Flying high (HR Associations)

Canada's HR associations are focused on self-regulation, certification, professional development and the HR profession

Editor's note: In this annual feature, we talk to the heads of HR associations across Canada to find out what's on their agenda for the coming year. Provinces are listed here from West to East, plus we have interviews with the Canadian Society for Training and Development, the HRMS Professionals Association and the U.S.-based Society for Human Resource Management. 

CCHRA redesigning governance, operational structures
It’s a season of change for the Canadian Council of Human Resources Associations (CCHRA).

After some fairly large changes in leadership last fall — both on the staffing and volunteer fronts — the council is now looking ahead to even more change on the horizon, says Alykhan Bandali, Calgary-based interim chair.

“In terms of 2015, I think it’s a look-forward year to all the changes that we’re working on right now,” he says.

“We are currently reviewing our entire governance structure as well as operational structure, as well as redesigning both for the organization for recommendation to the board in the spring. So we’ve got a tall order, and we’re hard at it right now.”

The redesign committee plans to make its first round of recommendations to the board in March, says Bandali.

“There will be drastic changes to how the organization can be more effective and more efficient from what the structure looked like in the past.”

CCHRA, which has about 17,000 members in seven provincial member associations, will also focus on getting each province onboard — including Quebec and Ontario, which are not currently members, he says.

“Focusing on trying to work toward an inclusive membership of every province is really (an area of focus),” says Bandali.

“Even with Ontario moving in the direction that it’s in, we will never try to isolate any particular provincial association from being a part of (CCHRA). Our goal will still be to try to get everyone as a member of the national association.”

There’s some exciting potential on that front, as Quebec has been involved in the redesign plans, he says.

“Quebec is actually involved in the work that we’re doing right now to redesign the governance, the operations as well as the finance structure of CCHRA,” he says. “So, with that in mind, we’re very excited about the fact that Quebec will hopefully be renewing their membership with CCHRA in 2015.”

CCHRA will also continue to engage with the global HR community, says Bandali.

“We’ve reaffirmed our commitment and our place on the North American and the international federations and organizations, and they’ve been very happy to hear about not only our continued involvement and support, but also recognizing CCHRA as the Canadian representative,” he says.

“In fact, I’d say more than representative — in many of the calls that I’ve been involved in, they see us as an international leader in much of the work that we’ve been involved in on progressing the profession forward.”

B.C. rebrands, welcomes new CEO
Anthony Ariganello became CEO of the Human Resources Management Association (HRMA) in August with ambitious plans.

“I thought there was something I could bring to the table to hopefully move the organization forward,” he says. 

“B.C., I think, lags behind the other provinces, in terms of the ability. Although we’ve done well, I think the last two years have been flat when I compare it to Ontario and Quebec, for example. I think there’s tremendous opportunity.”

The Vancouver-based association had a busy year, most notably with a rebranding initiative that saw BC HRMA drop the “BC,” along with introducing a new logo. And in early February 2015, it is launching an advertising campaign that will include media outlets such as BC Business along with local newspapers, bus shelters and a new website (

“We’re actually wanting to drive awareness — not everyone knows about HRMA and specifically what our members do,” says Ariganello.

HRMA also has a new strategic plan that essentially is looking at the sustainability of the organization. 

For one, the association really wants to become the champion on HR matters in British Columbia and the Yukon, and to diligently serve the public interest, he says.

“We’re looking to get self-regulated, like Ontario and Quebec, so we’re working very hard with government to hopefully get legislation in in the next year or so.”

As part of the drive for self-regulation, the B.C. association is working to build alignment with various stakeholders including business and universities.

As part of the strategic plan, HRMA also wants to advance and advocate for the field of HR management, to be the leader in elevating the recognition and value of HR professionals, says Ariganello, through branding and the CHRP.

Thirdly, the 5,500-member group is focused on driving growth and increasing member satisfaction. This involves third-party alliances and creating mutual recognition agreements potentially with various cohorts around the world, including the United States, says Ariganello.

Alberta waiting for word on self-regulation
This past December was an important month for the Human Resource Institute of Alberta (HRIA) — it submitted its application for self-regulation to the Alberta government. 

“That was significant because there was an incredible amount of work done by the board, the staff and the members who volunteered to put the application together,” says Chris McNelly, the organization’s Calgary-based CEO. “It’s a big step.”

It will take some time for the application to be reviewed by government, says McNelly, who took the reins as CEO in 2014. 

“It’s difficult to gauge as to how low it’ll take — we’re cautiously optimistic that we’ll get some progress done in 2015. I think right now with the current economic climate in Alberta, there’ve been a few ripples I’m sure. But we hope that won’t deter the progress,” he says. “We’re very optimistic, based on the support we’ve received from our members as well as the public in general.”

HRIA, which has 6,058 members, will also be focusing on advocacy of the HR profession this year, says McNelly. 

“We want to continue to raise awareness with employers, industry, post-secondary and other key stakeholders out there that will support the HR profession and see the value of it being recognized under a self-regulated model,” he says. “We want to ensure that we’re aligning with other provinces, and we’re not getting left behind.” 

HRIA’s annual conference will take place in April, with the theme “Share, learn, be inspired.”

Another focus will be professional development, says McNelly. 

“This is a very important area for our members.” 

Research will also be important, he says.

“We want to ensure that we’re providing members and industry employers with credible and valid industry research in terms of HR trends, compensation.”

Manitoba puts focus on partnerships
Creating more partnerships and being visible in the community are among the key focus areas this year for the Human Resource Management Association of Manitoba (HRMAM). 

“We’ve been focusing on trying to create more partnerships, get out there more in the community. We’ve really been involved focusing on the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce,” says CEO Ron Gauthier. 

That particular partnership is important because the chamber solicits the province in terms of making policy recommendations — which could help as HRMAM continues to pursue self-regulation for the HR profession in Manitoba. 

Last year, HRMAM created a self-regulation task force to do research with other provinces that are already self-regulated or at some stage in the process, says Gauthier. That committee made a report towards the end of 2014 and now HRMAM has created a self-regulation steering committee. 

HRMAM, which has about 1,300 members, will also focus on partnerships in its professional development offerings for 2015. 
“Our members told us that they want relevant and timely PD that’s relevant for them, and so… we launched an accreditation program, where we’re sort of the facilitator and we accredit courses that members can take,” says Gauthier. 

It’s also offering a rejuvenated mentorship program and working toward the goals in its five-year strategic plan, announced in 2014. 

The association is in a strong financial position and the board has set up a special projects fund with a portion of its surplus. 
Another focus is around working with post-secondary institutions, says Gauthier. 

“We’ve communicated with all of the institutions the new CHRP framework that was launched last fall — changing from the knowledge-based to the competency-based — so that they can map their courses appropriately and do that change,” he says. 
“We’ve also increased our involvement with the students in all the institutions.”

Pursuit of self-regulation strong in Saskatchewan
Set to celebrate its 10-year anniversary in 2015, the Saskatchewan Association of Human Resource Professionals (SAHRP) is doing lots of good things to elevate the profession within the province, according to Greg Honey, president of the board of directors.

The theme at last year’s SAHRP conference was “Elevate the profession,” with the objective to inform members of the move towards being a Level 1, full-fledged profession in the eyes of stakeholders that include the public (and therefore the public interest) and employers. 

“We create a competitive advantage for our organizations through… programs and policies and procedures and creating the culture environment, all of that through people. And then the end result of all that is we’re actually a true profession,” says Honey.

“If we project this out into the future... then we’ll start to have more CHROs becoming CEOs of the organization because people are understanding that’s where the competitive advantage is.”

The association’s pursuit of self-regulation is in full tilt, according to Nicole Norton Scott, executive director and registrar at the Regina-based association. SAHRP made a submission to government and continues those discussions. 

The process has included updating the code of conduct, tightening complaints and discipline policies and procedures, and developing a strong governance process. 

This is driven by separating governance of the organization from operations and is supported by revised bylaws and a governance manual.  

“The government has not only accepted but they are very encouraging about the potential for our legislation,” says Honey. 

The association continues to work on elevating both the profession and the governance of the profession in the province to be able to support that, he says.

The 1,500-member SAHRP also ran a campaign to build awareness of the CHRP designation and emphasize that the association is committed to one certification.

“We believe that one designation (for Canada) is the way to go,” says Honey, referencing the move by the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) in Ontario to offer its own designation. The Toronto-based group is trying to attract HR professionals from other provinces, he says.

“We’re not worried about that in Saskatchewan because we’re going down the path of self-regulation,” says Norton Scott, adding Saskatchewan hopes to attain its goal by the fall of 2015 or, more likely, in the spring of 2016.

The association also decided it would no longer grant the Senior Human Resources Professional (SHRP) designation earlier in the year, as did HRPA. 

“It actually confused the profession and professionalization and it was based more on competencies than… a defensible knowledge examination and education that underpins it, which is where you’ve got to go to support true professionalization,” says Honey.

The association is also focusing on programming based on its new educational framework. And all professional development will be based on the nine functional domains of HR professionals, says Norton Scott.

SAHRP’s annual conference will be held Oct. 6-7. 

Ontario gets down to business 
The theme for this year’s Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) conference was “The Business of HR” — and it was an appropriate one. 

“It sort of ties together what we’ve been doing in the act and in the designations in the sense that all the work we’ve done is all about how HR professionals can add value to organizations,” says Bill Greenhalgh, Toronto-based CEO.

The theme encapsulated much of the major work HRPA — which has more than 21,000 members — did in 2013 and 2014, first around getting a provincial act to self-regulate the profession, and then creating three levels of HR designations in late 2014. 

The new designations — CHRP (Certified Human Resources Professional), CHRL (Certified Human Resources Leader) and CHRE (Certified Human Resources Executive) — are competency-based and that’s where the value-add is for organizations, says Greenhalgh.  

“It’s added a lot of clarity and it’s updated the knowledge and the competencies,” he says.

“To have one designation that covers the complete spectrum, from entry level right up to the senior level, didn’t really work very well. So now, organizations can look at the three levels and understand very clearly what we’re validating.”

A key focus for 2015 will be around marketing the new designations, says Greenhalgh. 

“We now have to introduce the validation processes — the exams, the tests, all the accreditation processes that go with it,” he says, adding that that will be a steady rollout throughout the year.

“We’ve also started working on a memorandum of understanding with other countries to recognize that body of knowledge.”

HRPA will also be rolling out new logos and branding that will be an evolution of its current branding, he says. Another focus will be working through a couple additional requirements of the act, such as taking on three government appointees to the HRPA board. 

There have been a lot of changes recently, but they have all greatly enhanced the credibility and visibility of the association, says Greenhalgh.

“You take all that together and it basically jumped the association to a whole new level.”

Quebec nears goal of 10,000 members
For the last few years, the Ordre des conseillers en ressources humaines agréés (CRHA) has worked hard to update its profession with the Quebec government in the field of competence.

The last time this was done was back in 1973 and there are 46 different professional designations in the province, says Florent Francoeur, president and CEO.

“We have to work on what is the frontier between one profession and the other,” he says. “It was not clear what a CHRP (Certified Human Resources Professional) can do and cannot do, and now we will have really our new field of competence, we will be included in the law.”

The association has also continued to focus on being more visible and strengthening the profession. With 9,700 members, CRHA is close to its goal of 10,000 members by 2016.

“Keep in mind, we are an association of full CHRP and only CHRP (holders),” says Francoeur. 

The association now has about 800 students but it also knows about 1,000 HR people will leave the profession in the next few years as one out of four workers in Quebec will retire, says Francoeur in Montreal.

The students are the only way to increase the membership, he says — and the 10,000 membership figure is just a target. 
“We want to build the profession, we are not at that place where we want to build an association — the association is there. But we are really focused on increasing the value of the CHRP designation.”

CRHA also endeavours to provide value to members through regular surveys, which show how fast the labour market is changing, he says. In Quebec, there are 5.4 million people between the age of 15 and 65 and that group is growing by only 2,000 people per year. 

“In Quebec, we will have more people leave… the workforce than people entering,” he says. 

“The challenges for HR people in Quebec over the next years is related to… how to keep our immigrants because in Quebec we are good (at) attracting immigrants but we are not good at keeping our immigrants.”

Nova Scotia, P.E.I. group develops new mission, vision and strategic plan
For the Human Resources Association of Nova Scotia (HRANS), last year was a time to assess, evaluate and set a new course.
“For us, 2014 was a pivotal year,” says Steven Ashton, president of HRANS, which has more than 1,000 members. “We developed a new mission and vision for the organization, then worked on a new strategic plan.”

That plan targets strengthening the HR profession as a whole in the region, and empowering HR professionals with the tools they need to address the community’s needs. There are a lot of changes going on in Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, says Ashton, so a valued HR professional with an up-to-date portfolio of skills and knowledge will help organizations weather the storm and make the most of opportunities.

For one thing, the provinces are dealing with an aging workforce as well as increasing health challenges. For HR, this translates into a strong need to find sustainable ways to recruit and retain talent. 

“That includes finding ways to keep people healthy and safe on the job,” says Ashton. “We need some really progressive programs to address these issues.”

The region has also seen upheavals with respect to labour relations, thanks in large part to changes in the economic landscape and new legislation and mergers in the health-care sector. 

“When we look at 2015 and beyond, I think we have a huge amount of work to do when it comes to recovering and rebuilding trust between employers, employees and our partners in the labour arena,” says Ashton. 

As for other big trends, Ashton points to recent headline-grabbing news events. “It’s hard not to comment on what happened at the CBC (with former host Jian Ghomeshi) and at the Dalhousie University dentistry program (with students posting inflammatory comments online),” he says. 

“These are broader issues of organizational culture and respectful workplaces, and they affect us all. As HR professionals, we have a huge role to play in this conversation.” 

Involvement in and education around change leadership should be part of the professional conversation in 2015, as well, says Ashton. 

There is often pressure to respond to these issues with knee-jerk responses.

“But it’s not always that easy,” says Ashton. “These are often complex, systemic issues and we need to take the time to carefully consider and look at the problem.”  

The association’s annual conference, taking place May 26 and 27 in Halifax, will zero in on many of these issues.

New Brunswick to launch mentorship program
In 2014, the Human Resources Association of New Brunswick (HRANB) titled its annual conference “Riding the Wave” — a metaphor about adapting to changing economic times in the province. 

The conference, held in November, was the highlight of the year for the association, says Pierre Simoneau, president of the Moncton-based HRANB. 

Traditionally held over two days, organizers tightened the program to run just a day-and-a-half, to accommodate tighter travel budgets. 

Those reduced budgets are evident nearly everywhere, says Simoneau.

“The economy in New Brunswick is difficult,” he says. “There have been a lot of closures.”

Many of those who lost their jobs have moved out of the region, says Simoneau. The province also has an aging workforce, so recruiting qualified people is an ongoing challenge.

“Some employers are finding success in hiring retired people,” he says, adding that many seniors are interested in taking on a less challenging role or something part-time or with more flexible hours.

Down the road, newer trends may emerge as well, says Simoneau. 

“The slowdown in the national economy may be an opportunity for New Brunswick firms.” 

Also coming this year, the association, which has just over 900 members, will launch a new province-wide mentorship program. 
HRANB also has plans for a membership survey this calendar year.

“We’re looking forward to getting some feedback from our members this year,” he says.

“It’s important to make sure we’re meeting their needs and heading in the right direction.” 

Newfoundland and Labrador grows student membership
The Human Resources Professionals of Newfoundland and Labrador (HRPNL) is the smallest of the nation’s HR associations in terms of members. Despite this, the association managed to grow its audience last year, develop new partnerships and further establish its influence, according to Neil Coombs, president.

“We partnered with Memorial University and offered a scholarship for HR students who are members,” he says.

“The goal was to increase student membership and get more young people involved with the association.” 

The 200-member association also extended its reach and influence across the country.

“We had more members of our board become involved at the national level on panels and committees with the CCHRA,” says Coombs. 

In 2014, St. John’s-based HRANS held well-attended professional development events for members and took internal steps to streamline its procedures to ensure smoother growth. 

The year also saw continuing shifts for the role of HR professionals in the province.

“The biggest trend that stands out to me is the opportunity in skilled trades,” he says. “(We’re) seeing more HR professionals and recruiters getting creative in how we attract people to the province.” 

The year ahead offers more of the same growth and progress, says Coombs. 

“I’m excited about the increased involvement with the CCHRA and working with the other Atlantic associations,” he says. 

“We’re focused on growing the association... One of our objectives is to raise the profile of HR in the province and have it recognized by government and industry as a top-tier profession.” 

CSTD re-imagines its role in Canadian landscape
This will be an exciting year for the Canadian Society for Training and Development (CSTD). Armed with a new strategic plan, the society will be rebranding and re-imagining its role in the Canadian landscape. 

Last year, Rob Pearson came onboard as president of the 2,850-member association, and the board approved a five-year strategic plan.

“It’s the first time that CSTD has begun to push out the planning horizon that long,” says Pearson. “So that gives staff and it also gives the board and indeed our chapter network and ultimately our members, I think, a crisper sense of where we want to go in the future and how we all have to be aligned to drive growth.”

2015 will be about beginning to execute on some of the priorities of that plan, he says. 

“Probably the biggest thing that we’re looking to do this year is to rebrand, and rebrand in a way that will make the CSTD tent a little bigger. And I think that’s going to be very exciting for our members and I think very exciting for the broader stakeholder network.” 

The rebranding is still in the planning stage right now but will be officially unveiled in 2015. 

“Along with that will be a much more dynamic digital presence for the association and I think that’s really critical. If we’re serious about telling our story more powerfully, our digital presence has to be way more than just a place where members can go and do transactional stuff and find out when the next event is. So we’re going to be investing in more dynamic content curation for the website, and we’ll probably be looking to bring some expertise in-house to help us with that,” says Pearson. 

“That’s a pretty big and bold change agenda for this year — but it’s pretty exciting.”

HR tech association to celebrate 10 years
The HRMS Professionals Association (HRMSP) will be celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2015.

That tenure shows there is still a need in the market for an exchange on technology in the human resources field, says Martine Castellani, president of the Toronto-based association.

In 2014, HRMSP received its Certificate of Continuance, issued under the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Acts, from Industry Canada. It also complied with Canada’s anti-spam law (CASL) and more than three-quarters of its readers have given consent, meaning they wish to stay in contact and be informed, she says.

HRMSP’s membership remains stable at roughly 100 members, says Castellani.

“Although membership is important, we prefer to improve on the number of people we attract to sessions. To date, we reached out to over 4,450 people.”

Going forward, the association is redesigning its website to reflect the association’s mission to be “THE source for professionals on human resources management systems (HRMS).” It will be adding features to help professionals in their business mandates, which will roll out this spring, says Castellani.

HRMSP is also preparing road show sessions in eastern Canada.

As for the HRMS community, self-service portals and mobility remain popular topics, says Castellani. 

“These technologies are ways to improve efficiency and effectiveness to employees, managers and corporations in general — not forgetting that the cloud solution is a major trend on the market and for some, it is still a debate.”

U.S. association launches new designation
It’s been an exciting year for the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), to put it lightly. 

Last summer, the Alexandria, Va.-based association announced it was launching its own HR designation, the SHRM Certified Professional (SHRM-CP) and SHRM Senior Certified Professional (SHRM-SCP). 

Previously, the association had worked with the HR Certification Institute (HRCI) in offering various HR designations, including the Professional in Human Resources (PHR) and Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR).

“We have been working on our competency model for a number of years and so identifying the SHRM certification in May and planning for the launch in 2015 has really been exciting,” says Deb Cohen, senior vice-president of knowledge development at SHRM.

The response from HR professionals has been very positive, she says.

“Anything new, people are sort of, ‘Tell me about this,’ but once they hear about it, once they hear how we developed our competency model and how we’re applying the model to the new certification, people are very excited about it. They think, as we do, that this is really going to take the HR profession to the next level.”

As part of that, the association is offering holders of HR generalist credentials in good standing — as of Jan. 31, 2015 — a “bridge” to the new designations up until the end of 2015. 

The core of the process is an online tutorial that provides an overview of the SHRM Competency Model and explores how it supports professional development. 

Programs eligible for the online pathway include the Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP), the Professional in Human Resources (PHR) and  the Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (MCIPD). These programs were chosen based on generalist certification, says Cohen.

“It’s got to be obviously a credible certification… and obviously being known and well-regarded.”

By the end of January, more than 16,000 people had completed the tutorial to receive SHRM’s new designation, she says.
In 2014, the association also launched an “advancing HR” campaign that included a TV commercial as well as print and digital advertising in “top business markets,” says Cohen.

“As we put out this competency model and as we put out the certification, that’s great for HR professionals but, frankly, the business community needs to hear about it as well, business professionals need to understand what HR is doing to help advance HR and to advance business, so the campaign is really key not just from an HR perspective but from a business perspective.”

The association has also been busy conducting surveys on a variety of topics such as benefits, job satisfaction, health-care reform, employee recognition and social media. It tries to pick topics in talent management and other areas of interest to members, says Cohen.

In 2014, the association started a job pulse survey that looks at jobs in the HR space, looking at employment in HR, what HR professionals are seeing, whether they will look for a job and how confident they are when it comes to finding a job, she says.
The 280,000-member SHRM has also been doing a lot of work looking at the aging workforce, says Cohen.

And for 2015?

“We are going to stay as focused as we can on certification and we’re going to stay focused on our annual conference (in Las Vegas) and I think we’re going to stay focused on our mission which is serving the core and advancing the profession and helping people understand, particularly HR professionals, what does it mean to be an HR professionals and what do you know and to be able to do and how do you have to behave to be prepared, and that’s what a competency model is all about.”

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