Advancing HR !!

I spent the last week at the SHRM Volunteer Leader Summit in Washington, DC.  It is one of my favorite events because the attendees are some of the most active and engaged members that SHRM has.  It’s also very cool in that people come from all fifty states and also US territories.

I am a SHRMmie and am proud of being involved and connected.  I know that this can cause angst amongst my peers, but I’ve found that the more I’ve become involved, the more encouraged I am that SHRM is listening and moving in the right direction.  For those of you kind enough to read my blog, you may not be involved in SHRM, but I would ask that you read on to see how they are taking steps that are positive.

Here are the themes that came across as well as some observations . . .

SHRM Certification – I was able to take the Pathway Tutorial to see how the SHRM Competency Model is defined and answered sample questions that are like those that will be on the exam starting in 2015.  The tutorial is impressive and shows that this model is focusing on a person’s professional development and how to recognize and utilize the competencies in your HR role.  You complete a self-assessment to see which competencies you should consider bulking up.

I received my SHRM-SCP by doing this and there were 480 folks who received their certification in total.  It’s very cool to have both designations now.

I know that the ongoing argument about the tutorial vs. an exam will continue, but let me give you an alternative approach.  SHRM has chosen to recognize the work that I, and those also currently certified.  They aren’t discrediting my current certification in any way.  I’m proud to have my SHRM-SCP and plan to support the ongoing evolution of the program.

Member Connection – There are two great aspects I saw in regards to connecting with others.  The SHRM Leadership Team and the SHRM Board of Directors made a visible change than what I’ve experienced in the past.  They were actively connecting with Volunteer Leaders throughout the summit in sessions and during meals.  This may not seem big, but they’ve heard the feedback about being disconnected and they are taking steps to improve that.

There was also more intentional connections occurring between States and Regions.  The MAC has set the example that we are a profession first and reside in locations second.  We’re ALL in HR !!  We should do more and more to blur the lines of isolation and look at ways to bring everyone together.  I spent time with people from all over the country and built more and more relationships.  It’s starting to make a difference that will only make us stronger.

Forward#AdvancingHR – The most encouraging theme I saw throughout the event is that the focus of SHRM is looking past the “seat at the . . .” approach, and is looking at how to advance the profession through integrating HR throughout business.  It’s great to see that we’re taking a broader view of what HR can, and should be.  They launched a new SHRM TV commercial showing the direction, and this is just the start of the marketing efforts. I’m geeked that advancing the profession overall is what we’re doing.

Now, I know there is always room to improve.  You have to know that your voice is being shared with Leadership and they are responding in tangible ways.  I also know that there will be detractors and skeptics.

I choose to connect instead. By being involved intentionally myself, I can add my feedback and the feedback of others.  I have seen results and I think you’ll continue to see them too !! I hope you’ll check things out, get involved and get connected so we can all Advance HR !!


25 thoughts on “Advancing HR !!”

  1. Sir: You highlight that SHRM awarded their new certification program to 480 participants at the SHRM Leadership Conference. Did anyone fail the tutorial?

    You and others successfully took the tutorial and met the other requirements, the most important of which was to have been previously HRCI Certified. You further state: “They (SHRM) aren’t discrediting my current certification in any way. I’m proud to have my SHRM-SCP and plan to support the ongoing evolution of the program.”

    But have you asked yourself what is SHRM saying? Is SHRM agreeing that the HRCI tests are a meaningful and valid test of HR competency, which meets or exceeds the planned SHRM competency requirements? That’s the only logic I could accept to understand SHRM’s policy to so easily grant their certification to others.. To me, it hints that the SHRM certification model will be less demanding than the current HRCI testing requirements. In fact, will that be a strategy for SHRM? In other words, build a reputation that testing candidates are more likely to pass the SHRM test than the HRCI test. Those who only want the initials could be enticed to go that route.

    1. Mike – First of all, I do appreciate that you and I are having a dialogue about this. I appreciate that you’re passionate and concerned about this roll out.

      I checked into something regarding this. There was an article in HR Magazine from 1998 about the history of HRCI and it stated how they granted exemptions to people in order to get started back in 1976. They awarded 2,100 certifications to people who didn’t sit for the initial exams in order to gain credibility with senior HR professionals. It was seen back then as a “controversial issue.”

      The Pathway tutorial is educating existing certificants about what the SHRM Certification Competency model offers. And, yes, we get our “letters” for completing this. It isn’t a pass/fail vehicle.

      The new program is “getting started” and SHRM is educating people and recognizing them for their past accomplishment in passing a test. My certification and letters only go past the exam if I choose to continue my professional development to retain them. That is true for either body.

      I don’t feel the new program is less demanding than what HRCI offers. I think they are both programs which will require HR pros to be knowledgeable and prepare diligently to sit for their exams.

      The true test to me is that we move the profession forward. It is fine to disagree and decide if we are going to take sides either for HRCI and against SHRM, or for SHRM and against HRCI. I don’t think any position that pits one against another has value.

      Both bodies are putting forth what they are going to offer and who they are going to be. I believe that SHRM has been in support of professional certification as well as many, many more things !!

      SHRM is about advocacy at all levels of government to help educate our lawmakers about employer and employee issues. It is about providing a structure where HR professionals can gather in chapters, conferences and networking events to become a stronger community that influences people personally as well as move the needle to keep HR relevant and evolving. There are more aspects to SHRM than this as well.

      My hope is that all of us move past the difference about what is being offered, make the choice that fits you personally as a professional, and then see how things go. Each person needs to understand that they own their certification as an HR pro and that it doesn’t belong to either SHRM or HRCI.

      Belonging to SHRM is something I enjoy as well as I enjoy having my SPHR from HRCI. I think that we’re in a time where we can take the change that has occurred and choose to detract or move forward. I choose to move forward.

      1. Steve, it is interesting that you found that article on HRCI granting over 2000 certifications to HR pros that had no certification previous to that. Reading the article and noticed that AAI (predecessor to HRCI) gave the certifications out because they “needed the money”. Ironic that many of the SHRM Certification detractors are calling SHRM’s effort as a money maker.

  2. Steve,

    How nice that you are a SHRMmie! However, as an HR professional, you may want to stop and ask yourself how SHRM advances our profession by exhibiting these behaviors:

    • Offering a “free” certification (no exam required) to all those who currently hold HRCI’s certifications. As Mike Losey mentions above, the SHRM exams must be far less rigorous than HRCI’s exams if all HRCI certificants can just be moved over. It appears that the only purpose of this self-serving offer is for SHRM to quickly get the numbers up on their new program.

    • Spending approximately $500K of money they got from members on two USA advertisements (and lots of $$ on the TV ad) touting SHRM’s new certification programs as “best-in-class.” Really? According to whom? The SHRM Marketing Department? Or maybe the 480 “SHRMmies” who have done the tutorial? It is my understanding that SHRM has yet to officially test and certify anyone else. SHRM’s less-rigorous program is also not accredited. Does a program that is not accredited, has not officially certified anyone through examination, and is apparently less rigorous than HRCI’s programs sound like a “best-in-class” program? Not to me. Just because SHRM says something doesn’t make it so.

    • Unnecessarily disrupting the profession by starting a new certification program that has substantial overlap with the existing HRCI program that SHRM has vocally supported for over 40 years . . . most likely because HRCI refused to cede financial control to SHRM. And doing it without warning to their longtime business partner, whom they then kicked out of the building. Is that the kind of back-stabbing behavior HR pros should be modeling in the workplace?

    • Setting up a Certification Commission that has not a single HRCI-certified member. What’s with that? Either SHRM is getting advice from those without any certification experience, or it has asked Commission members to remove references to their HRCI certifications from their social media. Neither is a good choice.

    Yes, I am one of those skeptics . . . a SHRM member who looks at the facts. SHRM’s current CEO is a very smooth talker, and he is well paid for it ($1M+ and counting!), but what he is smoothly saying doesn’t make sense if you stop and think about it. How does SHRM plan to test competencies, anyway? The only way I know of to actually test competencies is to observe someone demonstrating them. If you ask questions about them on an exam, you aren’t testing competencies, you are testing someone’s knowledge of competencies. HRCI has been doing this for years, but somehow when SHRM decides to do it, it is “new and improved.”

    I sincerely agree that the power of connection is a good thing, and I also think it’s great that you’re geeked about advancing our HR profession, Steve. I’m just having trouble connecting some expensive advertisements, a seemingly overt money grab, and “free” certifications as a means for achieving that goal.

    SHRM has been the voice of the HR profession for decades. It is extremely disappointing that its once-credible voice has begun to ring very hollow.

    1. Kate – Thanks for the comments. I appreciate you sharing your opinion and concerns. Please understand that I am very balanced about my view and personal experiences with SHRM as well as taking a positive slant with them.

      I’d like to share one differing opinion with you.

      I don’t see SHRM as the voice of the profession. I see members as the voice, and always have. SHRM has been the vehicle that binds us all together and it has a myriad of voices that range from very vocal to very subtle.

      The message that we’ve been sharing with the Leadership Team and the Board is that this voice has become disconnected. I’m not discouraged by this though because I know personally that the member’s voices are being heard loud and clear more often.

      The road ahead for SHRM is going to be interesting and I am looking forward to being a part of that. I want to see how the certification grows and if the marketplace accepts it. It’s true that much of this is untested.

      However, I do believe in it and in what I’ve seen so far. I also plan to be one of those voices of the profession as I feel all HR professionals should be. We can only see change develop and occur when we put our ideas out there. I believe we have a forum that is listening and moving forward.

  3. Thank you, Steve for I agree and support your comments. I too am a proud SHRMie and Volunteer Leader. I applaud SHRM in helping to #AdvanceHR.

  4. Hi, Steve! Quick question on the self-assessment piece of the tutorial and/or exam – will this allow you to only test in the areas you need to “prove” competency or is it simply a development tool?

    I purchased the learning system last year with the intent to sit for the SPHR and waited it out to see what happened. That, too, offered self-assessment to help plan your studying needs. Is this what you experienced?


    1. Mary – The self-assessment is a development tool. It’s more to give you a picture of where you could gain more experience/knowledge in a competency area. It wasn’t geared toward where you’d study for the SHRM Cert.

      I remember the SPHR assessment and that was geared more towards exam prep.

      Hope that helps !!

    2. Mary,

      I also took the tutorial and thought the self assessment was interesting. They had me choose statements of things I do or have done in my HR career. Personally, as a recruiter, I’m pretty focused on just certain things and really had to pull from other experiences I focused in. For example, I scored highly on communication and employee relations. It had a rating from “No experience” to “Expert.” Really showed me where I lack in my “experience.” Kind of intimidating considering that most of my HR knowledge is from the book and not necessarily applied. It seems they are looking for “applied knowledge” as opposed to book knowledge. Just my two cents :).

  5. Great blog Steve! Thank you for advancing the profession! I am an HR professional with over 30 years of experience and I too, am a newly certified SHRM professional and thrilled at the new certification and the potential it holds for our future.

    As I was sitting at the Leadership Summit, I thought back to when I first started in Human Resources. At that time the industry term was “Personnel” known for their administrative skills and enforcing statutory compliance. Soon after I entered this profession, the winds of change began to flow and it quickly became evident a transformation was imminent. Thus, enter Human Resources.

    Great HR front-runners have worked over the past 20 years to change the mindset of company leadership that employees are not just a number but a vital part of every employer’s workforce.

    I am excited to see that SHRM has the forethought to step out and lead us into the future by developing a certification based on competency and knowledge! From the Personnel era to the Human Resources era, we have all worked so hard in our profession to gain a seat at the table! I was reminded at the Leadership Summit most of American company CEO’s, did not begin in Human Resources. I am hopeful the new certification will begin to train our Human Resources professionals in competencies which will lead to stronger leadership skills that will in turn in the future, take us from a seat at the table to head of the table!

    Thank you SHRM for leading us into the future and preparing us with this tool to continue to advance the professional! It is never easy to lead change. I’m certain in the next ten years we will look back and see that this change was the right decision and came at the right time for all HR Professionals!

    “Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have—and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up.” — James Belasco and Ralph Stayer

  6. Pointing out what HRCI did almost 40 years ago in order to gain acceptance of the certification process is, to me, akin to saying “well, everyone else is doing it”. Doesn’t make it right and hopefully we’ve learned a lot over the course of those decades. And, since there is already a well-tested, validated, accredited program that is, to SHRM, of “equal value” (or they wouldn’t being giving it away to those already certified), there is no reason to provide any type of loss-leader. I still fail to see how any of this is considered “advancing the profession”. Nor do I hear the loud (or otherwise) voice of the SHRM membership base demanding that a new certification be produced. This was very much a board (consisting of non-HR, non-certified members) decision based on making money and selling educational products.

    1. Linda – Thanks for taking the time to share a comment and your thoughts on this. I think the example is very relevant because the argument against SHRM’s tutorial is out on the web everywhere. I’m not saying what HRCI did was wrong. It was a step in them getting established which is what SHRM is doing.

      I’m sorry that you don’t think that SHRM is trying to Advance the profession. I see tangible evidence of this happening throughout all of their work including certification.

      I agree this was a business decision by SHRM just as businesses make decisions every day. SHRM wanted to introduce their competency model into the existing certification structure, and HRCI didn’t feel that it was needed. Again, a choice that was made which resulted in the new SHRM Certification Program.

      I hope to see both bodies do well as we move forward to see where all of this will take us.

  7. Steve:
    You highlight the 1998 article on how HRCI granted 2,100 PHR and SPHR certifications “to people in order to get started back in 1976” and that they did so without requiring these individuals take the new tests.

    You make it sound as though this was less of a standard than what SHRM is doing now. That is not the case!

    When HRCI created the PHR and SPHR certifications, they wanted to provide an opportunity for those previously certified in one or more of SHRM’s certifications to obtain the new certifications. They also wanted to recruit non-certified highly placed senior HR executives. Furthermore, they wanted to provide an opportunity for other non-certified HR professionals with less experience to qualify. Therefore, all of these categories were allowed to apply for the new PHR/SPHR generalist certifications.

    And “apply” is exactly what they had to do. I’ve talked to individuals who actually went through this process 38 years ago. As they recall, there was an application that had to be completed by any individual seeking the new certifications without testing. The application included general information about the applicant, their employment history and any previously obtained certification. I understand there was also the opportunity to add employment and/or personal references. This provided other HR professionals the opportunity to comment on the applicant’s request for certification.
    Those applications were then reviewed by either the new HRCI board, or a committee of the board.

    I am confident you will agree this is similar to what SHRM is doing now. Yes, they are requiring a tutorial and a pledge to follow SHRM’s ethics policy!
    However, SHRM is also requiring those seeking the new SHRM certifications without testing to currently be certified by HRCI. This recognizes that the current HRCI certifications are demanding, highly respected and a good indication of an individual’s knowledge of the HR profession.

    I merely wish to caution people about accepting SHRM’s claim that they have a whole new and superior approach to HR certification. There is substantial overlap between what HRCI had developed over the past almost 40 years and what SHRM claims they have. Nor is there a need for SHRM to target and offer its certifications to those already HRCI certified except for market dominance against a long-time former partner.

    1. Mike – Good points. I can see how there are similarities between the SHRM Certification and the HRCI Certification. I don’t struggle with the fact that there are two programs. I know there are many that do, and I respect that.

      The market will determine how both programs do and I want to see all HR professionals seek to be certified. I will support both programs because I see value in both.

      I hope others get educated themselves on dialogues like this and then make their own personal choices. The vast majority of our peers aren’t certified. Some of that is due to folks who have tried and haven’t achieved that yet. Others have just not pursued it.

      I don’t think the two programs should be seen as one being superior to another. In my opinion, both have merit and will support HR practitioners in their professional development.

      1. Steve:

        I cannot believe that you casually overlook the fact that SHRM developed their certification program rather secretly, under the nose of HRCI and every HR professional in the world.

        Steve I would not waste my time if you are not a Member Advisory Committee (MAC) representative. There are only five of you and you are supposed to give the board direct feedback. I guess your feedback, and possibly the feedback of other MAC representatives, is as you stated here – – it doesn’t make any difference.

        What other professional associations do you know that have competing certification programs? The lawyers, the engineers, the dentists, doctors, accountants, etc.

        Steve, although it is not been clearly stated by anyone, I strongly suspect that you were not asked for your opinion about SHRM starting a new certification program, — and to compete directly against HRCI – – until AFTER the program was developed and announced. Could that be true?

        If true, this would be like asking someone: “This is what we’re going to do, what do you think?”

        1. Mike – We covered this in a prior post. I learned about the certification program from SHRM the day it was announced. Myself, and the other MAC members, learned about it when all people heard about it.

          This was disappointing to be sure. The initial announcement and how the program was communicated was not done well. However, with the decision having been made, we have been working on taking it to next steps.

          I’m not going to argue about whether there should or shouldn’t be multiple certifications in HR. It’s odd that this is so upsetting because there have been multiple providers of education materials to take the HRCI exam even though SHRM wanted people to use THE Learning System. People could still get what they needed to be prepared for their exam and that has existed for years.

          I know that this isn’t an “apples to apples” comparison, but continuing the cyclical discussion of HRCI vs. SHRM doesn’t help either organization.

          We now have a competitive situation, but the competition is between two bodies and not HR professionals. We can choose to take one, or both, certifications.

          As for giving direct feedback to the Board, you’ll have to have some faith and take my word for it that I have been (along with the MAC) very candid, direct and open with feedback, concerns and deep emotional responses. The Board has shared with us that this MAC has been consistent in bringing the voice of the volunteer leader to light.

          I do see changes happening and am encouraged that their is now a relationship between the Board and the MAC. I look forward to seeing what will happen next and I will respond to the situation as it occurs.

          I’m extremely proud to be serving as a MAC representative again in 2015. I know that our current team will continue to be a bridge and help move HR and SHRM forward.

  8. Steve, I’m glad that the tutorial helped you to learn more about what the SHRM certification will be. That is great. I just don’t get how that is “earning” a certification. I know, I’m stuck on the idea of what it means to actually earn a certification. If you take and pass the actual examination that SHRM will offer next year, than I will say congratulations, you earned it. I continue to be surprised that HR professionals will claim that they have earned this new designation by taking a quiz. But, like I said, that’s just me.

    1. Iona – I agree that the tutorial Pathway is more of a bridge to obtain the new SHRM Certification. I also understand the action of “earning” a certification as I did when I took the SPHR exam.

      I don’t think that my new SHRM-SCP has less value by taking the webinar. I understand we disagree on this.

      My focus will be on maintaining my certifications which is where all certified people should be focused. We need to move past the exam so that we’re really Advancing HR.

  9. Steve,

    In an earlier response to a comment you mentioned that SHRM is doing the same thing PAI (HRCI’s precursor) did years ago by giving away certifications at the Leadership Conference, and that they are doing it to establish their new program. That sounds like such a noble purpose, but let’s look at the facts.

    Here’s the big difference between what PAI did and what SHRM is doing: PAI was trying to establish the credibility of a generalist certification in the market, since this was a new concept and it was unknown whether it would be accepted by HR professionals or business leaders. To test the concept, they bestowed their new certification on a few hundred senior HR professionals after a lengthy application process that included qualifications and references.

    Fast-forward about 40 years to a time when HR generalist certifications are well established in the marketplace. SHRM is now trying to transfer 135,000+ HRCI certificants to its new program, which it claims is of a higher standard than HRCI’s, with only a brief, no-fail tutorial and an ethics pledge (how ironic). Is SHRM doing this so that the concept of HR certification can be accepted by HR pros and the business world? No, that’s already been done. So what is the motivation? Perhaps it is to accelerate SHRM’s accreditation process and dominate the certification market? No other reason makes any sense. And let’s not forget about the millions of dollars that all those who got a “free” certification will be spending to re-certify. Conservatively, if SHRM even gets half of HRCI’s current certificants to convert, that alone will amount to over $10 million on a regular basis. If you add in sales of prep products and exam fees, it’s easy to see how this will become a main source of SHRM’s revenue.

    It sounds very noble for SHRM to claim that its new certification is badly needed by the profession and business leaders. But when you look at the facts, that story doesn’t hold up, and it only becomes more apparent that SHRM’s never-ending quest for money and power continues.

    I hope all those who earned an HRCI certification really think about SHRM’s motivation before blindly jumping on board with a “new” certification that wasn’t needed in the first place.

    1. Kate – I don’t think any HR professional should do anything blindly. I know I didn’t when I took the tutorial. I wanted to check it out and I’m grateful that I was given my SHRM-SCP when I completed it.

      We disagree about the existence of the SHRM Certification. I like that there is a second option that people can obtain. No one should jump into anything just to follow the crowd. Any professional designation is a choice and people should educate what the value is to them personally, and then pursue what they would like to do.

      The revenue that will come to both HRCI and SHRM will be based on those who hold those certifications. There is definitely a business component to this, and I don’t think anyone would deny that.

      There has also been a significant investment of money by SHRM to get their certification off the ground and I think it will be many years before they will recoup that.

      The biggest “fact” that I’m looking at is the HR people have a choice, and as I stated above, I would like to see all HR professionals pursue a certification. The current 135,000 HR pros who hold a certification through HRCI is great, but it doesn’t even scratch the surface of the number of HR pros who are in the field.

      I think we would all be better served to come together as a profession and as a community instead of trying to split into camps. I’m not talking about HRCI and SHRM. I talking about HR pros being more intentionally connected as professionals in general.

      By doing that we can advance our profession and keep us relevant in our organizations and in the business world in general.

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