SHRM-Defined Competencies Resonate with HR Department of One

Ph.D. candidate studying organizational leadership appreciates emphasis on behaviors

By Rena Gorlin May 10, 2018
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SHRM-Defined Competencies Resonate with HR Department of One

​Jennifer R. Seal, SHRM-SCP

​Jennifer R. Seal, SHRM-SCP, was already 15 years into a career in organizational development—she had been a consultant and an instructor and was pursuing her doctorate in a related field—when she decided to seek her professional credentials in HR.

"I work really hard on my education. While I have been seeking my Ph.D. in organizational leadership, several people have asked me what certifications I have," Seal said.

She is a resident of the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, also home to a large number of U.S. armed forces facilities and personnel, with whom she may be working in the future. Certifications "are important to the military community; [these] potential clients want something known and recognized," she said. "That was my main motivator to get certified in HR."

She made sure to research HR certifications before choosing the one that suited her best. Familiar with the concept of behavioral competencies from her ongoing doctoral program, she said she "saw that the SHRM competencies are absolutely compatible" with her studies. "Their use is comparable to the consulting side of organizational development," Seal said.

She decided to take the SHRM-SCP certification exam and used the SHRM Learning System to prepare for it, supplementing the materials with visits to SHRM study sites and participation in online forums.

Learn Why Exam Answers Are Right or Wrong

"Definitely trust your gut," Seal advised SHRM certification candidates preparing for the exam. "But also learn why your answers are right or wrong—I found that to be most important when studying." After taking the practice exams, she "read through all the reasons given for the correct answers, as well as the reasons why the other answers were not correct. That exercise really helped me identify situations," she said. "Instead of just marking A, B or C, you have to think through the scenario, matching competencies to behaviors."

The benefit of such an approach, she added, is that "the questions on the actual test don't have to be exactly the same" as those on the practice exams. "Of course, you still need to know what needs to be done in the given situation. But this method helped change my mindset." She passed the exam in January 2018 and now holds the SHRM-SCP credential.

Knowing How to Talk, Listen, Understand Behavior

Seal is vice president of organizational development at a 60-employee event equipment rental company in Chesapeake, Va., and the company's sole HR practitioner—an HR department of one. In that role, she considers the most important SHRM-defined competencies to be Leadership & Navigation and Communication. Together, they define the qualities "that an authentic leader has," she said. "People need motivation. You have to know how to talk to people—and how to listen. In business, you also have to be aware of how people behave, not just what they say. You have to know how to work with teams, handle collaboration and bring people in. No one person can do it all."

Seal advises her fellow HR departments of one to "get involved with a professional organization. Meet people who do what you do. Network to find people with different perspectives and experiences." She also emphasizes the value of doing research. "Read white papers on specific subjects to learn about options and solutions. As a SHRM member, I know I have access to all the resources I need," she remarked.

"HR is so much more complex today," Seal said. "And where it's going tomorrow will be even more complex. As an HR professional, I'm a change agent as well as a business partner." 

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

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