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SHRM-HRCI rift: What does it mean for HR professionals?

July 16, 2014 at 5:00 am by: Tammy Binford

The news of a change in certification for human resource professionals struck a nerve this spring when the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) announced it was developing a new certification system that seems to be a threat to the familiar credentials offered through HR Certification Institute (HRCI). The heat has only built since the May announcement. Immediately, questions began to surface, many of which came to a head at SHRM’s annual meeting held in June in Orlando. In addition to questions about how the new system will work and what it means for the existing certification program, HR practitioners are wondering how the rancor surrounding the change will play out.

SHRM says it tried to work with HRCI on a certification program focusing on what it terms “competencies.” The goal of the competency model is to assess not just what practitioners know but also how they perform. In a June press release. SHRM said the program “is based on the SHRM HR Competency Model, which was validated by more than 30,000 HR professionals around the world.”

HRCI claimed in a statement in response to SHRM’s announcement that its exams “have always been competency-based and derived with input from thousands of practicing HR professionals around the world.” HRCI says it was taken by surprise and the organization, which was created by SHRM in 1973, is not planning to roll over.

“SHRM claims in its public statements that it invites collaboration with HRCI. But SHRM’s private actions tell a different story,” HRCI Executive Director Amy Schabacker Dufrane, said in a statement released during the SHRM annual meeting .

“SHRM launched a competitive certification without notification and terminated HRCI’s operating agreement that connected us for decades,” Dufrane’s statement continued. “Then they barred us from participating as an exhibitor at the SHRM Annual Conference. We are not sure what Hank Jackson, C.P.A. President and CEO of SHRM, means when he says he is hopeful HRCI will support SHRM’s new certification.”

The rift has caused HRCI to move out of the building it once shared with SHRM, and HR practitioners with the credentials from HRCI have to wonder about the future of the organization. HRCI, typically a major presence at the SHRM

annual meeting, says it was barred this year. SHRM says HRCI withdrew on its own.

Steve Bruce, editor of BLR’s HR Daily Advisor . who attended the Orlando meeting and talked with representatives of both SHRM and HRCI, says SHRM claimed it didn’t ban HRCI. But because of the severance of the affiliation agreement, it wouldn’t provide HRCI with the usual level of assistance—free admittance for staff and presence for the association, for example.

Bruce says SHRM maintains it tried to work with HRCI on the new certification plan but found that organization intransigent on the issue of adding competencies to the certification process. He says HRCI accuses SHRM of defining partnership as controlling and threatening to their necessary independence.

HR professionals at the meeting also expressed concern over the rift. Bruce said he talked to practitioners who are concerned that expanded access will weaken the importance and prestige attached to certification, but SHRM responds that its test won’t be easier than the current certification test.

Bruce said he also heard attendees voice the belief that the new credentials are just a way for SHRM to bring in money, but SHRM responds that the program will be operated on a cost basis and isn’t intended to generate a profit.

Susan Schoenfeld. a senior legal editor for BLR’s human resources and employment law publications, also attended the meeting and found practitioners full of questions but trusting that they’ll be able to convert to the new certification.

Organizations that provide certification training also attended the Orlando meeting and had concerns, Schoenfeld says. They’re wondering about what they need to be developing and what the deadlines will be. She says SHRM told providers that classes and test prep materials should be based on its new global Body of Competency and Knowledge (BOCK), but providers don’t yet have details on what the BOCK will be.

Friday, we will look at how HR professionals with HRCI certifications can get the new SHRM certifications and more with “SHRM certification: How will HR professionals go forward?”

About: Tammy:

Tammy Binford writes and edits news alerts and newsletter articles on labor and employment law topics for BLR Web and print publications. In addition, she writes for HR Hero Line and Diversity Insight . two of the ezines and blogs found on

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