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SHRM LIKES MONEY: The Top 9 People SHRM Hurt When They Said Goodbye to HRCI...

"Honor's in the dollar,kid"...

-Seth Davis in Boiler Room

In case you missed it this week, SHRMs trying to make your PHR and SPHR worthless. Here's a nice rundown of the announcement from SHRM Members for Transparency, aka SMFT:

"On Monday, May 12th, SHRM announced that it will begin offering its own competency-based certification in mid-2015, after several years of work on its competency model, which was validated by over 30,000 HR professionals around the world.  According to SHRM Board Chair Bette Francis, "SHRM has a responsibility to lead the profession toward a certification process that proves competencies."  SHRM intends to "transition" those currently HRCI-certified to the new SHRM certification by letting them complete an online educational module and brief online test on HR competencies, followed by the initiation of a new three-year re-certification process.  SHRM will also develop study materials for its own exam.  No mention is made of any eligibility requirements for new examinees.  HRCI is not referenced in any of the SHRM announcements tailored for various audiences.

On Wednesday, May 14th, HRCI announced that SHRM's announcement would have no impact on any of HRCI's portfolio of certifications, and that HRCI intends to continue to develop and administer these certifications.  HRCI also disavowed any involvement in the development of the SHRM competency-based certification."

It's like someone was at a SHRM board meeting and said, "Hey, why the hell are we giving 50% of our potential margin to HRCI for certification services?  Why wouldn't we do our own thing and keep ALL THE MONEY?"

If you're running a business, that's the right question to ask and probably the right move.  If you're servicing a profession as an association, you might want to think before you try and take down an entire certification system.  Here's my early list of who SHRM has hurt with the change, but probably more specifically by not being ready to give more details when they decided to announce it:

1. The Certified - You're a PHR/SPHR/GPHR, and you were happy with that credential.  Are you going to be seamlessly transferred to a spot in the new SHRM Certification world?  No one really knows, but you'll be certified through competencies, not knowledge.  So like you got that going for you (cough that sounded like you said "BS")

2. The people scheduled to take HRCI certifications in the near future - you have no clue what to do.  Can't help you there.  Did you already put money down?  That sucks for sure.

3. The professionals who volunteer to teach HRCI/PHR/SPHR prep courses - Suckers.  I was one of those once.  Thanks for your investment of time and energy.  SHRM will give you a call if they need you again.

4. Local and State SHRM chapters - you do HRCI credits for your workshops.  You're going to have a sizable period, if not for the rest of your lives, where you have to deal with credits for both systems, assuming the SHRM system calls for recertification, and since there's money involved, why wouldn't it?  Nobody asked you - why would they?

5. Conference Organizers - See the above on recertification credits.  If local chapters of SHRM didn't have a chance to give input, what makes you think you deserved that opportunity?

6. HRCI - Duh.  Like Fall Out Boy once said, "Thanks for the memories".

7. Any other partner that feels like they have a good relationship with SHRM - Because it's all about the dollar bill, folks.  Only feel as secure as that statement can make you feel.

8. SHRM itself - They could have had a lot more questions answered when they announced this. Did someone leak it and they had to go before they were ready?  I'm guessing that's true.  That's what happens when you're trying to eliminate entire companies/organizations like HRCI.

9. The Collective Reputation of HR as viewed by the business world.  So the SPHR is like the CPA?  No wait, there's another family of letters?  Really?  You kids go ahead and sit at the small table.  The adults will be talking over here.

If I'm running a business, I do what SHRM did this week a decade ago.  But if I'm running an association, I'm not sure.  I'd have the game plan ready to communicate when announced, and I'd take care of all the dues paying members to greater degree than they did with this one.

Honor's in the dollar, kid.  SHRM's proving they believe that with this one.  


Shirley SPHR

Thanks for this informative article. Sadly, it is more informative than what SHRM has provided its members on this subject.


So these last few months of preparing for my upcoming June test are all for.... what?

Rob Orr

Thanks, Kris - As always, right on target, especially the comments about conference organizers - I'm one for the Garden State Council SHRM and we go through a lot of pain getting our sessions certified - now we get to go through twice the pain!


Great blog as always - So true on all counts, but most specifically the impact on the reputation of our profession, as well as undermining their own credibility with the way they have handled this. They have just completely undermined the profession they are here to support. I guess no one at SHRM bothered with the basics of the change mgmt process?

I feel the worst for the newest members of our profession. I have my SPHR, and I've earned my seat at the "adult" table because of the value I've worked with my team to bring to our organization, our culture and our clients. But as a newer HR professional, getting your PHR demonstrates your commitment to the field to ensure you have knowledge of the depth and breadth of HR regs, ethics, etc. If you were already prepping for testing, I would say do it, because for right now, that is still an industry standard. Any many HR pros will still be using this as hiring criteria until more information on whatever this new process is rolls out.

I am a firm believer in the recertification process because laws, regs, etc., are ALWAYS changing and as leaders, we should be in a constant learning process, whether it's formal training or finding the right HR blogs where you get consistent information you can use effectively for your own culture. Ironically enough, I JUST received my recertification in the mail TODAY from HRCI.

It will be interesting to see how this continues to plays out, but I'll be keeping my SPHR regardless of what other exams they decide to throw our way.

Amy Letke

Wow you were right on the money with this!

Christine V. Walters MAS, JD, SPHR

I would share a word for patience and moderation. Some of the comments are not on point from my understanding to date. Currently certified folks can absolutely keep their PHR, SPHR, etc. They are not going away. No one will be transferred as indicated in #1 above unless they want to. HRCI will continue to support and maintain its current certifications. Now SHRM will offer its own. #2 above - If you are scheduled to take the exam SHRM actually encourages you to still do so. Then if you want to transition to the SHRM certification you can do so for free. # 8 above I have to agree - the roll out could have been much better orchestrated. It does seem to be perhaps a sad parting of ways between the two entities and granted, there are many unanswered questions but let's ensure we understand the facts and implications before we stir an already brewing pot. Hang tight; that's my two cents.


Note to practitioners: You can't award an accredited designation that you govern yourself. The accounting association can't give out the CPA, the lawyer's association can't certify you as a lawyer, etc. Taking a competency-based test from SHRM doesn't give you a license to practice HR.

HRCI exists to give weight to the field. If you think the HRCI certification process means nothing, the SHRM designation will mean even less. But if you like spending your money on marketing, have fun.

KD is right. This is about share of dollar. But HRCI sits on a treasure trove of cash. They have a significant reserve. And it will be interesting to see how they fight this.

But this nonsense is about his insider baseball is you can get. And there's no more mediocre insider baseball than HR baseball.


Recruiters will be the bellweather.

Almost 15 years ago when I first explored certification, I asked an HR executive about the value of the certification -- translation: will it help land a job? He responded that most CEOs and business leaders don't know (or care) about certification. But, the recruiters do -- and a SPHR after your name will help you get to the top of the pile of resumes. All things being equal, a recruiter will rank a certified HR professional over an uncertified professional with the same experience. And, I've watched that behavior play out in my organization and others time and time again.

So here we are...has anything really changed? Business leaders are (more than likely) not aware of the SHRM/HRCI certification split this week -- nor do they care. Which leaves the drama squarely within the HR profession. Will we choose sides? Create a tug of war of SHRM/HRCI through blogs and twitter? Move a qualified candidate to the bottom of the pile because they don't have the "right" certification? *That* is the unspoken concern and the real risk.

So, look to the recruiters to see where they trend: a "competency based certification" or a certification with name recognition? My prediction is that they will use both certification designations as a "check the box" and pull both resumes to the top of the pile just like you would if you had two qualified candidates from prominent, but different schools (e.g., MIT and Stanford).

Tim G

SHRM pulled a similar stunt a few years ago when they backed away from the recommendations of 200 members on the Human Capital Investor Metrics workgroup after receiving pressure from a few industry associations. It seems like SHRM has again sold its ethics for some pieces of gold. They should move their headquarters to Wall Street.

Steve Madsen

Spot on, Kris! Many professionals wonder what's next. I agree with Laurie - next move is HRCI's to make.

Steve Browne

Kris - I appreciate you taking the time to post about this. This is a personal issue for certified HR professionals no doubt about that. As a member of the MAC (Membership Advisory Council) for SHRM (and a practitioner with his SPHR), I've been in contact more after the announcement came. I think in the end people need to be informed so they can make decisions as to how they're going to proceed with both HRCI and SHRM.

I've been trying to have one-on-one conversations with people to fill in context so that people can (1) be heard and express their concerns and confusion and (2) hear from someone who was there when the decision happened.

I know this is emotional and will continue to be. It's encouraging that people are passionate about their credential and their profession. It hurts when it seems that in trying to communicate to members, the message was thought of first and the impact on how members would respond wasn't.

However, I think we can move through this transition to see what will come of both bodies. I'm still engaged and supportive of HR and it's good folks. I'd encourage people to connect with someone who can talk about this because I find that context always helps. Then people can make the decisions they feel they need to.

This is going to be an evolving situation on all fronts. I know that I will be actively connected to see what's coming and how we move forward.


This is discrediting to a profession that is already "ill-viewed" in the business world. I don't see any winners out of the whole situation. I am afraid that SHRM approached the "problem" (?) from the wrong angle: if "competency" is perceived to be the issue, isn't the solution somewhere else than several strata of certification? The message is so controversial: HRCI was for so long intertwined with SHRM, and overnight is said to be irrelevant. What should HR people and their employers think? It has to be an evolving issue.


Maybe the industry will use this as an opportunity to bring certifications and what they represent into this century, and allow specialized practitioners (such as myself) the ability to get certified in the specialization within which s/he practices, rather than the current one-size-fits-most, or you-can-go-and-get-certified-through-this-other-firm-that-no-one's-heard-of models.

Charlotte Ntreh



HRCI is incompetent and should be fazed out.

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