Membership has its privileges

Canada’s HR associations deliver range of benefits to HR professionals
By Sarah Dobson
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 09/21/2011

Brad Sluiter joined the Human Resources Institute of Alberta (HRIA) two years ago so he could attain his certified human resources professional (CHRP) designation. But the association provides more value than just the certification, he says.

HRIA imparts plenty of updates about what’s going on in the HR world, especially from an Alberta standpoint, says Sluiter, an HR manager at the Glencoe Golf and Country Club and the Glencoe Club in Calgary.

“Legislation changes from province to province so it’s really good to have some information that’s coming from Alberta, new rules and regulations, human rights information.”

Sluiter has also met many contacts at various HRIA events.

“(There’s) a sense of pride, a sense of that continuous improvement in yourself and your career and it’s neat to belong to something and it’s a great opportunity to network and meet other people,” he says. “It’s sort of like the accountants have their CGA (Certified General Accountants) and CMA (Certified Management Accountants) and they do development and it’s good to see HR has something and it’s good to be part of something like that.”

In a broader context, most individuals are looking to organizations that are in line with their personal and professional interests and to be part of a larger community of like-minded individuals, says Nora Molina, executive director of HRIA.

“Most people look to it as a means to enhance themselves professionally, to make the contacts, but also have the opportunity to take advantage of services those HR associations offer, services that would be opportunities for learning through professional development activities, use of a job board, professional development events, conference events and other types of networking functions.”

If you really care about your career and where you’re going with your career, you join, says Bob Bayles, president of the Saskatchewan Association of Human Resource Professionals (SAHRP).

“Associations tie together opportunities for professional development for all members, regardless of where they are in their career, so that’s important,” he says.

“All HR professionals, no matter where you are, whether it’s entry level or C-suite, networking or hearing what other people are doing with promising practices is always something that people are looking for,” he says.

Networking is one of several member benefits listed by the Human Resources Association of Nova Scotia (HRANS), along with professional development, monthly chapter meetings with guest speakers, volunteer opportunities, member discounts on events and advertising, and online resources and tools.

It is important to be a member, to support the profession and help it grow, says Christine Parent, manager of human resources at the Heart and Stroke Foundation in Calgary and a member of HRIA and the HR Association of Calgary (HRAC) for 14 years.

Membership definitely helps individuals develop career-wise through opportunities that may otherwise not be available, she says.

“The support you can receive from colleagues in the profession is invaluable as you tap into unlimited knowledge and resources through networking.”

Newer HR professionals have much to gain

Membership can be especially helpful for people who are in the early days of their career or coming into a new community and are keen to get connected, says Molina.

The HRIA’s website is also well-appreciated by rural members because they don’t have as many opportunities for face-to-face service, says Molina. The association works hard to ensure all members experience seamless service, whether aligned with a local chapter or the provincial group.

“Certainly, members in remote rural areas are going to have very different needs than members that are in the large urban centres,” says Molina.

Building connections through mentoring programs offered by the HR associations is especially helpful for newer members, says Bayles.

“It’s one thing to have book knowledge; it’s another thing to be mentored by a member who has been around the barn a couple of times.”

While it’s certainly more common for people new to the HR profession to seek out membership, one-half of HRIA’s members are long-term professionals who have been with the association for more than 20 years, says Molina. Along with seeking networking opportunities, many senior members are pursuing their CHRP designation.

There is a greater emphasis on ethics and accountability in the workplace and with that comes an increase in designations and demand for designations, whether that’s in accounting, finance or HR, says Molina.

“All of those professions have seen a significant rise in individuals pursuing those designations because they realize business and the public are looking for individuals who are credible and ethical to provide their advisory services,” she says.

A huge reason to join an HR association is the HR designation, says Bayles.

“We’ve seen it out here in Saskatchewan but I know it’s right across Canada — most (job) ads now, from entry level to senior ones, are looking for ‘CHRP,’ if not as a requirement, as a significant consideration.”

More recently, the senior human resources professional (SHRP) designation, offered in several provinces, gives members the opportunity to talk with people at their same level, in a confidential manner, about challenges and new trends and to learn from each other, he says.

“Because the associations are starting to disaggregate a bit some of their programming, the more senior folks are appreciating that as well,” says Bayles.

Some members looking for more

But the associations could do more, according to Vince Lenza, an area manager at a major retailer in Red Deer, Alta., citing the move by accountants to further legitimize their expertise through federal legislation.

“Yes, there’s a designation, great, but it’s not that strong because we haven’t quite got to the point where they’re trying to lobby the legislation to be changed,” he says. “Many people say that is coming but it’s painfully slow.”

The Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) in Ontario, for example, is one provincial association that is keen to have HR professionals regulated in a manner similar to accountants.

There are some members looking for that kind of move, says Molina.

“It’s actually a conversation we want to explore further with our membership,” she says. “There’s a lot of intricacies of legislation in HR so we need to make sure we understand from the membership what their views are on it and also what’s in the best interest of the HR profession and the public.”

And Lenza, an HRIA member since 2010, says he still believes in the association and will continue to renew his membership.

“There’s still a potential for it to become the vehicle that legitimizes the field so I would continue to support it.”

A weekly email to members listing new companies looking for CHRPs in Alberta is one service Lenza says he appreciates, along with the association’s magazine and online forum.

The HRIA puts out a quarterly newsletter with topics and articles that are relevant and timely, says Sluiter.

“They have a real grasp, a real handle on what’s happening in the HR world, in our province.”

The associations’ job boards are also helpful for recruiting and assessing the market, says Sluiter, and members can post items at a discount.

“A lot of the positions are promoting the CHRP through that and the HRIA is a strong proponent of having that designation and building that designation to be more respectable in the industry,” he says. “They’re really making a push that HR should have a seat at the management table and be a key decision-maker.”

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