Global HR program heads north

Prep courses for GPHR designation now being offered by SHRM in Canada

When the Alexandria, Va.-based Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) began offering a global HR designation in 2004, Brad Boyson knew it was something he had to do.

“It screamed out to me: ‘This is who you are and what you do,’” said the Vancouver-based manager of shipboard HR for Royal Caribbean International Cruise Lines.

After he received the Global Professional in Human Resources (GPHR) certification, he was put in charge of the company’s shipboard HR function for its expansion into Southeast Asia and China.

“As the only person in my company that has the GPHR certification, I am all but certain that having the GPHR designation helped separate me from others who also wanted that project,” he said.

The Human Resources Certification Institute, a SHRM affiliate, began developing the global designation in 2001 and the first certification exam was offered in March 2004. The designation covers six topic areas: strategic HR management; organizational effectiveness and employee development; global staffing; international assignment management; global compensation and benefits; and international employee relations and regulations.

The certification is open to anyone who wants to write the exam and there are 13 examination sites in Canada.

More than 800 people hold the designation, 15 of whom are Canadian. However, prior to this fall, Canadians who wanted to get the certification had to do the preparation work on their own or travel to the United States to take part in the certification prep course.

With nearly 700 SHRM members in Canada, Susan Meisinger, president and CEO of SHRM, said it made sense to begin offering the preparation course north of the border. The American organization has teamed up with the Human Resources Institute of Alberta and the Human Resources Professional Association of Ontario to offer the three-day course in Calgary in October and in Toronto in November.

With its focus strictly on international HR management, the GPHR complements the Canadian HR designation, the Certified Human Resources Professional (CHRP), said Meisinger.

“The GPHR is not nation-specific, it’s stateless. It really speaks to the HR professional’s role in a global environment, whereas the CHRP is really more centric to doing business in Canada,” she said. “They fill very different niches and different needs.”

With companies doing business in several countries, it’s becoming more likely that an HR professional will have some global responsibility, said Meisinger.

“Increasingly, no matter what kind of HR role you have, you’re operating in a global environment,” she said.

The preparation for the designation in and of itself is a valuable professional development exercise, said Paul Gibson, executive vice-president of developer Mattamy Homes in Oakville, Ont.

“It was the process of getting it that was useful to me. It was the process of not just looking at the issues of global HR management that I had already dealt with, but making myself learn the full gamut required in order to acquire the GPHR. It really affected my global view of HR and my ability to see the danger points, the areas of concern, for someone who is managing HR globally,” he said.

The knowledge Glen Grant, managing director of HR for commercial real estate company Colliers International in Vancouver, gained from acquiring the GPHR helped him when the company was looking at expanding into Europe and Asia Pacific.

The GPHR gives an HR professional a general overview of international laws and HR practices, said Grant.

“It doesn’t give you every specific detail for every country around the world, but it does give you a general overview, which allows you to then prepare to deal with other local HR professionals and/or legal counsel to help manage the transaction,” he said.

The GPHR, like the CHRP, is also a useful indicator about a potential recruit’s HR knowledge, said Gibson.

When hiring an HR professional, Gibson said he can make certain assumptions of the broad body of knowledge a GPHR or CHRP designation holder has.

“I know what it took to get it,” he said. “And I could accelerate their candidacy for a role.”

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