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It’s No Accident

I’m feeling frustrated. For the last seven years I have served on the Board of HR Florida State Council. It’s an organization that I believe in and have heavily invested in. We are the State affiliate of SHRM—the national professional association for human resources professionals. I have been a member leader of this organization for a number of years and have served in many volunteer roles at the local chapter level, state level and national level. I’ve always served with pride and with the belief that I was making a difference in my chosen profession. I am SPHR certified. The SPHR exam consistently has a pass rate that hovers around 50%–some years as low as 47% and an all-time high of 58% in 2014. I share that to underscore the degree of difficulty of this exam.

A week ago SHRM announced that it no longer believes the SPHR exam (or any other Human Resource Certification Institute [HRCI] HR-related exams) is a validation of human resources competencies, so they have developed their own certification.

And, yes, I’m bothered by that. Especially given that right up until the day of the announcement, SHRM staff was touting the merits of the SHRM Learning System (HRCI study prep materials) and enticing my chapters to purchase from SHRM at the discounted price of $500 per eligible test candidate. And even though I find that distasteful, I don’t think that’s really the source of my frustration.

It's no accidentWe have 14,218 SHRM members in our state and approximately 51% of them are certified. I have been told that is the highest percentage of any state. We’re proud of our numbers! It doesn’t happen accidentally. Our high numbers are the result of executing a marketing plan to make sure our members and our state’s employers understand the value of certification. The education of Florida’s employers on certification has come at significant financial investment and many hours of service by dutiful volunteers. We speak of the merits of certification to business groups throughout the state. And, finally, after many years of espousing the merits of certification, we are consistently seeing it as a qualification for many HR positions within our state’s organizations. So, do we now just quote a Gilda Radner sketch from Saturday Night Live and say, “Nevermind!” I’m embarrassed by that. And yet, I’m not sure that’s the exact source of my frustration either.

I’ve tried to be practical in my thoughts on this topic and I think it boils down to this:  I’m insulted.

With 14,218 members, Florida is one of the largest SHRM member states. That, too, is no accident. We provide financial grants to our chapters to use in their local geographies to attract new members. We fund travel expenses for our President Elect and me to speak in each of our chapters each year providing pre-approved recertification credit hours for our members. We host a statewide conference, attended by no less than 1500 HR professionals providing recertification credit at each session. We speak at other professional associations talking about the merits of membership in SHRM. Our membership numbers are the result of a strategy designed to fortify our brand and show value to the business leaders in our state.

Our state contributed over $40,000 to the SHRM Foundation in 2013. That’s greater than any other state contribution. Over the last ten years, our donations have totaled $383,599. And once again, that didn’t just magically happen. It was the result of financial commitment to the cause plus many hours of loyal volunteers collecting items for silent auctions, donating to live auctions, and hosting events with paid admission. We did it because we believed in the mission.

I am the President of one of the highest performing SHRM State Councils. And that’s no accident either. I didn’t take on this role because we couldn’t find anyone else to do it. I had served for many years in a leadership role before being elected to this position. I had demonstrated my ability to serve and was carefully vetted by a meticulous nominating committee. I was entrusted with a significant operating budget and processes that had been well-honed by preceding leaders. It is 700 miles from one end of our state to the other and I’ve driven all of them, many times over, to speak at our chapters and promote our professional association. I develop quality content. I review and execute contracts. I plan and stress over four major events plus four council meetings per year. I prepare agendas and budgets. I participate in the SHRM webcasts and attend the SHRM events so I can share the content with our members. I’m committed to my role. Oh! And all of this is while I am concurrently running a busy and successful business. I believe my commitment to the profession and to the professional association has been demonstrated many times over. I’m a believer.

Today when I asked an executive at SHRM why this new certification plan wasn’t socialized with the member leaders before it was publically announced, I was told that “sometimes in business things just have to be done a certain way.” And that, my friends, was the cherry on top!

I wasn’t involved in the development of the plan for new certifications or given an opportunity to “weigh in.” I wasn’t given a heads up that the announcement was coming. And, clearly the SHRM executive today didn’t think I was bright enough to understood how business works.

When questioned about how the decision was made to release the information, the SHRM executive shared that it was a Board decision and reiterated that the members (meaning me) elect the Board of Directors. In my non-SHRM life, I serve on the board of a publicly-traded organization. The shareholders elect the Board of that organization in much the same way as the SHRM Board is elected. A slate of proposed Board members is presented on a ballot with a bio of each candidate and votes are cast for the presented slate. Most SHRM members, just like most shareholders of our organization, don’t personally know the Board candidates. They trust that they have been appropriately selected for consideration by someone in the know. So, to imply that because I elected this Board I have some ownership of this action is again, insulting.

I believe the staff of a professional association should be responsive and accountable to their members. I’ve heard it said recently that the volunteer leaders are serving SHRM staff—not the other way around. I’ve personally experienced it. So many directives seem to be given by staff to member leaders. When did this shift happen? Was it when the Board stopped being comprised of member representatives elected from their geography? I don’t know the answer to that one. Maybe SHRM has become more of a corporate machine than a professional association and is no longer solely focused on serving the members. Whatever the cause, the result is disheartening.

And now, I’m sad. And I’m tired.

I’ve been an advocate for this profession forever. I still am. But I leaked a little enthusiasm today. I’ll continue to do what I do for our state because I believe it’s the right thing to do.

And I’ll get over the insult. I’m resilient like that. But, I pledge to you that when I make my next public blunder—and I’m sure there will be one—I’ll apologize for my actions. I will not attempt to justify my behavior with simplistic, non-responsive answers that deflect and are interpreted as insults.

That is all.

joycex125With many years of senior-level human resources experience in the private sector environment, Joyce Chastain, SPHR brings practical know-how to each engagement. Her human resources consulting practice specializes in talent development, employee relations, internal investigations, employment law compliance, and affirmative action plans. She is the owner of Chastain Consulting and currently serves as the 2013-2014 President of the HR Florida State Council.


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  1. Hello There Joyce!
    I am sure that you have been the voice of many on the heels of this announcement!
    Florida has been blessed by the Leadership of your entire Council!
    Best Regards,

    1. Mark, I am indeed privileged to serve along some of our profession’s brightest talent. It’s also been my pleasure to follow some phenomenal leaders who positioned our state council for excellence throughout the years. I’ve had many great examples to follow. It has been my goal to continued that tradition for Florida’s future council leaders.

  2. Beautifully articulated, Joyce. The key in HR is communication. Sometimes we get to deliver good news but often it is not the happiest and we do it with dignity and professionalism. I called SHRM to get some clarification after receiving the email and got the runaround. They had not even prepared their own team for this. I have enjoyed being with and learning from HR professionals with integrity such as yourself and am proud of my letters behind my name. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and I will share and communicate to my colleagues.

    1. Thanks for your comments Jill. Much appreciated. Our state is very fortunate to have so many talented and willing volunteers.

  3. Joyce,

    Well said. SHRM’s greatest strength is that it has passionate, caring, professional members. It was a huge miss they didn’t lean on this expertise in communicating this announcement. This easily could have been a positive win-win situation for SHRM, for the membership, and for HRCI. So many blunders here it really makes us question our SHRM leadership at this point.


  4. Thank you for finding the words to express MY frustration. I have been feeling displaced, a little defeated, and at odds with my love for SHRM since the announcement. I want to continue being passionate about the organization I volunteer my time and efforts towards. But I’m hurt and insulted. Just like you I will get over it and do the right thing. Thank you for posting this, your love for the profession, and being an amazing leader.

  5. As another of HR Florida’s honored Past Presidents I am disappointed as well regarding this decision. Made in a vacuum, many corporate initiatives become “project of the month” only to be cast aside for better alternatives which the people of the organization embrace. I have received both the PHR and SPHR designations and encouraged many other HR professionals to do the same. I have actively promoted HRCI certification at my place of work and within my leadership roles at the chapter, state and national committee level of SHRM. I truly believe a PHR, SPHR or GPHR demonstrates to our executives, management and employees that we as HR professionals are as skilled at what we do as a CPA is to accounting. Shame on you SHRM for discounting the credentials of the people who are your bread & butter in a less than collaborative manner. I remain proud to hold SPHR designation and will find it difficult to promote or embrace a program no one who matters was consulted on to devise.

  6. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Joyce. As you know SHRM is a big outfit with a lot of members but it is not member driven. The members of the Board are not representative of the members. Frankly, I viewed the announcement much as I would if one corporation took over another corporation. We, the certified members are left with a lot of unanswered questions. In time we may get the answers but at this point we are left with the only alternative which is to press on and do what is required of us to do to maintain our certifications. I am surprised and disappointed that you and other leaders were not consulted or briefed on this action by SHRM. I thought SHRM was better than that.

  7. Joyce – I’m devastated to learn that SHRM no longer believes that the HRCI related exams are a validation of HR competencies. From the moment I began my official career in HR I lusted after the coveted designation of a Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR). So much so in fact that it became a goal of mine for over four years. Yes, I admit it, I am one of the 50% that did not pass this four-hour 300+ question exam. Not once, not twice, not even three times. I passed the SPHR exam on my fourth try. Why it took me so many times is not the subject of this post. I share my struggle as an example of just how hard this exam is to pass and what it means to earn certification.

    My point is that I, like the many HR professionals I coached at two different chapters through volunteering to facilitate a module of the SHRM Learning System, had a goal. That goal was to earn the designation of PHR or SPHR to prove to not just ourselves but also to our executives that we were educated and knowledgeable about the business of the business and specifically how human resources affected and related to the mission and vision of the company.

    I’ve been a member of SHRM since 2001, not long at all when compared to some of my HR friends. But it is a membership that I have proudly displayed on my LinkedIn profile and resume. I’m proud to list my SPHR designation on my business card, resume, name tag, etc. Frankly, for me it is an elite group of individuals that I worked hard to prove I was qualified to join them. And there is no doubt in my mind that my SPHR certification made a significant impact on the decision to hire me by my current employer.

    I am disappointed in SHRM. For years they have communicated, over and over again, the importance of earning that badge of honor; the SPHR, PHR and the GPHR. And, like you but for different reasons, I’m insulted. I promoted the importance of earning certification throughout my time as a chapter state president. I supported, and still do, several individuals who are struggling to work full-time, with a full-time family, to pursue their certification…always maintaining they will never regret doing so. I will continue to wear my SPHR certification as a badge of honor.

    Thank you, Joyce for a well written and heart felt article, I second Jill’s statement: beautifully articulated.

    Ironically I’m having lunch with the SHRM Foundation staff today. You can bet that as a member of this organization I will share my thoughts and disappointment with the appropriate people at SHRM Headquarters.

  8. Joyce,
    Thank you for your honest, transparent article. I know it must have been hard to write. I have been an HR practitioner for 29 years and at one point held the SPHR designation. My employer has funded the HRCI certification process for just about every member of my HR Team since the designation has been in existence. I became extremely disillusioned with the credential through the recertification process and made a conscious decision not to recertify at least 6 years ago. I certainly believe there is value to professional designations, certification and credentialing, however, I came to believe that HRCI was a highly political entity that was really more about generating revenue than developing the profession. My hope is that some folks at SHRM National will read your blog and our comments and recognize that their lack of change management with HRCI (isn’t that an HR competency?) is really a black eye to our entire profession and needs to change.

  9. I have over 14 yrs in the HR profession and always felt my performance and experience should speak for itself…and thus resisted getting ‘certified.’ And though I wasn’t seriously looking for other employment, I noticed employers were often more than ‘preferring’ candidates with the SPHR credential, many required it. So to keep myself relevant, I “drank the coolaid” and spent a number of hours and over $1500 in training and test fees to secure my SPHR in January 2014.

    Now, less than 6 months later, I find out SHRM is touting a new competency-based certification that will ‘replace’ the SPHR because it is no longer ‘best in class’ and doesn’t test competencies. SHRM tells us there is a whole new Body of Knowledge and validated research to support this new HR competency model. Great, then incorporate that BOK into new versions of the current certifications…don’t go and re-create your own. PMI and other internationally recognized certifications regularly update their BOK and incorporate new research into their programs, even adding additional certifications within the same framework. They don’t throw out and completely devalue what they previously promoted. Though I haven’t seen the research, new BOK, or test…the fact that I can get SHRM’s new certification by simply taking a 1 hr tutorial and passing a test tells me this new ‘certification’ can’t be that much more relevant that what I’ve already done.

    The HR profession is always fighting for credibiltiy…often due to the perception that it tends to embrace ‘fads’ this move by SHRM validates that perception. SHRM and HRCI need to put on their big-person business pants and work together to fix whatever they believe is broken. Don’t announce to the world that current certifications need to be replaced ie… are ‘worthless’. If the certification models, BOK, tests, or re-cert programs need improvements — make them. If SHRM needs addtional revenue find ways to do it…but not at the expense of credibility or by invalidating the ‘competence’ of current certification holders.

  10. Thank you for all you do for our profession in the State of Florida. I was recently feeling very fortified by the number of employers recognizing and requesting the PHR or SPHR certification in their recruitment efforts for HR professionals. I acknowledge that anything worthwhile should change and improve over time; but change that is not well executed causes confusion and chaos – and this one will cause scrutiny of our profession. Haven’t we had enough of unnecessary debate about the value of HR? This type of change implies that even we aren’t even sure of our value or the BOK necessary to be successful. SHRM was certainly willing to sell study guides and prep classes. Since when does a member-based organization not solicit feedback from their membership on something many of us have invested significant $ and time?

  11. Thanks Joyce, for voicing what many of us have been thinking. I received my PHR certification in 1998, then took and was awarded the SPHR designation when I had to recertify. When I heard about the GPHR certification I was intrigued enough to register and take the exam, despite the poor support provided by SHRM who issued the GPHR learning system late and only provided two of the 7 promised webinars prior to the exam. I was quite proud to be one of the first to take the exam and one of the first to receive the designation. Since that time I’ve gone on to be an Item writer for the exam and more recently an item reviewer for both the GPHR and now the newer HRCI global exams, the HRBP and the HRMP. I’ve also served as the certification chair for HR Tampa and seen the effort taken by many of my HR colleagues to study for and pass these exams and go on to volunteer to help others achieve the same.

    To see that SHRM is now going to discount certifications that they have long supported is quite disappointing. I personally have not received any sort of communication from SHRM as I am no longer a volunteer leader in my local or state chapter. However since I’ll be at SHRM headquarters on June 9 to work with HRCI on the GPHR review panel (unless they’ve kicked them out of the building by then!), then perhaps I can personally voice my concerns to the executive team there, if they even care to listen.

  12. This is a beautifully written column. I am in passionate agreement with you. Thank you so much.

    As a longtime HR Tampa member, Board member and Officer, I had the joy and privilege of spending many Conferences with you and others in SHRM in Florida. Although I left Tampa in 2009 to move to New York, I have been a member of SHRM-LI ever since, where PHR, SPHR and GPHR certification is actively promoted every month.

    In common with Sherry Moore, I haven’t received any sort of communication from SHRM, as I am no longer a volunteer leader in my local or state chapter. I greatly appreciate her offer to voice her concerns, surely shared by THOUSANDS of certified HR professionals.

  13. My previous comment is awaiting moderation, I see – probably because this site doesn’t recognize my business e-mail address. Joyce, I just shared this column with the leadership of SHRM-LI, the Super Mega chapter to which I have belonged since moving away from Florida in 2009. Thanks for your articulate expression of the shock and frustration so many of us feel.

  14. I have been and HR professional for 30 years with both an MBA and SPHR. I let my national membership expire a few years ago when I started noticing that the information published in their magazine was inconsistent with the law. I started having doubts about their commitment to the profession. Consequently, I am not surprised that they gave chosen to take certification in house and thereby reap the financial rewards. Not sure what this means to those of us that have worked so hard to convince the C Suite executives that HR is actually a viable part of business and maintain credentials that have set us apart from all the folks that believe “anyone can do HR”.

  15. Joyce,

    Well said and I think you reflect the feelings of many SHRM volunteer leaders. I certainly find myself questioning the need to maintain a certification if the value is truly not recognized.

  16. Bravo Joyce, well said! Having been in the field many years and an SPHR since 2001, I was taken aback at the recent announcement and the way it seemed to demean the HRCI who had been touted as the source of certification for so many years. They specifically said they mean to replace it. I think what we are witnessing is some kind of power play between SHRM and HRCI. But the sad part about it is all the people who have worked hard to get certified, with the classes, and the re-certification credits, who will now have to pursue yet another type of certification to prove they are keeping up with the field. I find it strangely self-serving on the part of the Society and feel disappointed about this shift. When certification was first being promoted, it was compared to accountants having a C.P.A., but they have never changed that certification, or the organization that offered it. It’s seems a shame that SHRM has taken this step without considering the consequences.

  17. I am so glad to hear your thoughts on this matter. I could not agree more. I just passed the PHR three days before SHRM decided to make this announcement and I was completely floored. I have spent money and countless hours studying for my certification and to feel like it has been ripped away less than 72 hours later is disheartening to say the least.

    Again, I’m so thankful to you for giving our frustrations a voice. It means a great deal to know there are other HR professionals out there who are advocating for our careers and the future of HR.

  18. Thanks, Joyce, for taking the time to articulate beautifully what a lot of us are feeling. I received my SPHR many years ago and have always been proud to display that credential. I will continue to display it with pride even though SHRM may no longer support it or identify it as measuring my competency in the profession. Having worked on item development for the HRCI exams for many years I know the exams measure competence and SHRM identifying that they do not just makes SHRM look bad.

  19. Joyce, first of all, kudos for writing such an eloquent and heartfelt statement.

    I have always been a proud SHRM member and was taken aback and heartsick by SHRM’s announcement.

    Certification is my passion. When I first entered the HR profession, I immediately joined SHRM and HR Philly. I could not wait until I had enough experience to sit for the exam. As it turned out, I was not able to sit for the exam until after moving to Tampa. After certifying, I had the honor of following in Sherry Moore’s footsteps as HR Tampa’s certification chair, which turned out to be a six-year term and left that post for appointment to HR Florida as State Certification Director which I held for four years. In 2008, we were SHRM’s Foundation Grant Winner for State Councils for the “Look HR Smart Certify – Stay HR Smart Recertify” Awards Program that I developed. In 2010, Sherry recommended me for the GPHR item writing panel and I am still volunteering in that role today.

    So I have had many years of working very closely with HRCI and SHRM. When you are working behind the scenes with HRCI, you experience their dedication to the integrity and professionalism of the entire certification process.

    SHRM, shame on you. Did you forget your reason for existence is to serve the HR professional and advance the profession?

    Where have all the ethics gone…SHRM does this ring a bell…

    Be ethical; act ethically in every professional interaction.
    Question pending individual and group actions when necessary to ensure that decisions are ethical and
    are implemented in an ethical manner.

    Apparently it is OK in SHRM’s code, to turn on your sister organization and put them out in the street in the middle of the night. SHRM’ your actions are a travesty. Don’t tell me that I don’t understand business and that my SPHR and GPHR are not of value!

  20. Joyce,

    You nailed it. If in any of my prior SVP roles I had bollixed up something so vitally important to so many of my customers I would have been marched out of the door with far more than good cause and rightly so.

    The way this was handled tells me everything I need to know about the board and executive leadership at SHRM: The whole lot has to go. The profession spends more than 25 years building the brand equity of PHR, SPHR, etc. and all of this was tossed because HRCI spurned SHRM’s takeover attempt and offer? That’s just what we need, confusion in the marketplace on standards of excellence. Way to advance the profession! Thanks for nothing.

    Don’t pee on me and then tell me it is raining. The whole episode is preposterous and reeks of ineffective management and dead at the switch leadership.

  21. Well said Joyce. I too share Teresa’s sentiments. SHRM apparently doesn’t understand the exam development process that takes place at HRCI. There is a panel of very experienced and highly certified Human Resource Professionals who make up the questions as they relate to real life work experiences. These questions are then researched to make sure that they are not ambiguous and in any way unclear. Then they are put on the actual exam as one of the 25 unknown extra test questions. If there is an issue, then that question is either re-done or scrapped all together. Bottom line is that the exams are composed by working Human Resource Professionals for Human Resource Professionals. To think otherwise is just an insult to everyone who has ever sat for the exams. I am very dissapointed in SHRM and the way that they have treated the general membership regarding this new certification program.

  22. Amazing! So many of us have work so hard in our careers to be taken as business partners by the companies we work in and to have the organization that is supposed to support and represent us say that we ‘don’t understand business’ is beyond incredible.

  23. Thank you Joyce. Suffice it to say your sentiments are shared , not only in this state, but by everyone who has worked for and earned their SPHR or PHR certification. Shame on the leadership at SHRM HQ for going forward with this and insulting the vast majority of their membership.
    Perhaps this can be stopped. A petition amongst SHRM’s membership would have some impact..wouldnt it?

  24. I have been involved in training and development with an emphasis on effective management and leadership. I share the outrage that you and the commenters have voiced. I am well aware of the excellent work Florida SHRM members have contributed to the field of human resources. However, I have never participated with the SHRM certification process. I learned many years ago when I learned that organizations use certifications with good intentions but with a specific objective to maximize profits for the organization. If you follow the money, including the salaries and bonuses of the executives, you can easily understand how the good intentions become secondary to the financial objectives.
    I am a staunch believer in education and commend your members, and you, for seeking continued improvement and for sharing your knowledge with others. I simply have very little respect for so-called leaders who make decisions affecting all members of an organization without considering their input. It is simply a symbol of the lack of true leadership within an organization. Money rules.

  25. Joyce,

    I share your frustration and I know that my colleagues do as well. I have spoken to both SHRM and HRCI regarding this “debacle” and I believe that both parties are being somewhat disingenuous regarding this whole thing. As I told the SHRM officer today, the business community looks to HR to be the voice of reason and this incident, handled so poorly, has only served to discredit, not only those two organizations, but the entire HR profession. As the VP of Professional Development for our local chapter, this move puts us in a no-win scenario. We have run a very successful certification prep course with a high pass rate and now we are forced to choose between maintaining our current program, which we have invested countless dollars and hours in developing, or pay the high price of the new SHRM Learning System. Make no mistake…this was all about profit. SHRM saw an opportunity to cash in (I guess charging $800 for a set of books wasn’t enough), and they couldn’t resist.

    Like you, this saddens me greatly.

  26. Thank you Joyce, for so eloquently and bravely voicing our shock, dismay and frustration with this decision.

    While I doubt the decision was not made lightly after so many years of partnership, the issues between HRCI and SHRM and the subsequent decision could have been announced in a way that wouldn’t have left us all scratching our heads. We appear foolish in our communities where certification is an important consideration for professional validation and consideration for employment.

  27. Joyce – Thank you for taking the time and having the courage to draft and send this out. I think that this letter should be sent to every member of the HR Florida Council as well as the chapters for distribution. WELL SAID – I am anxious about the future between SHRM and HR Florida. One point you made that I believe will resonate with each member. We appear to serve SHRM – SHRM no longer serves the membership. This may be the beginning of the end of SHRM unless the philosophy changes. You heard it here first. I too have been a champion of what SHRM has stood for – BUT most recently have seen a more dictatorial approach from SHRM. Hope there is a change in SHRM philosophy (I am an optimist by nature) currently I am NOT optimistic about a change happening.

  28. Joyce – Thank you for your comments. They do hit right to the core.

    I have been committed to HR for 30+ years, and a member of SHRM for half that time. I have both an SPHR and a GPHR. I have also developed a 36-hour course on certification prep for our chapter which we have used to great success over the last 4 years, reaching pass rates in the 70% range. I am also chair of our Certification and Professional Development Committee, and like most volunteers, I hold other positions as an HR consultant and professor in HR management.

    I have been very committed to SHRM education, but am deeply disappointed in how they have handled this announcement, leaving their members hanging. I have yet to receive responses to my phone messages, and emails from within 2 days of this announcement. What we need to support our members is some clarification, or a FAQ. They are not responding. I have, however, received clarification from HRCI regarding the certifications that they support – the PHR/SPHR/GPHR.

    I have also seen a deterioration of service quality from SHRM in the past few years, noting that they have become more about the numbers and less about the members. Their response time has slowed significantly, they do not seem to follow HR practices in their own business management, and the quality has diminished.

    The dilemma is how do we support our members with the PHR/SPHR/GPHR certifications while also supporting SHRM as our professional organization. As a business, they will most certainly develop a strategy to elevate the competency-based certifications above their new competitor (HRCI) within the business world as they did with the certifications they previously supported with HRCI. SHRM is forcing a split of allegiance, and I am afraid they may lose more than they gain in this process. In the end, the members will decide. Meanwhile, we need more data so informed decisions can be made, and SHRM is not forthcoming.

    The PHR/SPHR/GPHR certifications are knowledge-based and support the HR professionals in elevating the role of HR in the workplace. I am not sure how this new certification will help the HR professional, but it will help SHRM financially. Frustrations are very high as reflected in the comments submitted to your column. I hope that SHRM is taking note.

    Nancy Haas SPHR GPHR

  29. Thank you, Joyce, for putting your feelings into words. I know that many SHRM volunteers across this country and certified professionals around the world can relate. Even if SHRM had a valid reason to make such a change (which I don’t personally believe is the case), they have completely mangled the announcement and exacerbated the ensuing chaos. This is the example of OD we’re supposed to hold high? An intern would have done a better job. As the incoming Director for the Michigan Council of SHRM, I am now finding it difficult to represent and defend the association in my state.

  30. Great article, I agree 100%. I, too, was shocked and disheartened about the announcement, and tweeted that this whole thing seemed rather fishy to me (I agree seems like a SHRM money grab). At the moment, I plan on sticking with my SPHR and not converting to the new credential. That exam was not easy, and for SHRM to say it really has no value as it does not indicate my HR knowledge is a slap in the face. Thanks for being a voice for those of us who are certified and worked hard to get there.

  31. Very well articulated!

    This is a decision placing profitability first and people second. As an HR professional (and SPHR) I have consulted with managers who were wanting to do the same, advising them that their priority may not sustain in the long term.

    My sense is that this decision by SHRM, and the way it was communicated, is exactly the kind of decision and communication process that seasoned HR professionals typically advise against.

  32. Thank you for this well worded and heart felt message, you have put into words what so many of us Volunteer Chapter Leaders and fellow SPHR/PHR’s are currently feeling. The disappointment at our local chapter level has only been elevated by our knowledge that the state council level was as surprised my the announcement as we all were. I recently attended out state council meeting in conjunction with our volunteer leader conference, and the excitement that I left with has now sadly been deflated. All of the focus on communication among local chapters and the state level isn’t worth much if the the state council is kept in the dark.

    Feeling disappointed…

  33. Bravo Joyce! This is the best article/commentary that I have read on the topic to date. I will be sharing it on every form of social media I can – and I encourage everyone else to do the same. As a longtime SHRM volunteer leader and HRCI volunteer, I have shared many of the same feelings over the past couple of days. I’ve been insulted and disheartened – however, I am a little encouraged that there are so many supporters that have taken the time to comment here! Let’s take that activism to the next step – get out there on the blogs and share your thoughts, let SHRM hear from it’s certified members ! 🙂 There are over 135,000 of us….that’s hard to ignore if we are loud enough.

  34. Thank you for putting into words how many of us feel. While reading your post and many of the comments that followed, it caused me to think – how can an organization that can’t even get the basics of communication right and whose decision-makers never walked the talk to become certified while promoting the benefits of the designations believe they can create an instrument to measure HR competencies that are credible? And suddenly the gold standard is fool’s gold?! HRCI exams are developed by currently SPHR certified practioners (volunteers with no financial “skin in the game”) and are thoroughly validated through an accredited process. It can take 2 years or more for a question to show up on an exam because of all the steps taken. SHRM doesn’t even have an exam ready for prime time and they stated they will be using a vendor to develop one. What vendor could possibly meet the standards that HRCI has set?!

  35. Again — very well said Joyce! SHRM is making our certification into a joke. I was always proud to be SPHR certified for the last 15+ years. What is going on at SHRM?? Based on this train wreck,and the way it is being handled, I decided that I will NOT be attending the National Conference in Orlando as planned.

    See you at HR Florida in August!

  36. Hi Joyce,

    I couldn’t agree with you more. I have spent years trying to guide senior management teams through effective change management. What SHRM did personifies everything I have been telling executives not to do! First by not asking for input from different levels of management (like State Council Presidents, and even Chapter Presidents) and making decisions strictly from their “ivory tower”. And second, the ridiculous and ineffective way they communicated the changes to membership. EVERYONE is confused and upset, those of us who are already certified as well as those considering sitting for the next exam.

    Our chapter is planning a major study group program for those individuals planning on sitting for the exam in December. It is a six month program that starts next month to be led by our volunteer chapter leaders and is open to members of our chapter as well as other chapters in our area. Quite frankly, I am not interested in giving up my Saturdays to train people to take an exam for a certification that may or may not be recognized by SHRM. Like you, I am embarrassed and disappointed that the organization I have been praising and depended on for years would pull something like this. What were they thinking????

  37. Joyce, I understand your frustration. As a professional, I am consently asked by executives in my organization for change management and communication plans so that people who are impacted understand what is happening. As a profession that should be on the leading edge of understanding change and communciation this roll-out is embarassing. I teach a prep class for PHR/SPHR certification in my spare time. My pass rate is above the national average – and that’s no accident either. I can’t imagine that with this announcement I will have a full class this fall – or be able to intelligently answer any questions. about this new certification. To say I am disappointed would be an understatement.

  38. It’s been a little over two weeks since I first learned of SHRM’s decision to support a new certification structure. To say the least, I’m very disheartened that SHRM has decided that the “generalist certification” test I passed apparently wasn’t competency-based nor did it focus on testing the practical, real-life information HR professionals need to excel in their careers.

    Studying for and passing the SPHR exam in December 2011 was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Because my path into HR was a bit unconventional (degree in journalism/marketing followed by 14 years in the communications field before transitioning into HR in 2001), I felt that obtaining a certification recognized by my HR peers would be both a professional accomplishment as well as personal validation that I belonged in HR. Now before I even get a chance to complete my first 3-year recertification cycle, SHRM’s president announces that he “sees the new certification as the credential HR professionals will choose to have instead of—not in addition to—certifications available elsewhere.” What a blow! I agree with Joyce and many others who have taken the time to post here – I’m not sure I could feel any more disappointed or insulted. What good will it be to have additional letters to add after my name if all I have to do to obtain them is sit through an hour-long online tutorial??

  39. I am a SHRM member from California. You have done an excellent job of articulating my and many of my colleagues concerns. This announcement was handled poorly. It adds to concerns about SHRM that I have been feeling for some time. How many of the SHRM members were aware of the issues in 2011 and 2012 about board decisions? Check out: I have been a member of SHRM for 30+ years. I know many of the members of that transparency group and respect their integrity.

    How many times can SHRM insult their members?

  40. Joyce,

    I am a little frustrated as well. While I do not have my certification yet, I had just purchased the SHRM learning kit and had received it two weeks before this announcement came out. I inquired and sent a message to SHRM and was still encouraged to sit for the exam and would be given the opportunity to transfer my credentials once SHRM had theirs in place, but would not be able to hold both. My concern is will the SHRM credentials hold as much weight as the PHR or SPHR? I have yet to see what the benefit is for the SHRM credentials. I am continuing on the path to study & test for the PHR with the hopes that with the new SHRM credentials, the current credentials for HR won’t lose any value…

    1. Hi Brenda – Just one clarification so that you have one less thing to worry about – your HRCI credentials cannot be ‘given up’ by completing the SHRM certification. As long as you follow the HRCI process for recertifying each cycle, you can retain that credential independent of any action that SHRM takes for their certification process. Good luck sitting for the PHR exam – its a fantastic accomplishment and worthy of pursuit!

  41. Joyce,
    As many have said before, thank you for a well articulated and thoughtful piece. I’ve been an SHRM member since 1992 and earned my SPHR in December 1994 (when the only “prep materials” was a slim book of reference citations.) Marcie Mortensson mentioned the SMFT group that was active a few years ago – I was a follower of theirs and promoted their cause in my social network – I think it is time to re-energize that group (made up of former senior SHRM leaders, including two past-CEOs).

    For the last 10 years or so I have been actively engaged in the Garden State Council (NJ) SHRM conference and happen to be Program’s Chair this year – we on the committee were as stunned as you. While the council “leadership” did get an email giving them a heads up a day or so in advance, they like you were never consulted. It creates a nightmare for conference organizers moving forward, because HRCI is not “going away” and SHRM’s decision not to work with them any longer, next year, we’ll be submitting our program information to TWO certification organizations to get TWO sets of re-certification credits, which may be different. I don’t see how this move is in alignment with a core mission of SHRM – serving the profession.

    I agree with Janet Waldron that this calls for a high level of Member activism – I for one will be boycotting the new certification, but we need to have a critical mass to make an impact, as the SMFT group found out. I hope we can get our colleagues engaged in this issue and have SHRM re-think their ill-conceived and poorly communicated plans.

  42. Ditto! Thank you for putting my thoughts and feelings in to words.

    Can we recall the board with a vote of no confidence?

  43. Joyce, your article summarizes the reaction of so many certified HR professionals. Thank you for being a consistent voice for the profession and for the many that are passionate and committed to HR. I am disappointed that SHRM has abruptly disregarded the certifications it promoted and encouraged for so long. I, for one, though, will not relinquish my SPHR designation – no way.

  44. Hi Joyce:

    You said very well what a lot of us have expressed, or are thinking. I, too have been a staunch SHRM supporter and volunteer leader. I helped start WVSHRM, served on the Board in multiple positions, and served as it’s Executive Director in 2008 and 2009. It’s an insult to all of us how SHRM has handled this roll out. I highly doubt that employers will adopt new certifications for HR professionals when it has taken many years to educate them on the current ones. Now that they value it, SHRM is in fact, saying “never mind.” I truly believe they will regret this business decision. And, I too, feel insulted.

  45. I was thoroughly embarrassed by the way SHRM handled the whole affair with HRCI. After a year of lapsed SHRM membership I will be renewing shortly. I am sticking with my support of HRCI and will continue to go with their certification. My tiny protest of withholding membership dues from this multi-million dollar membership organization means little to them, but it was all I felt I could do. I am renewing because of the member support that is provided from SHRM to my local chapter. As they are a 100% SHRM membership chapter with local dues, the best way for me to support them is to renew my SHRM membership. It doesn’t make me happy doing so.

    Thank you for the nice article! I read it last year. It still rings true nearly a year later.

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