Will Competency Testing Advance the HR Profession? Pulease!

I must say that all this talk about SHRM’s decision to offer its own certification is mighty intriguing, and as a certificate holder (SPHR) I did panic a little after first hear-ing the announcement.

But then I read John Hollon’s article about it here on TLNT, and I felt better.

In fact, my thoughts moved from “What the hell? We’ve finally gotten to the point where employers are thinking this certification means something, and now SHRM is trying to put a halt to all that and confuse everyone in the process?” to “Really? Is that what’s needed for the advancement of the HR profession?”

 Does HR need another test?

If you recall, SHRM’s announcement included this tidbit:

… SHRM’s Board recently reached the conclusion that it’s best for SHRM to move forward with the development of a competency-based certification, which is urgently needed for the advancement of the HR profession and HR practitioners.” (Emphasis mine.)

Now that caught my attention, because I’ve been thinking about the profession even more than usual lately, wondering why so many HR practitioners are so awful at what they do.

Yeah, I said it.

And even after you consider that some enter the profession practically as an after-thought, and others (such as the company’s CFO/CEO/finance director/office administrator) are appointed although they have absolutely no talent for or interest in the profession, you’re still left with a whole bunch of HR “pros” who are pretty terrible.

And I know, because the ones I haven’t met through networking events or work-related activities I’ve heard all about from friends, family, acquaintances, and (my personal favorite) readers.

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So when I think about what the profession needs, another test is not what comes to mind.

What does the HR profession REALLY need?

What does come to mind? How about some flippin’ courage? Or maybe a little heart?

And while you’re at it, throw in a good dose of knowledge beyond the superficial, the ability to reason like a grown up, integrity that’s been tested and found secure, a measure of emotional intelligence, and a moral compass with a needle that’s not, you know, completely broken.

Pardon me if I sound a little strident, but it’s frustrating. Another test won’t advance the HR profession — the idea is laughable. The damn practitioners have to advance the profession, and that won’t happen without some disruption the likes of which we haven’t even begun to see, as far as I can tell.

Am I wrong? Then let me have it in the comments.

Crystal Spraggins, SPHR, is an HR consultant and freelance writer who lives in Philadelphia. She also writes at her blog, HR BlogVOCATE. For the past 15 years, Crystal has focused on building HR departments in small- to mid-sized companies under the philosophy that "HR is not for wimps." She is also the CEO and Founder of Work It Out! and partners with HRCVision, a full-service HR consultant practice specializing in leadership and diversity training. Contact her at crs036@aim.com.


8 Comments on “Will Competency Testing Advance the HR Profession? Pulease!

  1. Crystal – I think you’re right in that the disruption lies within us as practitioners. I also know a handful who do this on a regular basis and want to see the profession and the bodies of SHRM and HRCI move along as well. You’re right in a test not moving the profession. It never has. People make the moves. I’m in and will continue to be a disruptor !!

  2. Excellent post Crystal. I’ve been an HR professional for over 25 years and it’s only when we challenge or question our own work and how we work that we’re challenged.

    What I’ve experienced throughout my career can never, ever be learned from a book or certification. Not interested in ever drinking that Kool-Aid

    Thanks for the great post!

    1. “What I’ve experienced throughout my career can never, ever be learned from a book or certification.”

      Now THAT’S the truth! I believe in tests, but no amount of testing or credentialing is going to give this profession the respect it seeks until we do our jobs better.

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