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Battle Royale : Does the SHRM vs. HRCI Fight Matter?

As many of you know a couple of weeks ago, SHRM, the society for Human Resource Management, announced that it will be launching its own certification program independently from HRCI, the Human Resource Certification Institute. Now, just a little back story here, SHRM is supposed to be the association that represents HR professionals in the US, and it claims “globally” as well. HRCI is the certification body which has, in the past, worked very closely with SHRM.

Now SHRM is supposed to be a big deal. They tout hundreds of thousands of members, have a pretty decent endowment in the couple hundred million range, and have a pervasive systems of local and state level SHRM volunteer organization that lets local HR communities organize their own events, and so on, without too much interference (or support) from SHRM – they do get to use the SHRM name, kind of. HRCI is supposed to be the body that certifies the knowledge and skills of the HR professional.

There are three main levels of certifications for HRCI, the PHR (Professional in Human Resource), the SPHR (Senior Professional in Human Resource), and the GPHR (Global Professional in Human Resources). The PHR is supposed to be for junior and mid-level HR professionals, while SPHR is supposed to be for more senior/strategic level HR professionals. GPHR is supposed to be for those who deal with global HR issues. Unofficially, I have all 3, but officially, when you are awarded the SPHR, HRCI forces you to drop the PHR. Shameless Plug:I am also 1 of only a few hundred in the country with both the SPHR and GPHR.

Now for years, HRCI administered and operated the certification process for SHRM. I’m not sure how that setup was created, but anyone entering the profession gets the impression that they’re the same organization. In fact, for the longest time, I used HRCI and SHRM synonymously, and either no one corrected me, or no one knew to correct me. I might say something like “I will be taking the test for the SHRM certification”, and people would be very responsive, asking questions and wishing me luck. Eventually, I learned that they were two separate organizations, but didn’t really care, or think about it until now.

The question is, does it matter that there is somewhat of s split between the two organizations, and how will it affect us…

For one, I plan on maintaining my certifications.. I’ve had both for 3-4 years now and I’m in no way planning on leaving all the work I put into this process behind. I don’t have the details on what SHRM plans to do next, and what their certifications will target or test, but frankly, the only reason I went after the HRCI certifications was because they were highly regarded by my peers in HRM. It was not for self actualization or branding purposes, but simply as a minimum show of commitment and dedication to my profession, which may or may not have some positive career consequences. The whole point there though was that others would know what an SPHR or a GPHR was, and perhaps they’ve also tried to or had taken the test before and so understand the level of commitment one must have in order to go through with the process of earning their certification.

whatever SHRM comes up with, it would be an untested certification. It will not possess the time and maturity factor that HRCI has developed over a sample size of hundreds of thousands, nor will it carry with the clout of a professional certification. sure, there are certifications which exists in HRM which I sought, ones like the ECRE (Elite Certified Recruitment Expert), but AIRS Academy (now an ADP company), but that certification was because it offered some very practical technical skills which were essential to performing my consulting and recruiting work. Frankly, if no one every knew what an ECRE was I wasn’t bothered about it.

Is that what SHRM is opting for? Is revenue generation and operational independence so important for SHRM now that they’re willing to offer a substandard certification without support from the industry it claims to serve? I won’t pretend to know why the move has happened, but I do know one thing…this will matter a tiny bit…at some point.. in the future, but for right now…nothing really changes..

About The Author
Joseph A.E. Shaheen
Computational Social Scientist. Former Consultant. Current Phd Student. Editor of the Human Talent Network community blog. I fought ISIS/ISIL/Daesh in my own way. Livin' life in Washington, DC
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