Living Up to the Promise of Modern HR

SHRM-certified entrepreneur encourages peers to prove perception that they’re smart and capable

By Rena Gorlin January 23, 2019
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Living Up to the Promise of Modern HR

Adam R. Calli, SHRM-SCP

"Everything moves fast in the information age, so people make quick decisions about your capabilities," said Adam R. Calli, SHRM-SCP, principal of Arc Human Capital Consulting LLC, of Woodbridge, Va. "Right or wrong, they judge you and draw conclusions based on your degrees and certifications."

He said certified professionals are thought to be smart and capable as well as knowledgeable. "The bar is raised—for you, your organization and the profession. So it's incumbent on you to know your stuff, to live up to the promise of modern HR!"

Calli has practiced in the HR field for more than 20 years. He started as a trainer in six years of service with the U.S. Navy. When he entered the private sector in 1995, Calli put his undergrad business degree to work in the hospitality industry. Time in operations management at a large hotel chain made him realize how much he liked "the people management aspect" of the job, and he redirected his career focus. "HR touches everything," he said. "Being in HR is an opportunity to positively impact every aspect of the organization."

Calli became a busy instructor of seminars for continuing professional education in HR and certification preparation classes. He attained his SHRM-SCP credential as soon as the certification program launched in 2015. "How can you teach a class preparing for a certification you don't possess yourself?" he said. "SHRM has credibility—it is the association for HR." He also earned the SWP (Strategic Workforce Planner) certification.

Four years ago, Calli launched his own consultancy to help HR teams become "ambitious partners to their businesses." Since then, he has received a master's degree in management with an HR concentration and contributed a chapter to a book on cultivating corporate culture.

Respect Plus Responsibility

In his capacity as a presenter, author and consultant, Calli is aware that "to be SHRM-certified means prestige, respect and credibility. It also means accountability and raised expectations." For example, he described how the Ethical Practice competency governs his business dealings. "Clients ask me for recommendations for products or services, and vendors might offer to pay me a referral fee. But I only refer a client to a product or service because it meets the client's needs," Calli said. "The client has to have faith in me. I tell the vendor I can't be bought."

Another example involves Relationship Management. Calli leverages his proficiency in this competency to gain practical knowledge: "You can look up how to do something," he said, "but it's better to ask people in your network how they do it, so you can compare actual experiences, policy samples, etc. Networking magnifies your value to your organization." He added that "networking with people is an obligation to give as well as take. Share your experiences and policies with them, too."

During his time in the hotel business, Calli developed strong relationships within his company. When he left the industry, however, he found himself without a network. Joining local SHRM chapters helped him gradually rebuild it. "Networking is one of the best aspects of membership," he said. "There's a lot to tap into." His advice for HR professionals at any level is to "network early and often, and don't stop. You can't network too much!"

Certification as Lens on Life

The SHRM certification mindset now serves as Calli's guide in many situations. He cited a project he worked on with some colleagues in HR who wanted to go into business together. "I asked myself, can they tap into the HR Expertise [knowledge domain] approach to business management and strategy? Have they utilized the SHRM Learning System? Will the connection be casual or orderly?" Calli said. "SHRM certification has given me pause. I am more thoughtful. I don't just reflect on my own experience, I also look at best practices. If someone isn't interested in doing things that way, is it the best approach?" As SHRM-certified professionals, he said, "We need to see things through this lens."

As a business owner, he added, "I now look at life not just from the HR point of view—where the profession has traditionally fallen short—but also as a business partner. The whole HR profession is working to address that, and SHRM certification no doubt will help."

Calli has contributed to the effort to elevate the profession by serving as a subject matter expert on SHRM's exam development team, making sure that test items are pertinent, up-to-date and well-written.

Keeping Up Is Key

A key SHRM certification requirement is to maintain one's credential by keeping up with the latest developments and continuously honing one's skills—otherwise known as recertification. "Why would you make the effort to earn your SHRM certification only to surrender it?" Calli said. "You must stay aware of what's new." He pointed out that "how a professional applies what's new is the biggest difference between SHRM and other certifications. Competencies are woven through expertise. You must be able to see the big picture, including domino effects and the flow-through of changes."

Calli noted that he got his master's degree "recently enough to have the perspective of a student as well as a teacher. You'll spend much more on graduate school, but much of the content was almost identical to parts of the SHRM Learning System—high-level and meaningful," he said. "You can count on SHRM certification as worthwhile. It's well worth the money as an investment in you."

Having a SHRM-SCP or SHRM-CP, Calli said, "shows that you have the willingness to improve yourself. Don't let your career just 'happen'—own it, manage it, direct it!"

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

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