HR Administration

SHRM Credentials Cause Confusion

By Rita Pyrillis

Aug. 4, 2014

The relationship between the Society for Human Resource Management and the credentialing organization that it created nearly 40 years ago has become a confusing one for the HR community in recent months. SHRM’s recent decision to launch its own certification program is stirring up even more questions, this time about the future of HR credentials.

Although they are legally separate organizations with different governing boards, SHRM and the HR Certification Institute have been closely intertwined since SHRM created the institute in 1976 to administer certification exams. The news that the two groups have severed ties took many in the HR community by surprise, including HRCI officials who criticized SHRM leaders for shutting them out of discussions on the new certification program.

“We’ve had a relationship with SHRM for 37 years, and we would have loved for them to talk with us about this, but they chose not to,” HRCI Executive Director Amy Dufrane told Workforce shortly after the announcement. “We hope that we will be able to have a continued partnership with them at the wishes of our profession and our board.”

However, SHRM President and CEO Hank Jackson maintained that the two organizations had discussed the future of their certification programs for months.

The relationship became stormier when SHRM revoked the memberships of HRCI staff members. They were also disinvited from attending SHRM’s annual conference in June, according to HRCI officials. SHRM officials declined to comment. In May, HRCI moved its office from SHRM’s headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia, to a temporary space nearby. The institute plans to move to a permanent home in September.

Many attendees at SHRM’s conference expressed concern that their HRCI credentials would become obsolete. Others, like Bob McKenzie, an HR consultant who is HRCI-certified, criticized the association for its poor handling of the rollout.

“I ate lunch with 10 people and none of them were in favor of” SHRM certifications, McKenzie said.

SHRM will offer two certificates: the SHRM Certified Professional for those in the early stages of their careers and the SHRM Senior Certified Professional for practitioners with at least six years of experience.

HRCI certificate holders will not have to give them up in order to pursue the SHRM credentials, according to SHRM spokeswoman Amy Thompson. HRCI offers three main credentials — the Professional in Human Resources, the Senior Professional in Human Resources and the Global Professional in Human Resources.

Thompson said in a written statement that applicants will have to show HRCI credentials in good standing, sign the SHRM code of ethics, and complete a brief online tutorial on the competency model. HRCI certificate holders can then obtain the new credentials, which will be available starting on Jan. 1, 2015, at no cost. They will have to renew their certificates after three years.

Rita Pyrillis is a writer based in the Chicago area.

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