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A Month Later

I’ve had some time to reflect since the announcement of the SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP.

What follows is either what I have learned from discussions with SHRM staff, HRCI staff or board members or my own conclusions based on those discussions.

Summary of Events Leading up to Announcement

The relationship between the SHRM board/leadership and the HRCI board/leadership began to disintegrate about three years ago. This angst was borne out a desire for SHRM to get a share of the revenue associated with certification/recertification. After all, SHRM incurs the expenses to:

  • market the HRCI certifications,
  • develop the learning system,
  • continue research in the professional space to update the exams
  • provide learning opportunities for recertification credits.

Over this three-year period of time, the SHRM board has been in discussions with the HRCI board to develop a plan that would be agreeable to both organizations. Multiple options were shared by the SHRM board to the HRCI board, including one that would have the two organizations merge. No resolution was reached.

In February 2014 negotiations completely broke down. A couple of months later, HRCI began to attempt to recruit SHRM staff including at least one extravagant offer to a key SHRM staff member. That was the final blow. SHRM had to counter the HRCI offer to keep the talent in house.

Remember, SHRM developed the learning system. SHRM certified volunteers assisted in the creation and revisions of the exams. SHRM provided the educational sessions that could be used for recertification. The only piece of the certification, they didn’t already own was the administration of the exam.

The Announcement Happened

shrm and hrciIt seems reasonable to me that SHRM should have a share in the revenue piece of the certification process.

So, where did we go wrong?  In a lot of areas. We got hasty. We didn’t consider the ripple effect of this action. Bottom line: the impact of the announcement on our members, if considered at all, wasn’t given sufficient weight.

In the last month, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with HR professionals in many states and the consensus is this: we love our certification. It’s personal. We worked hard for it. We earned it and we’re not giving it up. We may get the SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP, but it won’t be in exchange for, it will be in addition to our PHR or SPHR. Members are just too nervous to let something go that was so difficult to achieve. What if the HRCI certification continues to be the prevailing one? That’s a risk that certified pros are not willing to take; at least not at this point. Now, there may be a reality check at recertification time when fees have to be paid for both to continue with both. I don’t have a crystal ball. We’ll just have to wait and see which certification our members opt to renew.

Meanwhile, chapters and state councils have to consider the demands on their conferences for HRCI recertification credits. I’ve looked at the demographics of HR Florida’s last three annual conferences. The majority of our attendees have a certification, and always ranking among the highest reason to attend our conference (as determined by our post-conference survey) is recertification credit. So, what do we do if our members maintain their HRCI certification and need recertification credit for those? Will we sacrifice conference attendance in order to remain loyal to our professional association? We don’t want to be in the position to have to choose.

These are issues that should have been addressed and known well before the announcement was made.

But, what’s done is done. If we had the ability to rewrite history, there are many things that we all would change. But, alas, we have to move forward from where we are right now. And, we’ll figure it out as we go. We will tread lightly and be methodical in our approach from this point forward. I truly believe that.

Further, I believe in this professional association. We are the voice of the profession. We are the vehicle for training up and empowering HR leaders. We have a lot of work yet to do. We need to focus on that. We’ll figure out this certification issue. We stumbled, fumbled and fell. But we’re a strong and vocal group. We’ll get through this.

Before I close, I want to ever so gently mention what I believe is at the root of this issue. It’s our professional association’s governance. It’s time we take a strong look at how our board members are elected. I’m not talking about the individuals. I’m talking about the process. About 15 years ago we abandoned a governance structure that was comprised of member leaders and went to the current structure that more closely resembles a corporate board structure. I know our board is not comprised of our member leaders and I fear it’s not connected to our members. This was ever so evident in how this certification decision was made, why it was made and the method in which it was hastily announced.

Is it time to take a closer look at that? I invite your insight.

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. I agree that probably the one move this should all point to, is that the SHRM board needs to better represent SHRM members. Perhaps there is a way to marry the former board look with the current. Unfortunately, SHRM is no longer the voice of it’s members, I am hopeful they can get back to it.

  2. I agree that that board needs to be in better touch with members. Hopefully some of the work that the Membership Advisory Committee has done over the last few years has laid groundwork for better understanding of the membership by the board and in the future there might be a higher percentage of board members who have been active members and volunteer leaders and the board will open itself to greater communication with the general membership, not just the 5 member MAC (though they are doing a great job) and those on Duke Street.

  3. Joyce,

    Thanks for the great analysis. When HR is functioning well, it’s the bridge to all parts of an enterprise. This doesn’t happen by accident; it happens when HR is listening and encouraging dynamic ideas to percolate.

    Neither HRCI nor SHRM is bathing itself in glory on the listening or percolating fronts these days. Conference planners around the country know how challenging it is working with HRCI and how bureaucratic they can be. SHRM has been less than transparent – even the MAC reps were caught by surprise with this new direction.

    Both HRCI and SHRM will benefit from a listening tour without preconceived notions of the end result. That process is beginning in Orlando where both groups are conducting separate sessions on the certification situation. One commentator has slyly described the multiple certification issue as a “first world problem.” Change is coming, nothing wrong with that. So how do we effect change that benefits SHRM members, the profession, the value of the certification process, and the larger communities we serve? Listening is a good starting point.

  4. Thank you for this blog. I hope the powers that be are reading it. For the last 18 yrs my mantra has been “I am SHRM”. I am reconsidering my position given this colossal fail. I am not only certified but I also teach for SHRM. While I understand Shrm is a business it is first and foremost a professional organization and the leadership has done a huge disservice to their members and a disservice to their reputation as a professional organization. They should have listened extensively to their members and had a full and complete business plan before they started blabbing about how insignificant our professional certification is–a certification that shrm developed and promoted for many yrs. This is a slap in the face. As HR professionals this is what we are taught, right to be Excellent Business Leaders First!!!! The board seems to be really disconnected from the profession since most are not CERTIFIED. How can they truly represent a member organization when they are not certified hr professionals or were they chosen because they support someone’s agenda.

    We will get through this but at what cost to our members and the reputation of our “esteemed organization?? I agree with Bud-both organizations need to Really Listen and quit defending their actions. There is no excuse for the lack of professionalism in the way that this has been handled and communicated.

    Once again thanks for creating a forum for us to use our HRVoice.

  5. Joyce,

    Thank you for speaking bravely and openly about this subject. You have really captured the voice of many concerned HRCI-certified SHRM members. I sincerely hope that SHRM does not force state councils and local chapters to pick a side. For then, surely, we will ALL lose — most especially SHRM itself.

  6. I was hoping the SHRM BOD would hear to the outcry of their members and find some way to resolve this new certification issue. They proved at the conference they are continuing with amateur hour and will not listen. For all of you who have worked to achieve your current credential and want to stop this devaluation of your efforts and those of you who want to be part of a society that retains its credibility the time to act is NOW. The SHRM BOD needs to go. This means we have to work to remove them and replace them with a group who is competent enough to work with HRCI to resolve this.

    I am not an attorney, nor have I ever tried to change the bylaws of an organization or fire the whole BOD. However, within the membership we do have that capability. The following URL is a link to SHRMs bylaws.

    We need past BOD members, regional, state and local councils and chapters to activate their membership. From what I understand, if 10 percent of the membership write in calling for a Special Meeting we can get a chance at changing SHRMs bylaws and allowing the membership, not the BOD to decide who stays on the BOD.

    From what I have read in various posts there are a lot of regional, state and local SHRM leaders more than qualified to take over for the current BOD. I am guessing they likely have access to resources that can write up a new set of bylaws and help us figure out how to oust the current team that is taking us down this destructive path. At the very least we could take a resounding vote of NO Confidence.

    Bottom line if you do not like where things are going, you can do something about it. How many no confidence vote or emails calling for the firing of the entire SHRM BOD will it take, before the national media picks up the story? Or, better yet, the BOD begins to listen.

    What you can do:

    1. Look at the contact pages listed below to find your local regional/state and local chapters contact info.

    2. Send them an email titled: Member # (Your SHRM member number) requests special meeting to Fire SHRM BOD

    3. In the body of the email, let them know you believe the dual certification is a mistake, and that the current SHRM board has demonstrated a complete lack of competence and needs to be fired. Ask them how to help you make it happen. Be sure to Include your full name and contact info in body of message.

    Pacific Region Contacts

    North Central Region Contacts

    South Central Region Contacts

    South East Region Contacts

    North East Region Contacts

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