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HR Groups Use Scholarships, Discounts to Keep Members

Demand for a new scholarship program at WorldatWork has exceeded expectations and SHRM has seen a similar spike in interest for its educational and certificate offerings.

February 19, 2010
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Holding on to their jobs and positioning themselves for better career opportunities when the economy improves has motivated many HR professionals to seek education and training, even as the recession puts a premium on financial aid.

Demand for a new scholarship program at WorldatWork has exceeded expectations so much that the global HR association is already thinking about expanding it. The Society for Human Resource Management has seen a similar spike in interest for its educational and certificate offerings.

In early January, WorldatWork, which focuses on compensation, benefits and total rewards, began offering scholarships for courses that lead to professional certification in those areas.

In the first two weeks, the organization received 32 applications, bestowed seven awards and had 2,800 visitors to its Web site where qualifications are outlined.

A one-year scholarship covers a WorldatWork membership (about $330 for a new member), e-learning courses, materials and exam fees. The monetary value varies. For instance, someone might receive a scholarship of $13,000 to take the nine courses or $4,000 for three.

The number of scholarships was originally set at 20 but could increase to 50 or more, says Anne Ruddy, president of WorldatWork.

She says that education is valued by both HR practitioners and companies as a way to cope with the recession. WorldatWork granted 2,400 certifications last year.

“People are trying to build their own personal brand,” Ruddy says. “Companies realize that they need to invest in the development of key staff.”

SHRM also has experienced increased traffic for its array of education and certificate offerings, according to China Miner Gorman, chief global member engagement officer.

“We’re seeing more interest in them as more of our members are in transition,” Gorman says.

SHRM offers 155 scholarships—valued from $500 to $10,000—for its learning programs. At the top end of that range is the Sue Meisinger Fellowship, a new award named after the former SHRM president that is given to a member who is headed to graduate school.

Running promotions is a standard practice throughout the year for SHRM, where annual membership costs $160. For instance, a nonmember can register for the SHRM annual conference in San Diego in June and also receive a one-year membership for $1,395, compared with the standard nonmember conference price of $1,665.

“The majority of our new members come to us through some kind of discount,” Gorman says.

WorldatWork and SHRM say that their total membership levels are holding steady at 30,000 and 250,000, respectively. They attribute their retention to the timely substantive help they provide for professionals.

WorldatWork is benefiting from an intense focus in Washington on executive pay.

“There are so many fiduciary, legal and accounting responsibilities that a company and a practitioner have in today’s world,” Ruddy says. “It’s too difficult to do compensation by accident.”

SHRM members are turning to the organization for insight on how the Obama administration and Congress might change the workplace. They’re also clamoring for guidance on such issues as pay, employment law and HR’s role in helping businesses survive the recession.

“We got great feedback that [information aggregation] was hugely valuable to our members last year,” Gorman says.

—Mark Schoeff Jr.

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