CCHRA focuses on 1 voice, 1 designation, 1 standard

Quebec mulling rejoining national body
By Sarah Dobson
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 09/04/2015

The past 18 months have seen plenty of changes at the Canadian Council of Human Resources Associations (CCHRA), from adjusting the policy around the National Knowledge Exam (NKE) to upgrading qualifications for the Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) designation. And then there was Ontario’s decision to pull its membership. 

But the national body is not slowing down. Just recently, it announced it had changed its structure significantly, with a redesigned philosophy, a new set of core principles and new bylaws.

It’s about being a strong, vibrant, national body that brings together Canada’s diverse HR voices to create one voice, one national standard and one designation, according to Roma Thorlakson, chair of both CCHRA and the Human Resource Management Association of Manitoba (HRMAM). 

“We are sending a clear message that we are one, we’re committed to one designation, especially as we move towards becoming self-regulated.”

Focus on collaboration

In moving the designation forward and implementing recommendations that came out of the practice analysis report, it’s important to collaborate with all the provinces, she said.

“We feel that national collaboration and that diversity of opinions and input that that brings really is what we need to advance our HR profession, both locally and globally.”

That diversity included Quebec’s Ordre des conseillers en ressources humaines agrées (CRHA) which has been involved as an observer — and it could rejoin the council later this year. CRHA left the national body in 2010.

“There’s a lot of value alignment there with Quebec and so we’re excited about the possibility that they may also want to be part of this,” said Thorlakson. “We see great potential for working together with Quebec.”

The likelihood is good Quebec will return, said Anthony Ariganello, CEO of CCHRA and president and CEO of the Vancouver-based Human Resources Management Association (HRMA).

“Quebec recognizes that they’ve been a lone wolf for a number of years but it’d be great to broaden and let their members know that they have an affiliation and maybe even a membership with the CCHRA as part of a national interest…. I think they’d be a full member. That’s what they’re considering.”

It looks like CCHRA is starting to really focus on the right things, said Dionne Pohler, assistant professor at the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon.

“To some extent, these are the things that frustrated Ontario and a long time ago Quebec as well, so I think they’re really starting to realize they need to ask these kinds of questions, but I do like the approach I see them taking and it’s… too bad that Ontario wasn’t still a major part of those conversations as a member.”

But if you go back eight to 10 years, the national council essentially had the idea of one national standard, one voice and one vote, said Bill Greenhalgh, CEO of the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) in Toronto. 

And the challenge is it can never be so with only seven provinces, he said.

“Bear in mind, CCHRA represents only about one-third of HR members who belong… to the provincial associations in Canada... so they can’t claim to have a national standard when 50 per cent of all the membership is part of HRPA and we have a standard that’s different to theirs.”

(The Ontario association introduced a three-level HR designation in 2014.)

Before HRPA left the council, Ariganello said he talked to Greenhalgh about some of his frustrations and he’s disappointed HRPA didn’t wait for CCHRA to make needed changes.

“I would have hoped we could have collaborated and worked together at reshaping (the council) and I agree — me, myself and others have noticed some of the weaknesses in terms of the model, the governance, the processes, the bylaws were pretty much outdated, how the voting structure worked and so on and so forth.”

One vote each

As part of the changes, each member association now has one vote on the council instead of using a weighted model.

“That to us is significant in that whether you’re one of the larger provinces like B.C. or Alberta or a medium-sized province like ours in Manitoba or a smaller province … we all have a voice, so I think that’s key to our philosophy,” said Thorlakson.

The one-member, one-vote approach will allow the provinces to have their voices heard, so there’s no one body dominating the conversation, said Pohler.

“But the challenge with that then is to know that larger provinces — similar to what happened with the two bigger provinces (Ontario and Quebec)… that are putting more money in start to say, ‘We’re putting all this money in, we need to see things that help us move the profession forward.’ So that’s why developing the culture is so important, so if that’s part of what the approach is, and committing to it publicly, within the member provinces, and also nationally, that will help definitely because it keeps people focused on the same philosophy.”

But one vote per province creates an issue because there are differences in terms of resources and capability, said Greenhalgh.

“So if you sit and say, ‘OK let’s debate what we would vote on,’ because of the different situations, you either end up with people saying, ‘Well, we’ll vote on a standard that we can all meet,’ which becomes a flight to the bottom, or ‘We vote on a standard that we should all try to meet,’ which some of them won’t be able to meet in any reasonable time frame.”

Obviously, there are challenges, but there can be adaptations, said Ariganello.

“What you want to do is have a national standard that makes sense and then you can adapt whatever you need to provincially,” he said. 

“At least (it’s about) having a national voice to say, ‘This is the general direction’ and then if you want to have a… much more stringent standard in your local province, because of a certain reason, go ahead but you can’t make it easier or you can’t not abide by at least the national minimum.”

The council is also adopting a super majority voting system that requires at least three-quarters of membership to support most decisions, said Ariganello.

“Clearly now we’re looking at a governance model that really speaks on behalf of the federation  and even board members who are appointed to the national body are coming there with the interest of the national as opposed to the provincial. 

“And I think before, it was very much focused on the provincial, in other words, ‘What’s good for me in my province? That’s why I’m here at the table.’”

Any board member must act in the interest of the corporation, not the individual, he said.

“Sadly, that was too much the case, so we weren’t even following, I think, good governance practices.”

Rules of conduct

CCHRA is also looking to introduce a complete code of ethics and rules of conduct for members later this year, which would be adapted provincially, said Ariganello. 

“Currently, we have a code of ethics but I think it goes beyond that in terms of recognizing HR as a profession and especially looking for self-regulation — we need to demonstrate that we also have rules of conduct for members and that there’s mechanisms in place to deal with member complaints and issues with respect to a member, and then upholding those standards.”

And CCHRA now has a chief staffing officer (CSO) council advising the board, said Thorlakson.

“That gives us the freedom to really be a strategic board and a strong governance board,” she said. 

“That’s what makes us much more agile and bolder — we can have the CSO council and our staff really taking on the implementation of whatever we need to do for our designation, and then that allows the board, the HR professionals to really look at the HR landscape, look at the emerging trends, look at what is happening in the business and public environment, and give direction accordingly.”

Education changes

CCHRA is also enhancing the process of obtaining the CHRP with changes that acknowledge the CCHRA-recognized education prospective candidates have and that provide a strong educational foundation and theory for practising HR. 

“We want to make sure that… people who are getting the designation are well-prepared and so we find that an educational theory, having a strong educational background, is highly important, so we’re going to make sure that our HR professionals see that in the certification process,” said Thorlakson.

The council is also looking at recognizing the education components of various bodies that teach the HR program similar to CHRP’s competencies, so it’s looking at accrediting a number of universities in Canada, just like Quebec has done, said Ariganello.


CCHRA has also signed memorandums of understanding with the Australian Human Resources Institute and the Hong Kong Institute of Human Resource Management.

“As a profession, we want to demonstrate that we’re just not insular, were not just looking at our own domestic market,” said Ariganello. “There are very similar issues, albeit the laws are different, but there’s a number of areas that are common around the world.

“We’re also talking to the U.S. and other bodies to collaborate with them and maybe issue research papers, some stakeholder papers, where either universities or governments might be interested in hearing certain subject matters that are affecting the human resources workplace.”

It’s important for CCHRA to establish it’s much more the voice of the HR profession from a pan-Canadian or pan-provincial perspective, said Pohler.

“When any one province speaks that they’re the voice of the profession, that’s problematic, so that might be a good strategic move on the part of CCHRA.”

But the council should not to get too far ahead of itself, without really understanding what it is offering and how to sort out transferability between provinces and self-regulation, she said.

“There’s a lot of internal work that needs to be done… They have to make sure they have their own house in order first, which they are definitely making the right steps towards.”

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