Recipients say senior designation very rewarding, personally and professionally
Since launching in June, about 750 people have been invited to apply for the Senior Human Resources Professional (SHRP) designation in Ontario after successfully passing the initial screening phase. But of those, only 70 have gone on to submit the more detailed application and 50 have received the recognition.
“The main issue we’re finding is people made more of part two than they needed to,” says Claude Balthazard, director of HR excellence and acting registrar of the Human Resources Professionals Association in Toronto. So the Ontario association has been working to inform people the process is not that daunting, and they don’t need to write volumes.
“We need to intensify our messaging around that,” he says.
Below we profile some of the first recipients of the SHRP (which is also rolling out in Saskatchewan and is planned for Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island).
Co-founder and managing director
Engage Human Resources Solutions
While part of the first group to attain the SHRP, Alex Gallacher says it was more chance than deliberate. In teaching at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, his advanced HR class was the pilot group for the new designation.
“I thought I should probably test the process myself,” he says. “I’m not sure I would necessarily have jumped on it quite that quickly.”
However, the new designation is necessary, says Gallacher, who is co-founder and managing director of Engage Human Resources Solutions in Mississauga, Ont.
“While the CHRP (Certified Human Resources Professional) is a good designation, this just really reflects a broader, experiential base of knowledge and for HR folks out there, being able to encapsulate that in a designation is extremely helpful.”
It also helps raise the bar for all HR professionals and those who aspire to be in the industry, and should boost HR’s credibility, he says.
“Given what’s gone on in the world over the last year and a half, I like to think if there were stronger, more senior HR people at the table in broader business discussions, some of these things could have had more positive outcomes,” says Gallacher, citing organizational strategies and risk management as examples.
HR has a unique role to play in adding the human element, asking difficult, ethically based questions, being “the voice of reason as it relates to organizational values,” he says, and anything that acknowledges that type of role — such as the SHRP — is inherently useful.
The SHRP is not a senior CHRP, however, and is really more a recognition of achievement in the profession, such as the FCA (the fellowship for certified accountants), says Gallacher. And it’s extremely important the SHRP be available across the country, to create a more consistent voice and ensure portability, he says.
“(The SHRP) helps us collectively have a stronger voice as a profession when we start dealing with governments and regulatory authorities, even the broader public.”
Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
As a senior HR practitioner providing northern Ontario employers with HR and labour relations resources, Antoinette Blunt says the SHRP acknowledges the depth and breadth of her experience.
“(The CHRP) really is more something seen as an early-career designation and there really hasn’t been a way for human resources professionals to have some acknowledgement of their contributions at a more senior level,” says Blunt, who is president of Ironside Consulting in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
The designation gives recognition and confirmation of her achievements, she says.
“I’m very proud to have the SHRP, I really do believe it’s very meaningful and very valuable and, like any other designation, it tells people upfront who may not know you… that you have achieved something of significance.”
In attaining the SHRP, Blunt says she took about eight hours to fill out the application. While the blank page can be a challenge, it is similar to doing a behavioural, competency-based interview.
“If you’re going to span your career and think of different situations that really demonstrate the best of what you’ve done, and all of those dimensions, it takes careful thought,” she says. “If one was applying for a senior-level HR position, you’d probably take that much time reflecting on your career and how you could appropriately present yourself. So it’s not unlike applying for a job at that level.”
But it would be beneficial if the associations came up with more guidelines to help people understand what is expected, she adds.
In time, the rest of Canada should see the merit of offering the SHRP to association members, says Blunt, though some may not have as many members as Ontario.
“It’s an issue of timing and an issue of readiness.”
Vice-president of HR
While the SHRP may not be as rigorous as a CA, it does carry a certain caché, says Ruth Brothers, vice-president of HR at Teva Novopharm in Toronto, who was happy to tell her peers and her boss of her SHRP.
“Not that it levels the playing field but it positions you within a senior group, being able to say, ‘I have a senior designation.’ It sits well with your business partners. They don’t really know what it is but they know there is a review process and they know it’s quite an undertaking to apply for it, so I think your stock goes up a little bit.”
And the SHRP designation needs to go national, says Brothers.
“It absolutely has to go Canada-wide. If it doesn’t, over time, it will lose credibility.”
With the CHRP changing in 2010 in Ontario — requiring a university degree and three years’ experience — a senior CHRP would probably require 10 years of experience along with a degree, so the SHRP really accelerates that, says Brothers. In the future, it’s likely a CHRP will be required for a person to receive the SHRP, which it should, she says.
“If you’re going to promote the profession and, in particular, promote the association, at some point you’ve got to have a cutoff point and say, ‘The prerequisite is the CHRP.’ Like any other designation, there are prerequisites.”
As for the application process, Brothers says she prepared herself and put a lot of work into it.
“It was an interesting exercise for me, doing a retrospective of your career — what did you do that really mattered. It’s not a bad thing to go through,” she says. “If you can’t do that, if you find it too much of an undertaking or you can’t do it well, then you shouldn’t get the designation, frankly.”
For Mila Lucio, attaining the SHRP was somewhat intimidating.
“It was a little nerve-wracking because I was one of the first group going through it so I was still trying to figure out, ‘How are they really grading this?’” says Lucio, HR director at A.P. Plasman, a parts manufacturer with 1,000 employees at five facilities.
While the application process for the SHRP is extremely robust, introspective and time-consuming, it is also fantastic, she says. And as president of her local Ontario chapter and a senior HR practitioner with more than 20 years’ experience, Lucio says the SHRP designation makes even more sense because of her high profile and mentoring role.
“What I do and what I take on is more on display, so it was kind of great timing.”
Lucio also believes in paving the way for others, by getting involved in new initiatives such as the SHRP, building on them and raising awareness.
“It’s brand new and it’s only going to be as good as the awareness level that’s around it,” she says.
While the CHRP has been an effective tool, “it’s great to now have that senior–level designation that, once we raise awareness of it, employers and community members can look at that and say, ‘I get what you’re about.’ There’s a baseline there.”
As HR has moved from transactional to a strategic partner and a business partner, “having things in place like the SHRP helps us to move through that evolution,” says Lucio. “I’m so excited about that, it really helps us.”
And it would be great if every province offered the SHRP to strengthen the credibility of the profession.
“Anything we can do to help our profession advance — because I really believe we are taking on bigger and bigger roles within organizations — the better for us,” she says. “To me it becomes about the greater good, paving the way for the profession.”
Vice-president of HR
CARSTAR Automotive Canada
There’s a demographic in the HR profession who somehow missed the focus on academia qualifications after they had already started in the business. Finished with formal education and busy working, they find it very difficult to go back and continue those studies and pursue the CHRP. So the SHRP recognizes and validates years of service, experience and skills, says Dennis Concordia, vice-president of HR at CARSTAR Automotive Canada in Hamilton.
“It was important to me but I also think I’m typical of a huge part of the HRPA membership,” he says. “It meant a lot to me personally that I could validate that I have spent my career doing the right things and benefiting my employers.”
As for the application process, Concordia says he really loved having to go back and revisit what he had accomplished.
“It was a rewarding exercise in itself, made that much better when I received the designation,” he says. “I’m very proud to be able to put those letters behind my name — I didn’t have that opportunity earlier in my career.”
However, it might be more appropriate if the designation was presented formally, rather than being sent by mail, says Concordia.
“People who acquired the designation should be celebrated locally at the different (chapters) of the association,” he says. “(The HRPA) still has some good marketing to do around the designation if they really want to see the value in it, if they want industry and businesses at large to respect it.”
The SHRP would also have more impact if offered Canada-wide, with so many businesses operating across Canada.
“It’s a truer test,” he says.