Can someone in-the-know please answer my questions?

1. What’s the real difference between HRCI’s certification program and SHRM’s certification program?

2. Per the internet and life, a competency is a set of defined behaviors that provide a structured guide enabling the identification, evaluation and development of the behaviors in individual employees. Has the new SHRM certification program been validated as an instrument that accurately measures competencies? Who validated it? How does the SHRM test differ from HRCI’s exam?

3. The HRCI program was accredited and (allegedly) carried the same weight as a CPA. Don’t tell that to CPAs. Does the new SHRM program carry that weight?

4. Has anyone tested how valuable and meaningful SHRM’s program is to the marketplace? Is there any data showing how SHRM’s program measures against an MBA? Or how the program is measured by CHROs and CEOs?

5. Will the SHRM board and leadership team be required to participate in the SHRM certification program?

6. Can you be a CHRO or CEO without these new credentials?

7. Is this program appropriate for any talent acquisition professionals or recruiters who work in human resources? Or is this program just focused on business partners and generalists?

8. What was the HRCI funding scheme? How did state and local chapters benefit from the certification program? How does SHRM measure against HRCI in this regard? Should anyone profit from HR professionals who take the test?

9. There’s currently a mechanism in place to gain your SHRM certification quickly if you’re already certified from HRCI. Doesn’t the quick certification process prove the similarities between the two programs more than it demonstrates the differences?

10. If I’m in human resources, can someone give me one good reason the SHRM certification program enhances my career prospects and is worth my time?

11. How do Hank Jackson, Bob Carr or anyone in SHRM’s public relations or marketing department still have a job after the failed SHRM-HRCI integration and the poor launch of this program? Who on the board has been held accountable for this mess? Does the board see this for the shabby mess that it is? How will SHRM do better by its members in the future? Why am I talking to myself on this bullet point? Why don’t I just shout into the wind a little more?

Those are my questions. Do you have questions? Did I miss yours? Do you have answers? Let me know!

Why does everyone hate HR? Join the movement to fix that. Download the new e-book, “ I Am HR.” Click to tweet.


  1. Laurie – Great questions. You can find the answers to some of them on the numerous posts on HRCI and SHRM LinkedIn groups. I’ll address one of the issues you raised in a couple of your questions based on my experience as a former HRCI and SHRM Foundation board member.

    The value of an HRCI certification varies based on the stage of your career, your other professional and academic accomplishments and the kind of HR work you do. It’s kind of like running a 10K. Everyone has his or her own reasons, goals and benefits. That’s why you hear such varied responses when you ask professionals what their certifications have done for them.

    HRCI has done several studies to look at this question, both from the perspective of how certificants and non-certificants FEEL about certification and how certificants differ from non-certificants in their career progress.

    In general (which is the only thing these studies show), both certificants and non-certificants see certification as a valuable professional credential that signifies professionalism, knowledge, competence and dedication. It is seen as desirable and distinctive, and most certificants are proud of their certifications (which is why this whole HRCI-SHRM thing is so emotional).

    A recent study by an independent firm, PayScale, shows significant benefits to certification in salary level and job progression. The study clearly demonstrates that HRCI certificants enjoy a major advantage in the marketplace.

    And if you consider all the HR job postings that either require or prefer certification, you see how many doors are open to certificants that are closed to non-certificants.

    I don’t know what will happen with SHRM’s new certification. As you said, it is certainly more similar to than different from HRCI’s. You’re right about the horrible reception it has received – the worst product launch since New Coke. If I had to guess, I would say that with all of SHRM’s resources, both monetarily and organizationally, its certifications will hang around. But given that the eligibility requirements are a bit less rigorous than HRCI’s, and given that its branding is so closely aligned with SHRM itself, I think it will gradually become the certification that some devoted SHRM members – particularly at the non-exempt level – generally gravitate to.

    At the same time, HRCI, which has more financial resources than most people realize, will remain as the more esteemed, independent credential for HR professionals.

    If SHRM members were given a vote right now, I think they’d overwhelmingly send the SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP packing. But they don’t, and the governance of SHRM is such that SHRM is able to muscle its chapters into strongly supporting its products irrespective of its members’ wishes.

    I hope this helps at least a little.

  2. Laurie –

    I appreciate that you put these questions out there because I think there are distinctions regarding the two certifications. Let me take them one at a time.

    1) The main difference I’ve seen is that HRCI’s focus has been to gain a great base of HR knowledge and then sit for the exam. It is well rounded and sets a great baseline of what you know as an HR pro. Most HR pros think or earning their letters from HRCI.

    The SHRM Certification also includes the body of knowledge that is needed in any HR Role. The biggest difference I’ve seen (so far) is that the SHRM Cert sees the exam as a gateway to further professional development. You take a self-assessment to see where you stand and you get a suggested plan on areas where you can continue to develop.

    The Competency Model is in regards to behavior that we use and see in our HR roles. This is new and matches more what HR pros face on a daily basis.

    2) I think the SHRM exam has been validated and the exam differs considerably than when I took the SPHR. The SPHR is a mix of knowledge and situations. The questions I’ve seen so far are more in-depth and descriptive situations with many questions about the situation. (i.e. 3 questions on each situation which look at different competencies from the SHRM Model).

    3) I don’t think the “weight” of the SHRM certification is measurable at this time. The CPA has transcended the Accounting/Financial field to be seen as a business benchmark. The PHR/SPHR and new SHRM Cert will be benchmarks within HR, but I’m not sure they transcend our field. I know that they are listed on job descriptions and are used in recruiting, but I think the pride of holding these certs are more important to HR internally.

    4) I know that model has been shared with CHRO’s, but the exam and cert will happen in the future.

    5) Many of the SHRM Leadership Team and Board members participated in the pathway to receive their SHRM-SCP or SHRM-CP at the Volunteer Leadership Summit this past week in DC. They took the same tutorial that all currently certified people can take in 2015 because it will be open only to current HRCI certificants. Those who aren’t certified would need to take the exam starting in 2015 and I’m not sure who it planning on doing that yet.

    6) Yes, I think you can. I don’t mean this in a crass manner in any way – but I passed a test to get my SPHR.

    How I perform and practice as an HR professional is how you become a CHRO or CEO. That is determined within an organization.

    There are many great HR pros who will never have certifications, and there are those who passed the test who practice HR at all levels of orgs with varied levels of success and impact.

    Having your certifications exhibits your interest in investing in yourself, the profession and in ongoing professional development.

    7) I think the program is more Generalist based. However, I think HR pros from all facets of HR could learn from the material and get their certification.

    8) Not sure how HRCI is funded. I know there is a fee for taking the exam and for recertifying, and I’m sure SHRM will do the same.

    The “profit from the exam” question is tough. I see it as a cost to have access to the product (learning materials, study courses, tests). It would be similar to paying for college courses and related materials.

    9) It does show the similarities. I think it’s a good thing that SHRM has chosen to recognize those who already received their PHR and SPHR. I don’t think there’s value in the “let’s make people go through a gauntlet to earn their stripes.”

    Please note that I know some folks who took the SHRM-SCP and SHRM-CP pilot test and they share d with me directly that it was challenging and was as stout as the PHR/SPHR have been. It’s going to be a solid method to earn the cert in the future.

    10) As stated before, I think the SHRM Cert is more focused on professional development and not for just the sake of “getting your hours in.”

    I’m not naive. Anyone who holds a cert (including CPA’s) rush to cram hours in to maintain their letters, but I like the approach to start.

    I like the behavioral component of the SHRM Cert Program and I could talk to HR pros about how behavior is where we practice and live every day. Understanding how those behaviors drive us and how we impact a company strategically is critical.

    11) I agree with Howard that the rollout of the SHRM Cert has been ugly. I was at SHRM headquarters the day of the announcement. I was in shock and blindsided like all HR folks.

    I can only speak from my experience, but I can tell you that the SHRM Board and Leadership Team, have heard the voices (questions, concerns, anger and support) about the SHRM Cert directly from me and my fellow members of the Membership Advisory Council (MAC).

    We delivered a hard message at our last two face-to-face meetings with them. We also did something different.

    Instead of just sharing the emotions and angst, we provided data from surveys we conducted and also offered recommendations for them to consider.

    I have seen tangible, visible action from members of the Board and the LT on these reports.

    There has been a growing disconnect between SHRM members and the LT/Board. This has been communicated and I know that things are moving in a better direction.

    Mind you, it’s just a start, but in the past I think there was more structural distance which added to the disconnect. Now, relationships are being built and there are strategic discussions and initiatives which could have been put together prior to the launch.

    That is hindsight, and the sting is still palpable. However, I think we’re moving toward implementation and execution of getting the SHRM Cert program up and running.

    Time will tell how it performs. I’m encouraged about what I’ve seen so far. Let’s see how it goes !!

  3. 12. What will be the impact on SHRM chapters and thus, membership? A primary driver of membership and attendance at the local chapter level is programming that contains recertification credits. Without the credits available, my guess is that attendance at many chapter meetings would drop by a third, if not more.

    Now, what happens to all those individuals who spend considerable time annually gaining the necessary credits to maintain certification with HRCI? Will chapters still go through the process of seeking HRCI credits for programming in 2015 and beyond? Are already strained volunteers now going to have pursue getting approval for both HRCI and SHRM recertifications?

  4. L,
    You can be a CHRO without the new credentials….although I will venture to convert mine in January by taking the tutorial. In fact many CHRO’s dont have any credentials…
    I think the PHR has a lot of value for emerging/early career folks and should still be pursued by folks.
    Yes they did a poor job of pivoting and communicating…they needed to evolve the SPHR and GPHR – probably a lot of politics that they could not settle on so a “divorce” was in order…too bad. The better option would have been to blend the two directions over time…
    5 yrs. from know no one will remember this…
    sorry I only answered 1 question…
    enjoy the holidays!

Comments are closed.