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The designations business leaders trust

Recent survey results show value of HR designations
HR certification
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By Bill Greenhalgh

There’s no denying that the way we do business has evolved. We live in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) world and the pace of change is only accelerating. Every day, we are bombarded with information, surprised by completely unpredictable events and struggle to place it all in any kind of context. As organizations struggle to react and adapt, every function, department and individual is being asked to do more with less, and the stakes are higher than ever before.

HR is certainly no exception. As HR professionals, we are tasked with adding value to the organizations we operate in — and as a self-regulated profession in Ontario, we are also tasked with protection of the public.

It stands to reason, then, that HR professionals must be a highly trusted, highly competent and rigorously knowledgeable bunch. And trust, competence and knowledge are difficult things to quantify, there has to be some way of validating them - and that is why we need respected designations.

In Canada (and beyond), the designation of note for the past few decades has been the Certified Human Resources Professional (the CHRP), offered through the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA). It’s the designation business leaders respect and value, and the designation with a long-established history of recognition and trust.

Newer to the scene are two new tiers of HR designations offered by HRPA: the Certified Human Resources Leader (CHRL), and the Certified Human Resources Executive (CHRE).

Why do we need two more designations? Simply because HR has moved into the 21st Century, from the back room to the boardroom, from an administrative role to one where today, senior-level executives rely on HR as a strategic business partner to deliver tangible results in the organization’s overall goals and strategy.

Twenty years ago, a single designation might have been enough to describe what HR professionals did. Today, that is no longer true. Some years ago HRPA recognized that the world had changed; the knowledge and skills HR professional need today had to be updated from the 1990’s; and the range of competencies that organizations now expect from their HR departments could no longer be forced into, or validated by, a “one size fits all” designation. And every other country in the world with an HR Association that offers designations has come to the same conclusion – today’s HR needs multiple designation levels.

Yet even in their relative infancy as official designations, the two new tiers that HRPA offers have already gained a great deal of ground among business leaders.

However, here’s the rub: How can you really be sure that business leaders place greater value on these designations? Anecdotal evidence is one thing; hard numbers are quite another.

To determine what executives really think about the value of these designations, HRPA decided to create a tangible benchmark to measure these designations against when it comes to executive perceptions. To do that, we commissioned a targeted research survey of senior executives through Leger.

After an initial survey in March 2016 and a second wave in November 2016, we recently received the third wave of survey results from March 2017 — and the feedback is astounding, with each survey showing significant growth in awareness and support. 

For starters, eight in 10 executives continue to believe HR professionals contribute positively to business success, with 49 per cent saying they contribute very positively.

Six in 10 would place more value on an HR professional who had any of HRPA’s three HR designations (CHRL, CHRE and CHRP). Sixty-two per cent of Ontario respondents said that HRPA’s designations enhance the contribution of human resources in the company (56 per cent of Western Canada respondents said the same); 58 per cent said designations elevate the strategic position of HR in the company (compared with 47 per cent in Western Canada); and 74 per cent said designations enhance their view of the professional’s ability to find the right people for the right job.

While those results are quite stunning in and of themselves, they are even more so when you consider the extremely targeted group of respondents: The survey results are from a sample of 250 Canadians at the executive level, including 40 HR professionals. A full 84 per cent of the respondents are executives who do not work in HR, 72 per cent owners and presidents or c-level executives in general management, finance, operations and tech.

These results are quantifiable evidence that the CHRP, CHRL and CHRE designations are aligned with what the business community wants from HR. They are a resounding validation of the direction we have taken and the work that has taken place advancing the competency framework that supports our three-tier designation framework and our rigorous validation processes.

The numbers are in. Designations matter — and you don’t have to take our word for it.  

Bill Greenhalgh is the CEO of the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) in Toronto.

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