Keeping HR Relevant at Volvo Group North America

SHRM certification is integral to company’s HR development strategy

By Rena Gorlin October 25, 2018

​As director of talent strategy at Volvo Group North America, Hope Rush, SHRM-SCP, was instrumental in the decision to incorporate SHRM certification into the company's HR development program. We asked her how Volvo's HR development strategy for U.S. HR staff came about, its implementation and her observations on its results so far. 


SHRM Certification: You've been with Volvo in Greensboro, N.C., for 10 years, focusing on career development, strategic recruitment, change management, leadership development and culture change. How did certification become part of Volvo's HR development strategy? 

Rush: Our HR development program started three or four years ago to answer the question of what senior leadership expected HR to be doing for the organization. The program established internal requirements for our HR business partners, which is critical for them as professionals. The requirements naturally covered education. Certification was the next step, because it's about maintaining relevance. When you get a degree, you aren't required to "do" anything with it again, but when you earn a professional credential, you have to maintain it by keeping up-to-date through the continuing education requirements. That's especially important in our fast-changing industry, making sure that our HR professionals stay relevant and up to speed with legislation, benchmarking and more. 


SHRM Certification: How was the idea of certification sold to Volvo's senior leadership? 

Rush: When HR business partners in our internal development program started asking about certification, we took a multifaceted approach to developing it as a component. In presenting a proposal to senior leadership, we looked at many aspects of certification: legal questions; how certification would mitigate risks; how it would raise the level of competency and confidence among staff; how it would save time; how it would produce a positive return on investment; how it would be supported. 


SHRM Certification: How did SHRM become your resource for HR certification? 

Rush: The SHRM Body of Competency and Knowledge is a great model, so we purchased the SHRM Learning System because it supported our direction. Volvo's HR development strategy already involved our leadership competencies. Therefore, we aligned the SHRM competencies with our own, and they're now more organically linked together. Our strategy also mirrors what SHRM says about the role of HR, to lead the organization now versus what the organization might need in the future. One example of that is our internal HR conference. 


SHRM Certification: Is certification required of all HR staff? How does Volvo support those who are seeking certification? 

Rush: Certification is part of the hiring and promotion process, not a stand-alone qualifier. It is now required for our current HR employees. It is preferred, not required, for new hires; once they're on board, Volvo will help them get certified. The mandate to seek SHRM certification is not punitive—we want our HR professionals to grow and develop. The company pays for outside or online cert exam prep courses, supplies training resources, hosts internal study groups, and contracts with SHRM for onsite training, plus everything else that SHRM offers as support for certification. 


SHRM Certification: How many people at Volvo now have or are seeking HR certification? How does Volvo recognize those who have earned their SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP credential? 

Rush: We have 75-plus HR staff members in our U.S. Volvo Group business areas. Before our new HR certification program was implemented, 22 percent were already certified; with the program, 56 percent are now certified, both SHRM and non-SHRM. In recognition of people's efforts, when they pass their SHRM certification exam, a celebratory e-mail is sent out to all of HR and an announcement is made at our internal HR conference. Plus they get a gift bag full of SHRM swag! 


SHRM Certification: How did you obtain your own SHRM credential, and what are you doing to maintain it? 

Rush: I earned my HRCI certifications in 2003, then obtained my SHRM-SCP though the pathway in 2015. I just recertified, but I'm always accumulating PDCs through involvement in a mix of activities: work projects in affirmative action, immigration and global HR; local events; Volvo's internal HR conference; and SHRM conferences—Annual, Talent and Diversity & Inclusion.


SHRM Certification: What changes have you observed at Volvo now that SHRM-certified HR professionals are on staff? 

Rush: It's been very positive. We have a more skilled and qualified HR community. Senior leadership is getting fewer questions about what HR business partners and other HR staff should know. People are more confident in handling situations and working with the executive team, and many are even asking for stretch assignments to see what they can do outside their regular job parameters. SHRM certification has become a point of reference for people as they continue to grow and develop themselves professionally. As someone who's been in HR for over 20 years, and as an accredited coach, I've always believed that leadership is about passion, not position. 


SHRM Certification: How would you advise other organizations that are considering SHRM certification as part of their HR strategy? 

Rush: It's definitely worth the investment. Certified individuals have more education, confidence and courage. This leads to more productive interactions with other stakeholders, including senior leadership.  

Rena Gorlin, J.D., is an independent writer and editor in Washington, D.C.



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