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HRPA competency and designation frameworks

Meeting the needs of members, business and the public interest
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By Guest Blogger: Bill Greenhalgh

As with any maturation process, the professionalization of human resources is not without its growing pains. There are bound to be disagreements where consensus can’t be reached that boil down to differences in our vision for the future of the profession. When this happens, we owe it to our members and the public to do what we think is right for the profession and our members.

In the last several years, in many consultations with the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA)’s nearly 23,000 members, we learned that the vast majority have an affection for the Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) as a professional designation because of the name awareness it has earned with businesses over the past quarter-century.

But they also told us that as an HR professional designation, the CHRP is only half as valuable as the Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA), for instance, because it lacks the rigorous validation of competence that typifies the best professional designations. As well, many of our nearly 6,000 student and young professional members told us that in their search for jobs, a professional designation of some kind was becoming table stakes in the competition for employment in human resources.

At HRPA, we have heard the call of stakeholders to make changes to reflect the growing need to expand our designations to meet the needs of our members, business and the public interest. So with input from more than 2,000 stakeholders across all sectors — business leaders, senior HR executives, public policy makers, and academics — we set about development of the newest HR competency framework in the world.

Twenty years ago, when HR was primarily transactional, a single designation was all that was needed; as today’s strategic HR role settles in the board room, a one-size-fits-all approach no longer works. Organizations know that different levels need different capabilities and want designations that validate them. With that in mind, when we created the new HRPA competency framework, we had three requirements: 1) describe and anticipate present day and future competencies, defining them at the level of entry to the profession (CHRP), at a fully professional level (Certified Human Resources Leader (CHRL)) and at an executive level (Certified Human Resources Executive (CHRE)); 2) that the designations reflect demonstration of competency commensurate with career progression; and 3) that those who rely on these designations — two designees, employees, employers, academia and policy-makers — should have no doubt about what they do validate.

HRPA’s competency framework and designations meet all those requirements, such that the framework has also been selected by the International Standards Organization (ISO) as input to the development of a global HR competency framework. Our HR designations are unique not only in Canada but in the world in that they are created under a dedicated legislative act. Along with regulation practices, they are designed to both protect the public interest and meet the increasing demands of business.

And feedback from the business community has been universally positive in this regard. For example, in a recent independent national survey, over 60 per cent of C-level executives stated that HRPA’s designation framework gives them more confidence in the contribution that HR can make to business results.

As you are aware, the Chartered Professional in Human Resources (CPHR) Canada (formerly the Canadian Council of Human Resources Associations or CCHRA) announced it is replacing the CHRP, the nationally recognized certification, with one called a CPHR. However, there are so many paths to obtaining it, including some that require no HR academic program or standardized knowledge exam, it misses a key attribute of any designation — it is not clear what it validates. Our view is that this will cause confusion in the marketplace for HR professionals, business and academia. Further, in addition to its ambiguity, it can never be a national designation and stating that it could be is misleading.

Because of its similarity to the accepted standard, the CHRP, and the legislative protections given to HRPA’s designations, HRPA’s act prohibits its use in Ontario (where 40 per cent of organizations in Canada are headquartered). A window exists for CHRPs from other provinces to transfer into HRPA and retain their CHRP, and then perhaps qualify for a CHRL or CHRE. After May 31, 2017, any CPHR seeking to use the CHRP in Ontario will have to meet all the same requirements of an Ontario resident: successful completion of an approved HR academic program, HR knowledge exam, HR law exam, and Job Ready program (which covers professionalism and ethics).

Students just starting out are strongly advised to work toward the CHRP from HRPA for four important reasons: 1. The CHRP is the core HR designation and unlike the CPHR, it can be used in every province in Canada — no exceptions. 2. The CHRP has been in use since 1990 and is well-known by business decision-makers all across Canada. On jobs advertised in the HR field in Canada, it is by far the most specified requirement, cited in 70 per cent of postings on Hire Authority, for instance. 3. Because HRPA designed the CHRP requirements for those at the entry level to the profession, it emphasizes rigorous knowledge exams, not experience, and gives students a three- to five-year head-start on peers pursuing a CPHR. In today’s job market, this is a significant career advantage over non-designated individuals. 4. The CHRP is the first step on a professional designation ladder and by the time individuals pursuing a CPHR have been granted theirs, the CHRP will be well on their way to earning the CHRL designation.

Finally, it is important to be clear about the universal validity of HRPA designations. HRPA’s legislative act and bylaws allow anyone, anywhere to pursue a CHRP, CHRL or CHRE designation from HRPA. And once obtained, for as long as they remain an HRPA member in good standing, they are authorized to use their designation anywhere in Canada or worldwide (only in Quebec would they also need to be a member of that association).

In summary, despite what else you might hear, the HRPA designations validate key competencies; organizations and academia have accepted them wholeheartedly; they are useable anywhere; there is no residency requirement; and (other than in Quebec) as long as you are a member of HRPA, you do not need to belong to any other association.

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