HR Administration

SHRM Members Ask: What’s Going on With New Credentials?

By Frank Kalman

Jun. 23, 2014

As the Society for Human Resource Management opened its annual conference in Orlando, Florida, this week, members of the professional organization are expressing confusion over its newly unveiled certification designations.

The big question on SHRM members’ minds: What does the creation of a new certification system mean for their current HRCI certification designations?

The new certification names, announced June 19, are the SHRM Certified Professional, or SHRM-CP, and SHRM Senior Certified Professional, or SHRM-SCP. The certifications are based on the organization’s HR Competency Model. The first exam for the new credential is planned for mid-2015. 

The establishment of the certifications means SHRM will be competing with the HR Certification Institute, which SHRM created in the early 1970s and which many of its members are currently certified under. 

HRCI offers three credentials: the Professional in Human Resources, or PHR,  Professional in Human Resources, or SPHR, and Global Professional in Human Resources, or GPHR.  

In an effort to assuage concerns from members on its new certification designation, SHRM held a “town hall” gathering June 23 on a stage near the conference’s exposition floor. SHRM is planning other “town hall” events during the conference to answer questions on the credentialing program. The conference runs through June 25.

Elissa O’Brien, SHRM’s vice president of membership, gave a 20-minute presentation to explain the details of its certifications. She took no questions from the audience of 40 to 50 members during the session.

Afterward, O’Brien, who said she is HRCI-certified, was surrounded offstage by SHRM members who peppered her with questions. Most members expressed confusion over what SHRM’s new program meant for their current HRCI certification standing. 

SHRM has said those currently credentialed with HRCI can be grandfathered into its designations, pending they take part in an online tutorial.

Still, members afterward expressed frustration and confusion at the change.  

“There are still a lot of questions that need to be answered,” said Jack Smalley, director of HR learning and development for Express Employment Professionals, in an interview following the impromptu question-and-answer session. “It looks like SHRM wants to have control of their own version, which they probably should have control.”

Smalley said he plans to keep his current HRCI credentials, adding that he had to recertify at the end of 2013. “But I’m suspecting that after people run out of their current certification with HRCI, it’s probably going to die a slow death,” Smalley said.

Other SHRM members, who declined to be interviewed for attribution because they said they still did not fully understand the details of SHRM’s new credentialing model, said they feel somewhat uncomfortable with the SHRM-HRCI rift.

SHRM effectively ended its partnership with HRCI in May after announcing it was developing its own certification program. HRCI has since moved out of its space in SHRM’s headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. HRCI said SHRM did not allow them to exhibit at the conference and instead is holding its own event nearby at the Epcot theme park in Disney World.

In a June 22 press briefing on the new competency model, SHRM officials said they approached HRCI last year with a proposal to partner on its new certification designations, but talks became “unproductive.” 

HRCI officials, in a meeting with Workforce editors at a nearby hotel following the SHRM briefing, described SHRM’s approach in the talks as one of “control.” Once HRCI offered a counterproposal for a partnership with SHRM, HRCI officials said talks broke down.

Smalley said without a partnership with SHRM, HRCI may struggle to reach human resources professionals looking to attain new certifications. 

“It’s going to be hard to get your HRCI credits in the future with less and less providers,” he said, “since SHRM is not going to be a provider of HRCI credits. It’s probably my guess that in five or six years it [HRCI] may not exist.”

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