HR split on CHRP’s progress

Recent changes to certification process appreciated but more marketing needed to boost recognition: Survey
By Amanda Silliker
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 02/26/2013

Creating credible, valued and recognized designations is a core strategy of HR associations across Canada. The last few years have seen changes to the Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP), including the introduction of the degree requirement and the phasing out of the National Professional Practice Assessment (NPPA) in favour of a three-year experience requirement.

But how HR professionals responded to these changes? And just how credible is the CHRP among HR practitioners, employers and the public at large?

Canadian HR Reporter and the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) conducted a Pulse Survey to find out.

HR split on CHRP’s progress

CA designations admired by respondents


HR split on CHRP’s progress

By Amanda Silliker

More than four in 10 (44 per cent) HR professionals feel there is a “significant” or “big” gap between where the Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) designation is now and where it needs to be, according to a Pulse Survey.

“I would say there is a significant gap and that’s illustrated by the fact that (the CHRP) is preferred and not required,” said Rob Burwash, senior employee relations consultant at Canadian Blood Services in Ancaster, Ont.

“The single, greatest problem with the CHRP is that it effectively means nothing when you hold it. It is a criticism I have held and voiced a number of times — we need to be raising the stature of the CHRP and part of that is the credibility that goes along with it.”

While 41.5 per cent of respondents said there is a small gap, 15 per cent said there is no gap at all, found the survey of 1,032 Canadian HR Reporter readers and members of the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA).

“With any regulated profession, there’s always room for improvement, but I think that gap has certainly been minimized by some of the recent (changes),” said Lisa Casino, Toronto-based human resources manager at the Mutual Fund Dealers Association of Canada.

One of those changes is the requirement to have a bachelor’s degree in order to obtain the CHRP, which came into effect in 2011.

“That’s an excellent starting point. Just generally, things are changing where a basic BA is a minimum to anything it seems nowadays when employers are hiring — and a BA is a solid foundation,” said Casino.

The recent, national implementation of a three-year experience assessment to replace the National Professional Practice Assessment (NPPA) is also a welcome change.

“It’s more a demonstration of practical working knowledge than knowing what’s in a textbook,” said Burwash. “Knowing what you need to know to pass an exam doesn’t make you an expert in HR — that comes with years of experience.”

Credibility, value, recognition improving

These changes have helped boost the credibility of the CHRP in recent years, with one-half (46 per cent) of HR professionals claiming the designation is “much more” or “noticeably more” credible, valued and recognized today compared to five years ago, found the survey.

“I know some people who have their CHRP but have never worked in HR because they got it through the NPPA and NKE (National Knowledge Exam) route and there was absolutely no requirement to actually work in the field,” said Rebecca Mitchell, associate professor in human resources at Lambton College in Sarnia, Ont.

“So, since the reintroduction of having to provide professional experience, I feel the designation is significantly more credible.”

When it comes to the perceived value, credibility and recognition of the CHRP, two-thirds (69 per cent) of survey respondents said it is “very highly credible” or “quite credible” in the eyes of HR professionals.

Fifty-eight per cent said people who hire HR professionals would share this sentiment.

“You’re seeing more employers saying ‘CHRP preferred’ than before… so that obviously speaks to that it is recognized and there is some increase in credibility there,” said Burwash.

“But again, it’s preferred — it’s clear employers are still perfectly willing and able to hire someone who doesn’t have a CHRP and expect them to do the job.”

Public perception lacking

But there is still work to be done when it comes to public perception. Just 20 per cent of survey respondents said the CHRP is seen as “very highly credible” or “quite credible” by the public.

“When you get out into the general public, the recognition of it is pretty low — non-existent,” said Burwash.

To increase the credibility, value and recognition of the designation, there needs to be better marketing of the CHRP to the public, according to 65 per cent of survey respondents.

The designation should be marketed at trade shows, on television, in a variety of magazines and publications, and in schools, said Sherry Hiriart, manager of marketing and staffing at STAMM Investments in Waterloo, Ont.

“Because if people grow up knowing, ‘Hey, you know what, it’s really important to be a CHRP’ then that becomes common knowledge and they will eventually grow up and become an employer,” she said.

Certification requirements should be similar

Another way to increase the CHRP’s credibility is by making the certification requirements the same in all provinces, according to 62 per cent of survey respondents.

“If the requirements are not the same in at least Canada, we look rather Mickey Mouse,” said Hiriart.

Another way to boost the credibility of the CHRP is by adopting a similar competency model to the one found among accounting designations, said Casino.

There is a specific list of competencies candidates must achieve when they are going through the experience requirement in order to receive their designation, she said.

A competency model may help boost the CHRP’s consistency, which is greatly needed, according to Burwash.

As a CHRP holder, he said he is well-versed in a variety of areas including labour relations, disability management and employee relations but is not as strong in benefits or international assignments.

However, someone else who has the CHRP designation may excel at benefits and international assignments and falter in the areas where he has expertise, said Burwash.

“When an employer is out there looking for an HR professional, they can’t look to the fact that someone holds a CHRP and have any comfort that that person knows anything about the areas of HR that they need someone for,” he said.

“There’s no consistent product or knowledge base.”

To address this issue, areas of specialty or expertise could be attached to the CHRP, said Burwash. Another solution might be to have more than one designation, such as accountants with the Chartered Accountant, Certified Management Accountant and Certified General Accountant designations, he said.

“With that breakdown comes more specific levels of knowledge at each one of those letters so when somebody sees those letters, they know what they’re getting,” he said.

Rigorous certification process ‘critical’

Six in 10 (60 per cent) survey respondents said it is “critical” or “very important” for the CHRP certification process to be as rigorous as that of the accounting designations.

“If it is a lesser process, then it is a lesser designation and a lesser credibility,” said Hiriart.

The CHRP certification process should have more stringent background checks that are comparable to what is used for accountants, said Mitchell.

“One of the things you need to do to get your CHRP is sign their code of conduct and ethics, and we do that blindly. When you want to be designated as a Chartered Accountant, you have to pass a financial test, they have to do your credit rating and ensure you’ve never been in bankruptcy,” she said.

“If we want to match the prestige of other designations, we need more rigorous measures.”

But there are some components of the accounting designations that don’t necessarily cross over into HR, such as a summer training requirement for the Chartered Accountant designation, said Casino.

“It’s about maintaining the balance. You don’t want to make it so stringent that good HR professionals aren’t able to achieve it,” she said.

“It’s looking at what is the good standard we should be at as opposed to just the minimums.”


CA designations admired by respondents

By Claude Balthazard

Creating credible, valued and recognized designations has been, and continues to be, a core aspect of the strategies of professional HR associations across Canada.

The last few years have seen important changes to our core designation, the Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP). The introduction of a degree requirement and phasing out of the National Professional Practice Assessment (NPPA) in favour of a three-year experience requirement are the two most notable recent changes to the CHRP designation.

And with more than 1,000 respondents to the Pulse Survey, it is quite clear the credibility, value and recognition of the CHRP designation is a topic many HR professionals care deeply about.

Assessing the CHRP

The first question — which asked respondents to assess the credibility, value and recognition of the designation — was interesting because it asked respondents to consider the question from three perspectives: that of HR professionals, that of those who hire or engage HR professionals and that of the public at large.

Respondents indicated the level of credibility, value and recognition of the CHRP designation was highest among HR professionals and lowest among the public at large.

About seven in 10 (68.8 per cent) of HR professionals would say the CHRP designation is either “quite” or “highly desirable,” compared to 57.6 per cent of those who hire or engage HR professionals and 20.2 per cent of the public.

Survey respondents felt the CHRP designation is more credible, valued and recognized than it was five years ago, with 32.9 per cent indicating it was noticeably more credible and 33 per cent indicating it was somewhat more credible.

Most respondents indicated there was a gap between where the profession is at and where it needs to be in regards to the credibility, value and recognition of the CHRP.

The opinion was somewhat split, however, when it came to to the size of the gap, with 41.5 per cent saying it was a small one and 35.9 per cent saying it was a significant one.

All in all, 59.6 per cent of respondents thought improving the credibility, value and recognition of the designation should be either our top priority (18.4 per cent) or one of our most important priorities (41.2 per cent).

Accounting designations admired

The Pulse Survey platform allows for innovative forms of responses, such as a slider, which allowed respondents to rate the credibility, value and recognition of the CHRP designation relative to a benchmark. As an aggregate or composite, the credibility, value and recognition of the accounting designations (CAs, CMAs and CGAs) was pegged at 10.

The mean rating given by survey respondents to the relative credibility, value and recognition of the CHRP designation was 5.6.

In other words, on average, respondents felt the credibility, value and recognition of the CHRP designation was about one-half that of the accounting designations.

The next question looked at whether HR professionals considered it important for the credibility, value and recognition of the CHRP that the process be as rigorous as that of the accounting designations — 60.3 per cent indicated it was either crucial (17.8 per cent) or very important (42.5 per cent).

However, only 20.9 per cent felt it would be beneficial to make the CHRP certification process more rigorous. This apparent contradiction may indicate the need to explore the matter further.

Activities, initiatives that would have an impact

Finally, respondents were asked to indicate which activities or initiatives would have a significant, beneficial impact on the credibility, value and recognition of the CHRP. There were two activities or initiatives that were picked significantly more often than the rest.

These were “better marketing of the CHRP designation among the public at large,” at 65 per cent, and “making the CHRP certification requirements the same across all provinces,” at 62.1 per cent.

The third most often selected initiative was “requiring all applicants to have successfully completed specific coursework in HR,” at 40.9 per cent.

Claude Balthazard is vice-president of regulatory affairs at the Toronto-based Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA). He can be reached at cbalthazard@hrpa.ca.

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