The SHRM-HRCI Issue: Crocodile Tears for Certified HR Folks Out There

I never thought much about certifying as an HR pro.

I get it. You want to be shown as a knowledgeable professional and get some letters after your name. That’s great.

It was never a big deal to me, though. For some however, it was a big deal and I can respect that.

Now, it looks like the clarity of what those letters mean is in serious jeopardy. SHRM is creating their own certification and doing nearly everything in their power to disassociate themselves with HRCI — including uninviting them from the annual conference.


SHRM-HRCI issue has been brewing for a while

The delineation between the Human Resource Certification Institute and the Society for Human Resource Management was something that was unclear to me until a few years ago and it probably was to many HR pros until just recently. I have received no less than a half dozen emails from SHRM and HRCI regarding this and it is perfectly clear now that these organizations aren’t in stride and haven’t been for a while.

I’ve seen HR pros outraged or shocked by the move all over the Internet. I’ve seen some support it. No matter which side you take, the groundwork for this move has been laid for years and was roundly ignored by nearly everyone.

Starting in 2010, there was a group of people called SHRM Members for Transparency (SMFT) that had concerns they made public after a long period of behind the scenes work. My colleague John Hollon covered this group extensively. This was much to the collective disdain of SHRM itself and the yawns of members.

SMFT’s concerns included:

  • Board compensation increases;
  • Board compensation unchecked by independent committee;
  • Unrestricted first class travel for SHRM Board members;
  • Only 38 percent of Board members having at least a PHR certification;
  • Only 60 percent of Board members are HR pros;
  • SHRM’s CEO is a finance professional, not an HR pro;
  • SHRM’s Board uses a search firm to find Board members, including those uncertified and not members of SHRM;
  • SHRM Board retains nearly all power, with extremely limited member recourse.

People who didn’t care before are now concerned

There’s a whole section on the SMFT website — now outdated — focused on the Board’s lack of connection to HRCI certification. That’s a tad bit of foreshadowing for you.

When these stories were gaining steam, I remember asking some of the HR pros in my area about it. Most of them didn’t know and didn’t care when I explained it. Those who has heard about it felt like it was overblown, took SHRM’s assurances as good, and went on with their life.

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While clearly there were some things that weren’t quite right at SHRM, it didn’t impact them. SHRM wanted to take some money from their massive reserves to pay a little extra to Board members? Meh. Once SHRM decided to keep dues the same, any potential widespread discontent was quickly snuffed.

Now, nearly four years later, these same folks suddenly care about it because their credential is at risk?

What did you expect?

Sorry PHRs, SPHRs, and GPHRs. I don’t see this one getting walked back very easily. You may get easily credentialed with SHRM or you may choose to stick with HRCI but those letters are going to become a lot more confusing for the people who care about having knowledgeable and competent HR people running their shops.

There are some people I do feel sorry for — like educators who’ve spent years working with SHRM and HRCI on training, or those stuck in limbo of gaining certification in the interim. For those who have been associated with both SHRM and HRCI for decades, and who couldn’t be concerned with a few non-certified board members or a couple grand in compensation a few years ago?

You’re a smart, strategic HR pro. You can anticipate changes before they happen. What did you expect and how are you surprised?

This originally appeared at Lance Haun’s (Life Between the Brackets) blog.


6 Comments on “The SHRM-HRCI Issue: Crocodile Tears for Certified HR Folks Out There

  1. Oh now, Lance, that’s harsh. I don’t know about anyone else, but I sat for the exam because I wanted to test my knowledge using a formal, structured tool. Don’t hate.

  2. lol. (its one of those sad guffaws). And you only noted the stuff that is easy to see! Nice post. If I were assessing SHRM’s Board for its competencies in managing conflict, collaborating with peers and ability to pay it forward and advance the profession’s values, they wouldn’t pass this time around…no new letters, no transfer from HRCI’s letters.

  3. Great article. This SHRM board, and especially it’s CEO, is a travesty. That they speak of “leadership” and “ethics” in this new certification after intentionally trying to bankrupt HRCI would be laughable–if it weren’t so damned tragic.

    I’m lifetime certified SPHR. Big freakin’ deal. They can have that back along with my SHRM membership–neither does me or the profession any good.

    But that’s just me…


  4. I read the SHRM On Line article about their new competency based certification. I have to say the article was full of confusion. Any attempt to positively coordinate with the HRCI was either understated or missed. They don’t have a name for the credential while saying is designed as the be all and end all in HR Certifications so to speak. I was miffed and concerned that the announcement’s seemed rushed with it’s only purpose to get out the message to beat something they felt was in the wind. Maybe it’s the flack and questions that HRCI certified people have concerning the competency certification.
    That said, I have always felt the HRCI Certifications do not go far enough to measure or at least test for behavioral competencies. However, it seems that SHRM leadership wasted a lot of energy and credibility by not at least coordinating the roll out with HRCI an entity that was created by grants and loans from SHRM back 25+ years ago.

  5. The HR profession is always fighting for credibility, often due to the perception that it tends to embrace fads. This move by SHRM validates that perception. SHRM and HRCI need to put on their big-person business pants and work together to fix whatever they believe is broken. Do not announce to the world that current certifications need to be replaced i.e. are worthless. If the certification models, BOK, tests, or re-cert programs need improvements…make them. If SHRM needs additional revenue find ways to do it, but not at the expense of credibility or by invalidating the competence of current certification holders and the 35 yr history that went into building them.

    If this dual certification issue continues, it will exponentially damage the credibility of all of us. SHRM needs to cease and desist this replacement option and either create something within the existing framework or improve the current certs. It is not too late to provide more clarification around an ‘additional’ option — but continuing on this competing path will leave little left to recover.

    SHRM Board and Staff…demonstrate your leadership, strategy, relationship, communications and business competencies by finding a cooperative solution to
    fix this amateur debacle. If you can’t, the membership has a legitimate reason to ban together to find a way to replace the SHRM board with people who can demonstrate the very same competencies you plan to ‘certify.’

    Oh — and re-invite HCI to the SHRM conference in June too.

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