Checking in with HRPA’s 3-tier designation

More than one-half of senior business leaders view impact of designations 'very favourably'
By Bill Greenhalgh
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 11/16/2015

It’s been one year already — one year since the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) introduced an updated HR competency framework and three new designations. 

And the most immediate impact has been on HRPA’s membership numbers, which have jumped seven per cent (with member retention climbing to 91 per cent) since the launch last November.

Those numbers are clear evidence of the strong support HRPA members have for the association’s efforts to modernize a certification framework — which hadn’t been updated in 15 years — and the value they see in the new designations. 

When HRPA was consulting with more than 2,000 members, academics and business people on the new framework, it was clear a single designation  — the original Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP) — could not work for the HR profession because HR’s scope of practice, from the administrative and transactional work performed by junior HR professionals to the strategic work performed by HR executives, is so deep and broad. 

The three new designations — the entry-level CHRP, the professional-level Certified Human Resources Leader (CHRL) and the executive-level Certified Human Resources Executive (CHRE) — provide a practical solution by certifying knowledge and capability for all stages of an HR professional’s career path. 

And these are not easy designations to earn. For example, the CHRL will require more structured experience at a professional level, and both the CHRP and CHRL will require a jurisprudence exam to certify knowledge of employment law.

However, this new rigour has been welcomed by members — they are using their new designations in email signatures, business cards and correspondence. 

The reaction from the business community has been equally encouraging. More than 56 per cent of senior business leaders answered “very favourably” when asked how the new framework and designations would affect their view of HR, according to a survey of 102 respondents.

Post-secondary schools

The response from Ontario post-secondary schools offering HR programs has also been positive. Previously, from the college perspective, if a person didn’t have a degree, it was a challenge to earn a designation and that made it difficult to get a job. Now, a person can come out of school with an HR diploma, pass the Certified Knowledge Exam Level 1 (CKE 1) exam and she’s ready to practise at the entry CHRP level. 

At the degree level, HRPA has worked with about a dozen universities and degree-granting colleges that now have business department representatives meeting regularly to discuss the competency model and what they need to do to ensure students get the education to meet it. 

The schools have responded so well to the new competency model because it’s well-defined and spells out what HR professionals need to know and do. The schools aren’t told how to teach it but they understand that students need this knowledge and this capability to earn the designations and practise HR effectively.

Other HR associations

At the core of HRPA’s new competency framework is a common body of knowledge — and that (along with protection of the public) is what defines professionalism. Accounting and engineering are the same no matter where they are practised globally — and the same should apply for HR. 

HRPA has talked with other associations around the world about the need for a common body of knowledge as the foundation for the HR profession, and those that offer designations — such as the United Kingdom’s Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), the Australian Human Resources Institute and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) in the United States — are all working in the same direction as HRPA. 

Last year, HRPA signed a memorandum of understanding with the Australian and New Zealand HR associations to share best practices and hopefully develop a common body of knowledge together. 

Over the years, HRPA has made major advances with its new government act, regulatory authority, public protection, mandatory HR academic courses, partnerships with other countries, a code of ethics and Rules of Professional Conduct. In that time, it has consistently encouraged and personally supported associations affiliated with the Canadian Council of Human Resources Associations (CCHRA) to follow suit so, hopefully, they will get to where HRPA is today, as soon as possible. 

However, the profession is changing quickly and business needs do not stand still. The profession’s ultimate goal of providing HR excellence and business value to organizations must be about more than meeting today’s best practices, more than just “catching up.” What will be delivered has to be fit for future purpose at the time it is delivered.

HRPA has always been available to support other provinces as needed and it will continue that approach because it knows from experience how easy it can be to underestimate the resources and effort required to make these advances. 

However, it is worth noting that the governance model CCHRA recently adopted is exactly the same as the one that was rejected as unworkable five years ago. This will not make catching up any easier.

Ideally, HRPA and the other Canadian HR associations should be able to build a common structure for the profession. But, in the past two years alone, HRPA has moved so far ahead in designations, regulation, competency models, governance processes and association effectiveness that, right now, this just isn’t practical. 

The association would either have to backtrack, or delay, and that would do a disservice to its members. 

Protection of the public

HRPA’s primary role, as set out in the Registered Human Resources Professionals Act, 2013, is to protect the public. And everything it has accomplished recently is with that mandate in mind. Membership has grown and a consequence of a broader membership is better protection of the public. The more HR professionals who are members — all of whom must abide by HRPA’s code of conduct, maintain their designations and HR knowledge by continuing professional development and face sanctions for non-compliance — the better HRPA can fulfil its public protection mandate.

This is a journey. Here in Ontario, it will take about three years to put all the pieces in place. But, in the end, HRPA will have a suite of designations recognized and valued by all stakeholders — not only by those who hire HR professionals but by employees, other professionals and the public at large. In turn, this new designation framework will enhance the careers of members.

The key to success, as Wayne Gretzky said, is “not to skate where the puck is right now, but to where it will be when you get there.” That is exactly what HRPA is doing — building on a strong foundation to evolve rapidly as work changes; and anticipating and meeting the future needs of the profession.

Bill Greenhalgh is CEO of the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA), the regulator of the HR profession in Ontario.

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