Game of Certification

Quiet.  All was quiet as those who inhabited the World of HR went about their daily lives. Ruled by two Houses, House SHRM and House HRCI, a peace existed. Unfortunately, peace could not withstand the oncoming storm. Change was coming but it was not a change expected.  Or, was it? This, my friends, is the World of HR. This is a game of certification.

Game of Certification, Kyle Jones, HRCI, SHRM, Mississippi HR, HR to WHO

Game of Certification


I received an email from Elissa C. O’Brien, SPHR, on May 12, 2014.  This email, with subject SHRM Board Approves Plans for New HR Certification Based on Competencies, announced changes coming in 2015.

A paragraph stated:

SHRM plans to offer the first exam for the new competency-based certification in mid-2015.  However, to ensure that no applicants are disadvantaged by this transition, SHRM will continue to support the PHR and SPHR certifications programs through the December 2014 – January 2015 test window.  Other exams will be supported through their last test window in 2014.


This was simple. SHRM had decided to go a different direction with certification. Right?

If only it were that simple. House SHRM had spoken and pronounced themselves sole proprietor of SHRM certification.  House HRCI chose to quickly respond.

This is where it became confusing. A counter release from the HRCI stated:


You may have seen the recent announcement regarding the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) board approval for a new HR certification.

We wanted to let you know that this announcement will have no impact on any of the HR

Certification Institute’s (HRCI) portfolio of certifications. We will continue to develop and administer the PHR®, SPHR®, GPHR®, PHR/SPHR-CA®, HRBP® and HRMP® and our other high-quality certification products to meet the needs of the HR profession.


Basically….game on!


The Community Reaction


To me, it was clear. House HRCI had been blindsided and one might wonder if they released the statement in anger/frustration. One announcement painted a picture of one replacing the other while the other announcement stated the opposite.Kyle Jones, SHRM, HRCI, Game of Certification, HR to WHO

The result? Confusion among the HR community.

HR bloggers did as I am doing now – expressed their views in written form.


Some notable articles are:


SHRM’s New Certification is a Money Grab! – The Tim Sackett Project

New #SHRM Certification Raises More Questions than it Answers – True Faith HR

Conscious Uncoupling – HR Style – HR Schoolhouse



My View


Change is good.

Change happens and we can’t stop change; however, we can control how we package the change. SHRM did this by controlling who knew beforehand and – more importantly – who did not. SHRM chose to leave it’s best resource – and revenue source – in the dark.  Who? The membership. It left in the dark those who are normally called upon serve the profession. Who? The volunteer leaders.


My original thought:  

Why leave the volunteer base in the dark? Wouldn’t it be in SHRM’s best interest to educate the volunteers and use them as a component of the PR machine?


After I thought about it:

What if SHRM wanted to make a complete break from the HRCI? Would it be possible to alert the volunteer base and not alert – even by accident – the HRCI? After all, the number of SHRM volunteers number in the thousands.These are non-paid positions so the possibility of confidentiality with such as large number of volunteers would be questionable.  


Was this a botched PR job?  Maybe.

Was this the way it had to be to make a break from House HRCI?  Maybe.

Did House SHRM do a questionable job in the rollout of this new certification?  ABSOLUTELY!


Who will win in this Game of Certification? My bet would be on House SHRM. Regardless, when the dust settles, I hope lessons are learned and the HR community is strengthened as a result.




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