work flow.
  • Establish contact with other federal agencies for benchmarking opportunities, lessons learned, and innovative approaches for accomplishing objectives.
  • Contribute to processes that create and support a diverse environment (e.g. hiring and training).
Job Tasks
Job Tasks
Specialist or Supervisory Positions GS-13 GS-14 GS-15
Ensures the performance management/appraisal system or program meets the organization’s performance management/appraisal requirements. checkmark checkmark checkmark
Serves on an awards committee to develop, monitor, and execute procedures for award nominations. checkmark checkmark checkmark
Develops assessment criteria for the organization’s performance management/appraisal system or program. checkmark checkmark checkmark
Conducts performance management system/program compliance audits and reviews. checkmark checkmark checkmark
Provides technical expertise on complex performance management/appraisal issues. checkmark checkmark checkmark
Examines case law and disseminates/champions new policy. checkmark checkmark checkmark
Advises both management and employees during adverse actions. checkmark checkmark checkmark
Reviews complex policy and procedures to ensure consistency in their application and recommends modifications. checkmark checkmark checkmark
Coordinates with other HR functions and/or higher agency levels and analyzes particularly complex and sensitive problems and issues, such as those involving apparently conflicting laws or other requirements and those involving vague and untested areas of case law. checkmark checkmark checkmark
Provides technical advice on complex or difficult administrative inquiries or grievance processes. checkmark checkmark checkmark
Develops the future vision of the labor relations program to include the advancement of non-traditional collaborative approaches to labor relations. checkmark checkmark checkmark
Represents the organization in various third-party disputes (e.g., arbitrations, mediation, and other procedures). checkmark checkmark checkmark
Serves as a member of the bargaining agreement negotiation team. checkmark checkmark checkmark
Surveys management and employees to identify labor relations concerns. checkmark checkmark checkmark
Reviews and recommends resolution of negotiability issues. checkmark checkmark checkmark
Reviews unfair labor practice charges to determine validity. checkmark checkmark checkmark
Supervisory Positions Only GS-13 GS-14 GS-15
Oversees annual, multiyear, or similar types of long-range work plans or schedules for in-service or contracted work. checkmark checkmark N/A
Ensures that the goals or objectives for area of responsibility (e.g., division, program area, and function) are met and determines goals and objectives that require additional emphasis. checkmark checkmark N/A
Determines best approach for solving budget shortages or other issues. checkmark checkmark N/A
Exercises significant responsibility in dealing with officials of other units or organizations. checkmark checkmark N/A
Assures equity among units, groups, teams of performance standards and rating techniques developed by subordinates. checkmark checkmark N/A
Serves as the senior HR advisor for a multi-mission agency engaged in research, development, test, evaluation, and maintenance functions on a national and/or international scale. N/A N/A checkmark
Integrates the interests of key internal and external stakeholders, including Congress, Administration and the public, when developing strategic business plans. N/A N/A checkmark
Formulates new HR concepts, principles, and methods. N/A N/A checkmark
Advises top agency management officials on the development and implementation of innovations related to any HR technical area. N/A N/A checkmark
Counsels top agency officials who may appear before Congressional committees and the national media concerning the agency’s HR program. N/A N/A checkmark
Makes decisions on work problems presented by subordinate supervisors. checkmark checkmark checkmark
Training Areas
Training Areas
Understanding the Training Areas

  • Developing Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-bound (SMART) Goals
  • Individual Development Planning
  • Performance Management Systems
  • Performance Improvement Plans
  • Federal Regulations on Employee Conduct
  • Dispute Resolution
  • Administrative Inquiries
  • Grievance Processes
  • Labor Agreements
  • Legal Research
  • Federal Labor Laws
  • Mentoring Employees
  • Improving Employee Performance and Productivity
  • Conducting Employee Performance Appraisals in Accordance with Agency Systems
  • Identifying and Assisting Employees with Unacceptable Performance
  • Training Individuals Making Career Transitions (e.g., non-supervisory to manager, or manager to executive)
Please note that this information is for development purposes only and does not address position requirements or your eligibility for a particular job. For information about Governmentwide qualifications requirements, please refer to Additionally, there may be position-specific requirements, including specialized experience. Your supervisor can provide more information on these additional requirements.

Employee Relations Specialist — SES
The Executive Core Qualifications (ECQs) define the competencies needed to build a Federal corporate culture that drives for results, serves customers, and builds successful teams and coalitions within and outside the organization. The Executive Core Qualifications are required for entry to the Senior Executive Service and are used by many departments and agencies in selection, performance management, and leadership development for management and executive positions. OPM's Guide to the Senior Executive Service Qualifications provides detailed information on the Executive Core Qualifications.

For additional information about SES competencies go to: