CHRPs should be leading, not following (Guest Commentary)

Why benchmark against standards that make it hard to enter profession?
By Laura Negraeff
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 06/15/2012

While I agree with the sentiment behind raising the esteem of the Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) designation, I am concerned with the growing trend towards making exclusivity the benchmark of validity.

The guest commentary by Brian Kreissl in the June 4 issue of Canadian HR Reporter (“Taking HR certification to next level”) suggests the CHRP should have more coursework, a broader knowledge base and a more structured experience requirement, but neglects to consider the consequences of such changes.

While the author notes the cost of graduate studies is often prohibitive for many people, he fails to recognize his suggested changes to the CHRP would also be costly and just as prohibitive for many Canadians.

As human resources professionals, we should be leading the charge towards creating a more inclusive and representative workforce.

We know better than any group that impending labour shortages will require the engagement of a broader demographic of workers. Yet, we continuously strive to align our standards with professions whose requirements have led to a poor representation of women, Aboriginal Peoples, persons with a disability and visible minorities in senior leadership positions.

I do not mean any disrespect to designations such as the CGA, CMA and CA but their rigorous standards undeniably create exclusion and, going forward, if the validity of these exclusions cannot be justified, they might need to be reassessed.

I would like to believe the standards for any professional designation are adopted in good faith but HR professionals know doing something in good faith does not make it right or even legal.

One topic that is seldom discussed is the adverse impact rigorous designation standards have on members of Canada’s protected groups.

Take the degree requirement needed for the CHRP (and for every accounting designation) as an example. On its face, the requirement seems reasonable. However, when you consider educational attainment rates are not equal across the Canadian population, we must recognize there is real potential for systemic discrimination to occur.

In 2006, the Canadian Council on Learning found only eight per cent of Aboriginal Peoples aged 25 to 64 had a university degree, compared to 23 per cent of the general Canadian population. When you consider this, it is impossible to deny the degree requirement creates a disproportionate disadvantage to Aboriginal Canadians.

This is ironic considering many human resources professionals point to the growing Aboriginal population as key to solving Canada’s impending labour crisis.

While there is work that needs to be done to take the CHRP to the next level, I do not believe this means we need to continuously benchmark ourselves against old standards and make it increasingly difficult to enter the HR profession.

If we want to be treated as leaders and strategic partners, we need to act the part. We might start by developing a unique model for professional certification — one that ensures a high degree of knowledge, skill and professionalism, but one that is accessible and helps to correct the under-representation of equity groups in senior leadership positions.

Perhaps if we did this, other professions would start validating themselves against our standards.

Laura Negraeff is a business administration instructor at the Saskatchewan Indian Institute of Technologies in Saskatoon, a post-secondary institute offering training and education programs to First Nations adults in Saskatchewan. She can be reached at negraeffl@siit.ca.

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