HRPA’s regulatory agenda revisited (Guest Commentary)

How far has the association come?

It’s been seven years since my article “Regulatory agenda at HRPA” ran in Canadian HR Reporter, so I thought this might be a good time to reflect on what has happened since then and where the regulatory agenda is at in 2015.

The 2008 article started out by explaining that the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) was a professional regulatory body by virtue of the Human Resources Professionals Association of Ontario Act, 1990, and, as such, the overarching objective of the regulatory organization within HRPA is to protect the public by ensuring human resources management professionals are competent and act ethically. A second objective was added to move the profession forward along the path of professionalization.

The 2008 article then laid out a three-pronged approach to accomplish these two objectives:

1. Develop awareness and clarity around the whole concept of professional regulation in human resources management, both within the profession and within the public.

2. Foster a sense of ownership, responsibility and accountability in regards to regulatory matters on behalf of all members of the profession.

3. Move forward with the continued professionalization of human resources management in Ontario.
A lot has happened since 2008, some foreseen, some not. 

The 2008 article ended with this: “At some time in the future, if HRPA were ever to go back to the province to ask for additional regulatory powers, the first thing the province would likely ask  is ‘How well did you do with the regulatory powers you were entrusted with so far?’ We want to make sure there is no doubt HRPA is fully accountable for its regulatory responsibilities.” 

In 2008, it was thought that getting a public act would be a 10- to 15-year project as it had been with our first act. However, our new act was first introduced in the legislature in 2010 as Bill 138. It was reintroduced as Bill 28 and finally as Bill 32 before being passed and receiving royal assent in November 2013. 

Either in anticipation of the passage of our new act or as a result of its coming into force, HRPA’s regulatory processes and procedures were completely reinvented.

The one aspect that had not been foreseen in 2008 was the changes to the designation framework. In 2008, we were in the process of updating the knowledge exam to reflect the updates that had been made to the HR Body of Knowledge (more familiarly known as the Required Professional Capabilities or RPCs). These updates had been relatively minor tweaks to the 1998 HR Body of Knowledge. 

However, there was a growing consensus that a fresh look at HR competencies was needed. It took a bit of time to get this project off the ground but it gathered momentum and HRPA’s new Human Resources Professional Competency Framework was published in 2014. A new designation framework was designed to align with the three levels of HR practice identified in the framework. 

And, finally, updated certification processes were designed for each of the designations. This work is well underway and will continue for a few more years still.

With all this, our understanding of the regulatory agenda has grown exponentially.

The professionalization of HR, which was still a new idea in 2008, has now become the overarching concept, encompassing both the enhancement of the competence and professionalism of HR professionals and the establishment of a strong, professional regulatory body that has the confidence of all stakeholders.

If the article was published today, it would probably be titled “Professionalization agenda at HRPA” and regulation would be seen as a strand in this professionalization agenda.

What the 2008 article had recognized is public perception is an important aspect. Becoming more competent and professional is a good thing, no doubt, but if the public doesn’t recognize this is so, it really doesn’t work. 

Establishing a professional regulatory body that has the confidence of all stakeholders will lead to enhanced protection of the public, but if the public is not aware of this, it really doesn’t quite work. 

HRPA still has a way to go in regards to changing the public’s perception of HR, but we have put in place the right foundation to make it happen. Success depends ultimately on changing societal perceptions of the HR profession — but to do that, we needed to take the first concrete steps.

To change the public perception regarding the competence and professionalism of HR professionals, we needed to implement a new designation framework based on a new competency profile. To change the public perception that HR professionals registered with HRPA are governed and regulated by a professional regulatory body that acts in the public interest and that HR professionals registered with HRPA are accountable to their professional regulatory body, we needed to fully implement the regulatory processes laid out in our new act.

But doing so doesn’t guarantee the public will take notice. It is important to do these things in a way that ensures that. Of course, changing perceptions takes time, but that is the course we are on.

Ownership, responsibility, accountability
The second prong — fostering a sense of ownership, responsibility, and accountability in regards to regulatory matters on behalf of all members of the profession — is arguably still very much a work in progress. For many members of HRPA, it is not clear that becoming a professional regulated by public act has made any difference as compared to when the profession was governed by private act. 

Yet, as the association fully enjoins its mandate of protecting and promoting the public interest by making full use of the tools provided for in the act, the differences will become more apparent. A challenge for HRPA members will be to fully absorb or integrate the regulatory aspects into our identity as a profession.

The only reason to focus on the professionalization of HR is the belief that the professionalization of HR is good for the profession and its members and good for the public. 

It stems from the belief HR has a lot to contribute to society, and the professionalization of HR will maximize this contribution.
If professionalization were done solely to further the interests of the profession and its members, it would not get the necessary societal sanction. If professionalization were done solely to further the interests of the public, there would be nothing in it for HR professionals and the whole professionalization project would go nowhere.

In 2008, no one could have predicted how quickly some of the “wins” would have happened. Now, we are entering a different phase of the professionalization project — that of changing how the profession is understood by both its members and the public. As former British prime minister Winston Churchill once said: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”

Claude Balthazard is vice-president of regulatory affairs at the Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) in Toronto. He can be reached at (416) 923-2324 x. 327 or

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