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Let Us Vote on SHRM’s Certification Plan

Any claim by SHRM that its new certification will be superior to HRCI’s, Howard Winkler writes, ignores the fact that a second certification will dilute the value of HR certification overall.

September 1, 2014
Related Topics: HR Services and Administration, HR and Workforce Trends, Policies and Procedures, The Latest, HR Administration
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“Let us vote, Mr. Jackson.” That’s what I’d like to tell Society for Human Resource Management CEO Hank Jackson.

While I wasn’t in Orlando, Florida, for SHRM’s annual conference, I’ve read many insightful blogs, articles, tweets and comments. The trend is clear: SHRM didn’t make the sale. That says something, since Jackson was talking to an overwhelmingly supportive audience of committed SHRM volunteers and members. So why did so many walk away unconvinced?

Because the idea of a SHRM-managed certification is fundamentally flawed, that’s why.HowardWinkler September 2014

Full disclosure: I’m a former board member and board chairman of the HR Certification Institute, having served from 2007-11. I also served on the SHRM Foundation board in 2012. But I’m also a SHRM member, and have been since 1995.

Any claim by SHRM that its new certification will be superior to HRCI’s ignores the fact that a second certification — however good it turns out — will dilute the value of HR certification overall.

I’m a free-market guy. Normally I’d say competition is a good thing and two competing products will make each one better, but that doesn’t apply here. Certification carries the imprimatur of the HR profession. It attests to the individual’s achievement of mastery.

If you elect to keep your PHR, SPHR or GPHR, you will face the headwinds of SHRM’s campaign to denigrate HRCI’s certifications. SHRM began talking down your current letters from its first announcement, and continued to do so in its presentations at the annual conference.

And if you elect to obtain a SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP, you will have to educate your boss on what the new certification is and why it’s better than your old certification.

In fact, SHRM members’ initial response to the new certification indicates a real possibility that it will ultimately fail in the HR marketplace. Many have shared their reasons for why it’s bad for the profession. I’d like to add my own:

It’s not needed. Any experienced (or certified) HR professional knows that the trendiest “HR best practice” is a nonstarter unless it solves a real-world business problem. What’s happened here is that SHRM’s new “best practice” certification may (or may not) fill a theoretical need, but not a real-world need. Our current certifications are working just fine.

We’re proud of our HRCI certifications.Until May, SHRM supported them vigorously; telling us now that HRCI certifications are second-rate is jarring. It lessens SHRM’s credibility and makes whatever it tells us next sound self-serving.

SHRM’s “competency-based” differentiation is fiction. Everyone who has sat for an HRCI exam knows that the questions are overwhelmingly application-based. An unavoidable reality is that the more valid and rigorous SHRM makes its certification, the more closely it will resemble HRCI’s.

SHRM insists that its certification will be independent, just like HRCI’s.That doesn’t compute when SHRM’s certifications carry the organization’s branding, and even the “independent” governing body is named the SHRM Certification Commission.

This isn’t a difficult problem to solve. SHRM should conduct an up-or-down vote by its members and be governed by the results. It should do this now, while the membership is fully engaged. Holding the referendum would be easy and inexpensive, and if approved it would guarantee members’ support.

We are HR professionals. We want to do the right thing, and we want to do it the right way. SHRM should follow suit. Let us vote. Let us vote now.

Howard Winkler is a SHRM member (1995-present), and he is a former HRCI board member (2007-11) and SHRM Foundation board member (2012).  Comment below or email editors@workforce.com. Follow Workforce on Twitter at @workforcenews.

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