Introduced five years ago, the Senior Human Resources Professional (SHRP) designation is still a rarity in Canada, with just four SHRPs in Saskatchewan and about 200 in Ontario.
So it might not come as a complete surprise to hear the Saskatchewan Association of Human Resource Professionals (SAHRP) has announced it will no longer grant the designation.
“The focus for the SAHRP will be on the granting and recertification of the Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) designation,” it said in a release on its website.
“The work of the national body (Canadian Council of Human Resources Association), with involvement from the provincial associations over the past couple of years, has focused exclusively on the CHRP to ensure the qualifications and standards in achieving the CHRP designation are consistent nationally and are both reliable and valid.”
Low numbers a challenge
In some respects, the low number of SHRPs in Saskatchewan is a revelation, according to Gary Mearns, vice-president of HR at Federated Co-Operatives in Saskatoon. An SHRP, he said he knows others in senior roles in the province who would certainly qualify.
“It’s maybe a reflection of the busy lives that people have in senior roles that maybe they haven’t taken the time, or potentially (it’s) the perceived value as to really what difference is it going to make — there’s always some of that too,” said Mearns.
“First of all, you’ve got to market something pretty extensively to get people to see the value of it. But I think that’s the big part of it: Why do it, what is it really going to do? Maybe people haven’t thought about that it’s necessarily going to change a whole lot for their career, and again it’s the time factor.”
When Mearns applied, it was partly about setting an example, he said.
“I’ve been strong in my career about the whole importance of raising the profile of the HR role in organizations, so I saw this as a natural evolution,” said Mearns.
“I try to always encourage my team members within my HR group… to constantly upgrade their skills and their knowledge and why it’s important to stay current in your field, so I feel I have to lead by example.”
JoAnne Trotter, director of change and learning at McCain Foods in Toronto, and an SHRP, is unsure about the impact of the SHRP on her career.
“I’m not sure it’s as prevalent out in the public. It’s known within the HR profession but I couldn’t say if someone actually looked for SHRPs in order to select me as a candidate. I don’t think it’s as well-known yet, so I think there’s still some marketing that needs to (be done),” she said.
“CEOs and business leaders, I don’t think, are as familiar with the standards of our profession as they might be with the standards of accounting.”
But it’s still very valuable, said Trotter.
“It is a differentiator because of the assessment process,” she said. “There aren’t hundreds of SHRPs, there is a limited number within a broad range of human resources professionals, so it’s more of an elite group and their profession recognizes that and offers specified opportunities for SHRPs.
“It, to me, recognizes a different level of maturity within the profession, and when I say maturity, it’s just not about tenure, it’s about breadth of experience and strategic application. And demonstrating some capability, like the ability to have a breadth of knowledge and experience, and sit at the table versus being transactional… I mean, you can be 20 years in HR but reach a level (where) you haven’t applied strategy, you are just doing transactional HR.”
Ontario focuses on multi-level value
In introducing the SHRP, the HRPA wanted to provide value at all levels, said Bill Greenhalgh, CEO of the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) in Toronto.
“At the time, we were finding that there was a tendency for the organization to really cater to people at the entry level and the mid-level, but not much focus at the senior level.
“So it wasn’t just a matter of introducing a new designation, it was actually a combination of the designation itself and then programs and activities for people at that level that were relevant and appropriate.
“It was a chance for us to involve senior people in the association and provide programs and networking and what I would call narrow and deep programs of professional development.”
The HRPA realized from the start there was a limited number of potentials for the SHRP — probably about 500 in total in Ontario — according to Greenhalgh, adding they thought it would take some years to get to that number.
“It’s moving along, it’s healthy and… there’s a sort of virtuous circle there — the more people join, the more people are interested in joining, that kind of thing,” he said.
“And it’s not an easy designation to get. If there is one comment that we’ve received back, that we’ve been working on, is that it is quite cumbersome and difficult. But then it’s a very valuable designation so, to some extent, you have to walk a fine line here.”
It’s possible some of the other provinces don’t have many people in that senior category, but Saskatchewan’s decision does not affect the designation in Ontario, he said.
“All the provinces are fully responsible for their designation, so our designations are offered within Ontario. There is comparability across the country. We, of course, recognize the CHRP, although (it’s) awarded in slightly different ways in different provinces, but… 99 per cent of the time, each province is focused on its own designation, within its own territory, so the fact that we have a SHRP, it’s basically for our members, and if other associations want to pick it up and run with it, they’re welcome to do so. But again they would be awarding it within their own geographic region.”
An HR professional from another province could pursue the designation in Ontario since there is no residency requirement. However, she would have to become a member of HRPA to be granted and hold the designation, according to Mara Berger, co-ordinator in the office of the registrar at the HRPA.
“Since no other province grants the SHRP, they would need to contact the HR association in the other province to determine whether that association would mutually recognize the designation once it has been granted in Ontario if they would like to have the SHRP recognized in that province as well.”
The SHRP would have more value if it was offered across Canada, according to Trotter.
“It would be nicer if it was offered Canada-wide,” she said, because it would have more auspices to it and greater transportability.
“It would be in everybody’s best interest to maintain it as a national designation.”
To make a success of the designation requires a threefold approach, said Greenhalgh, with activities around promotion, retention and exclusivity.
“There’s no point in having a designation if it’s just a piece of paper… There have to be benefits in having it. We’ve done a lot of work in making sure that there is value in getting it, there’s exclusivity in it in terms of some of the programs that we offer… and you’ve got to make sure that as the numbers grow, they become ambassadors for the program itself,” he said.
“When you’ve got 150, 200, that helps a lot; if you only have single figures, then it’s very difficult to maintain it, but you really have to kind of put time and effort in to get that momentum upfront, to get the big rock rolling and, after you’ve got it rolling, you just need to keep pushing it every so often to keep it moving.”
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