SHRM Certification, It's Personal To Me

I wanted to share some additional thoughts on SHRM’s development of an HR certification based on competencies.

First, this is personal for me.  I am certified and have been for more than 15 years, and on January 1, 2015, I will be one of the first people to add the new SHRM certification to my list of credentials.

As Board Chair, let me briefly tell you why SHRM has moved forward with the development of this certification.

Research indicates that the current knowledge-based assessment is not responsive to the needs of the business community.  That’s what HR professionals and business leaders are saying.  What they say is needed is a more robust assessment tool to enhance performance and the standing of the HR profession.

The SHRM certification program is the first HR certification that is focused on teaching and testing the practical, real-life information HR professionals need to excel in their careers today, including knowledge, skills and competencies. 

A certification based on competencies will be good for the profession, good for SHRM members, and good for employers.

How do we know this?  Because for the past three years, we conducted a “criterion validation” study, which showed the positive correlation between the skills identified in the SHRM competency model and organizational performance. That’s the conclusion of studies by five major corporations and five major research universities, including Wal-Mart, Boeing, Verizon, AutoZone, Michigan State University, Pennsylvania State University, University of Lisbon, and the University of North Carolina-Charlotte.

As I have said, in the rapidly changing business world, the differentiator for HR professionals will not be what you know, but what you can do with what you know.

SHRM has lead the profession in the development of a competency-based education model for the past several years, and certification…that includes these competencies…is a natural step forward.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to briefly mention our organization’s relationship with HRCI.

We have been discussing competency issues for years and during the last five months had extensive discussions with HRCI and repeatedly communicated our desire to move forward in the development of a certification that included competencies. 

Unfortunately, it became increasingly clear from HRCI actions that they did not intend to join SHRM in this effort.  The Board felt strongly that we could not delay this much needed project any longer.

So now we are moving forward in the certification program, which will include:

  • the new global Body of Competency and Knowledge;
  • a comprehensive exam;
  • world-class instructional materials; and
  • certification preparation tools you have come to expect from SHRM.

But I am a firm believer that this is the time when we have to move toward competency certification so that we, as HR professionals, can assume a greater leadership role, contributing to the strategic direction of our organizations. 

We can’t afford to wait.


The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.


Bette -

I think it's personal to all of us that are members and have spent so much time and effort obtaining and staying certified over the years. That's why this announcement strikes many of us as odd, at the least. For decades we've work to get our certifications noticed by industry, and now you are telling us they're worthless and we should all just leave HRCI and jump on board SHRM's new competency based model. I don't think anyone will argue the competencies. I think many are feeling duped by an organization we strongly support in our profession.

What do we now tell our employers? Don't pay attention to those with a PHR, SPHR or GPHR - they're no good? Only pay attention to this unnamed certification!

The entire thing seems poorly communicated, poorly planned and ill-conceived , well, like we would expect from an HR organization that has no business sense or experience. Let's not forget how well you treated your business partner HRCI. By kicking them to the curb, I'm sure it makes every SHRM partner when they're next.

Tim Sackett, SPHR certified since 2001

I was very interested to read more about this issue. Unfortunately, you haven't bothered to optimize for mobile devices, and only half of each line can be read. It makes me question if this is really the way of the future (new certifications) when you can't even function in the "now".

I am incredibly disappointed in SHRM for attempting to devalue certifications that HRCI has developed to demonstrate compentencies that business has asked for (and SHRM has told us for decades that we should be proud in achieving). While SHRM has claimed to "advance the profession", HRCI actually has elevated HR professionals to the same level as lawyers and teachers with rigorous, application-based, thoroughly validated exams. On top of that, the above article/letter/explanation implies that HRCI refused to move into the "future" and gave SHRM no choice but to move in a different direction. HRCI's exams are written and developed through the entire process by HR practioners with years of experience who have nothing financial to gain but desire to hold others in our profession to a higher standard and earn a seat at the management table. Shame, shame on SHRM.

For years, many questioned the real value of the PHR and SPHR certifications. SHRM and HRCI tried to make them important, but business leaders never bought in to the value. SHRM's steadfast commitment to supporting the certs appeared naive.

Now, SHRM knows the HRCI certs were less than impressive (e.g. exam questions regarding median, mean and mode?), but completely fumbled the rollout and alienated a business partner. As Tim points out above, it's incredibly clumsy and makes me doubt SHRM's ability to actually deliver a really solid certification.

R. J. Morris
SPHR certified since 2010

Bette –

I am very disappointed in this move. I am certain that SHRM’s customer service representatives have received many more dissatisfied calls from HR professionals rather than messages of excitement. Why wouldn’t they? What SHRM is completely missing is that HR professionals are overworked, stretched very thin, and continuously wears many hats. Their time is extremely valuable and limited.

Certified HR Professionals must now decide how to spend their time maintaining a certain certification and chasing certification credits. In SHRM’s own statement, “Henry G. "Hank" Jackson, SHRM president and CEO, sees the new certification as the credential HR professionals will choose to have instead of—not in addition to—certifications available elsewhere.” The writing is clear that SHRM intends to hold the distinction of HR certification of choice, thereby eliminating the need for the HRCI certification. Simply, I do not think it is wise to have the same organization that supports your membership and association, also be the same branch that holds your certification. This strikes me more as a money-making opportunity rather than something that truly benefits the HR community. I am sure the potential revenue stream has been discussed.

If so much time and effort has been invested, then why does this certification have no name? I would think with over 3 years of a “criterion validation” study and research, a name would have been derived. Also, according the SHRM, “SHRM subject matter experts are working with a vendor to develop the new competency-based test.” This means there is no name and no exam for this, ‘robust assessment tool to enhance performance and the standing of the HR profession.’

Perhaps it is time SHRM and HRCI both grow up instead of taking their ball and going home if they do not get their way. It is extremely important that both organizations come together for the greater good of the HR professionals they serve. Without HR professionals there is no SHRM or HRCI.


This is personal to me, too. I devoted seven years of my volunteer life to HRCI and served as its Board Chair in 1999. During and since that time, HRCI has proven itself to be a model of integrity, while offering certification exams that are both ethically developed and administered, and are completely relevant to today's business world. I would be interested to see exactly what "research indicates that the current knowledge-based assessment is not responsive to the needs to the business community." In my experience, more and more businesses are asking for candidates with PHR/SPHR/GPHR certification, indicating an increasingly healthy respect for these certifications. As the HR Body of Knowledge and HRCI exams are updated regularly, I'm sure relevant competencies will be included in their content.

The abrupt manner in which HRCI was severed by SHRM is reprehensible, and underscores for me the inherent and ongoing problems with SHRM's leadership. As a former SHRM volunteer leader, it is devastating for me to see the organization I once revered stoop to the behavior we have learned about over the past week. Trying to get the current ~130,000 HRCI certificants to "transition" over to the new certification as soon as it's available appears to be nothing more than a move to put HRCI out of business so that SHRM can corner the certification market. Control and revenue -- two of SHRM's favorite things!

It is increasingly apparent to me that SHRM leadership is out of touch with the principles that those within our HR profession should be modeling at work. Is savagely dumping a business partner of nearly 40 years and taking its market share a leadership competency on the new certification exam? If not, maybe SHRM leaders should take another look at how their own competencies measure up.

Kate Herbst, SPHR-certified since 1991

All I can say is "AMEN" to the rejection you must be getting from those of us actually laboring in the workplace as a Human Resource representative, as opposed to those of you who make your salary "selling out" us representatives who walk the tight rope. Oh, I am sure you are getting your cheerleaders giving you slaps on the back, but be aware that they may not have your back. Mr. Hugh should know better but he get a salary from SHRM income not expense vouchers.5dF6

So let me see if I understand this...SHRM founded HRCI over 35 years ago through grants and specifically separated the organizations at the onset to avoid any influence, keep an ethical line of separation and to give credibility to the certification process. Now SHRM is severing the relationship after 'five months of discussions.' Really?

Now SHRM will offer their own learning materials to train for their own certification? Is that like a law school offering it's own bar exam? (provided of course that the student attends that school's program and pays for continuing membership..) Come on SHRM, HR is supposed to be the leader in ethical behavior. How is this not a conflict of interest?

No matter how you look at it - this move will devalue my certification. As one of 135,000 proud certified professionals - this is 'personal' to me too! I feel completely abandoned by SHRM and this movement by the SHRM Board.

All this hype about shrm vs hrci and their opposing certifications are outrageous. Please, stop this nonsense. Why would I want to spend $30,000 on a so called shrm certification, granted by an "association" with no type of standard accreditation, that is not approved by the government or approved by an outside governing body to oversee it's businesses? Because I dont want to be a victim of fraud people! Yes, it would cost me $30k over the lifetime of my HR career for the next 30 years to maintain such a certification. If you want quality education, simply get your bachelors degree, masters degree, and/or a graduate certificate in HR for continuing education. Nothing beats an accredited university or institutions taught by real professors who are rightfully credible and experts in their field of study. That is how you build real confidence. Nothing beats many, many years of hard, rigorous study going to college and earning a college degree. I would rather give 30k of my hard earned money to an accredited, quality university over a membership association if you ask me.

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