Having made waves last year in announcing it was introducing a new certification — and parting ways with the HR Certification Institute (HRCI) — the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) in the United States is now offering an online tutorial pathway to earn that certification.
Current holders of HR generalist certification — including Canada’s Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) — have until the end of 2015 to obtain SHRM’s new certification in three “simple steps”: documenting their current certification is in good standing; signing the SHRM code of ethics; and completing a “brief” online tutorial focusing on HR competencies.
The latter is an educational program that focuses on the eight behavioural competencies found in SHRM’s Competency Model and Body of Competency and Knowledge. There are five modules, including an interactive tool to create a competency self-portrait and scenario-based questions found on the certification exams. The scenarios and question examples are not scored but give participants exposure to how competencies are being assessed in its exams, according to SHRM.
This is a rare situation and a one-time option, said Alex Alonso, vice-president for research and SHRM certification in Alexandria, Va.
“We want to acknowledge that individuals have worked hard for existing credentials and that they’ve developed a foundation of knowledge that is recognized through an existing generalist credential. We did not feel it was appropriate to supply the burden of full testing for these individuals.
“We felt that it was incumbent upon us to offer them a solution that acknowledged their knowledge domain and their knowledge mastery but also then focused on helping them build proficiency in their competencies or at least maintain the proficiency.”
The completion rate has been “remarkably high,” he said, as more than 16,000 people have already certified using the tutorial.
“We are seeing more and more individuals go through it and respond that this was a reasonable process, it was a process that helped them understand what competency-based certification is and, more importantly, that they feel they’re more prepared now to structure their professional development experience and their recertification process.”
For Bonni Titgemeyer, managing director of HR consultancy the Employers’ Choice in Toronto, the online pathway was a fairly painless process to attaining the SHRM-SCP, she said.
“I wouldn’t have said that it was easy... it doesn’t take you very long to go through it but it is very focused, it’s very U.S.-centric and… sometimes just the logic of why you might do things in a certain order can be different in different countries,” said Titgemeyer.
The competency self-portrait was particularly helpful, she said.
“I haven’t seen a tool that did it quite like that. At the end of the exercise, that was probably the best takeaway for my hour-and-a-half of time that I spent on it.”
But SHRM’s new certification has not been accredited and the pathway is not really an assessment, according to Linda Anguish, director of certification products at HRCI in Alexandria, whose various certifications are also eligible for the SHRM pathway.
“There’s no additional assessment there beyond what people have already proven by earning their PHR or their SPHR or whatever certification they’re getting credit for,” she said. “Earning additional letters for that exercise, they’re not really being earned.”
It’s basically a free learning opportunity or webinar-type opportunity where it appears people can’t fail, said Anguish.
“It’s really just an educational process. And, as such, to me, that type of an activity, that’s probably something that’s suitable for a continuing education exercise or something along those lines.”
‘Clear strategy,’ says HRPA
SHRM has a clear strategy, said Claude Balthazard, vice-president of regulatory affairs and privacy officer at the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) in Toronto.
“Basically, they look at it as a product and what do you do when you launch a product? You want to get as much market share as you can, so they’ll recognize everything. It’s meant to mainly take market share from HRCI,” he said.
“By lowering the standard, you can go for market share in the short term. That’s not the strategy that we’re up to.”
Ultimately, the value of designations is not the eyes of the member but in the eyes of the user of that professional service, said Balthazard.
And designations that are more valued are harder to get, he said.
“For us, it’s not the idea of making a designation easy to get so that everybody can get it; the point is more to have a designation that has value in the marketplace, which means necessarily that it cannot be that easy to get.”
HRPA is about being a profession and there’s more to that than just a designation, such as regulation and statutory sanction by the government, said Balthazard.
“For us, there’s a whole package of professionalization, which includes the ethics, the values, the outlook, the approach — everything. We’ve also approached it not as a commercial product but as a real profession and that’s why we pursued legislation, so what we do is commensurate with tier-one professions,” he said.
“If you want a designation that will stand shoulder to shoulder with the CPA’s, you’re not going to get it done with a one-hour thing — it just won’t add up in the end.”
But will employers know the difference? HRPA will do its best to make them understand the designations, said Balthazard.
“The unfortunate part is before it all sorts out, SHRM may…. just create more confusion in the marketplace.”
HRCI’s Anguish agreed.
“The fact that you get letters at the end of the process, I think it potentially can add confusion into the whole marketplace as to what a certification is.”
But most organizations would appreciate the relevant professional bodies and with recruitment, HR professionals certainly would, said Victoria Winkler, head of assessment at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in London, U.K. The institute’s MCIPD and FCIPD are also eligible for the pathway.
“Obviously, we would hope that employers, and certainly they do, see the relevance of our standards and because of everything we’ve done around our profession — which has been engaging with employers, engaging with researchers, engaging with thinkers — we are hopeful that they feel that the profession map and standards represent them as well,” she said.
“SHRM is taking an approach that they feel is right for them... For us, we do have quite a detailed accreditation approach, whether that be based on qualifications or experience, and that’s certainly something that we will continue.”
SHRM’s pathway shows a growing agenda across the globe, said Winkler.
“We’re certainly being much more proactive about pursuing an international agenda but also looking at what synergies there are with other professional bodies across the globe.”
For Titgemeyer, decisions need to be made when it comes to which certifications to keep.
“There’s no room left on my business card... and the cost of maintaining all those PD credits for all those designations is getting tougher and tougher.”
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