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SHRM 2014

HRCI: Shut Out but Not Shut Up

The annual SHRM conference is without the HR Certification Institute in attendance, though HRCI is throwing a party of its own just down the street.

June 23, 2014

When CEO Hank Jackson took the stage to open the Society for Human Resource Management’s annual conference in Orlando on June 22, he recognized a handful of the organization’s partners: the SHRM Foundation, the Council for Global Immigration and the SHRM Membership Advisory Council.

Missing from that list was one of SHRM’s longest-standing partners. For the first time since the mid-1970s, the HR Certification Institute is no longer affiliated with SHRM and is not part of the annual conference and exposition.

The relationship ended May 12 with SHRM’s launch of its own set of certification credentials, effectively dissolving its relationship with HRCI, which administers some of the most widely recognized HR certifications held by 130,000 professionals.

Just how the nearly 40-year relationship came to an end is a matter of dispute between SHRM and HRCI leaders, but a few things are clear: HRCI is no longer part of SHRM events and has moved out of the office that, until recently, it shared with SHRM. And, according to HRCI Executive Director Amy Dufrane, HRCI staffers have had their SHRM memberships revoked, hers included.

Freshly installed in a new temporary office down the street from SHRM’s Alexandria, Virginia, headquarters, HRCI staff and board members were in Orlando, Florida, with a simple message.

“We’re here,” said Dufrane during a meeting with Workforce editors at a nearby hotel. “Although we’re not physically on the show floor, we are here with our certificants.”

Competing for Attention

“Being here” increasingly means being in competition. SHRM’s new competency certification, called the SHRM Certified Professional and SHRM Senior Certified Professional, will compete directly for HR professionals’ attention with HRCI’s Professional in HR and Senior Professional in HR certifications.

“We have to react accordingly because our job at the institute is to focus here on our certificants and let them know that their letters today are as valuable as they were on May 12 when this thing started,” said Clarissa Peterson, chief human resources officer at Abt Associates who is the HRCI board chair.

In Orlando, HRCI hosted one event on Sunday, June 22, which was a Q&A session with SHRM local chapter members, with plans to host a larger evening event on Monday, June 23, at Walt Disney World’s Epcot Center called HRCI Connect. “We need to be getting out there more, and we will be doing that in a more robust way,” Dufrane said.

That outreach will include continuing to exhibit and speak at regional shows and programs hosted by local SHRM chapters, Dufrane said, as well as a series of new initiatives.

HRCI created a group called HRCI Voices, a networking group intended to give certificate holders and those interested an opportunity to connect with and learn from one another. The institute also launched a website called HRLeadsBusiness.org as well as new digital badges certificate holders can use to show their certificate status as well as an online database for employers to verify HRCI certification. The institute is also planning a road show, according to an HRCI spokesman.

In the near term, SHRM conference attendees will continue to receive HRCI recertification credit. Dufrane said its staff is working to communicate with certification holders about how to apply for those credits now that the SHRM relationship is ended.

The door to a renewed partnership between HRCI and SHRM isn’t closed, said Bob Carr, SHRM senior vice president of membership, marketing and external affairs, during a June 22 news conference on the new credential. But according to HRCI, the terms of any potential agreement have already been set and the prospects are remote.

“It’s pretty clear though that they’re developing a product that is competing with ours,” Dufrane said.