SHRM Answers Questions About New HR Competency Certification


By Bill Leonard May 21, 2014

After announcing that the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) was launching a professional certification for HR-based competencies, several of the Society’s leaders participated in an online media briefing on May 20, 2014, to provide more details and answer questions about the program.

“The SHRM Board of Directors considered establishing this competency-based certification very carefully. We thoroughly reviewed the research and had in-depth discussions on the best way to proceed,” said Bette Francis, SPHR, chair of the SHRM board. “We decided that the profession needed to move toward a competency-based model and that we had to act as quickly as possible.”

Discussions on developing the certification program started in 2011, according to SHRM President and CEO Henry G. “Hank” Jackson. To help develop the project, SHRM asked for input from several well-known employers and universities. Approximately 30,000 HR professionals participated in the research and a series of validation studies.

Data for the project were compiled with the help of major corporations, while researchers from five universities meticulously examined how to develop an effective and accurate competency testing model. Business such as Wal-Mart, Boeing, Verizon and AutoZone participated, while Michigan State University, Pennsylvania State University, University of Lisbon and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte thoroughly researched the topic. The HR Competency Model was the result and was unveiled at the 2012 SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition in Atlanta. The model identified the following nine competencies HR professionals need to achieve success:

  • Communication
  • Relationship management
  • Ethical practice
  • HR expertise
  • Business acumen
  • Critical evaluation
  • Global and cultural effectiveness
  • Leadership navigation
  • Consultation

“The research concluded that these competencies are global and that no matter where they are in their career or where their employers are located, successful HR professionals need to demonstrate competency in these nine behaviors,” said Bob Carr, SPHR, SHRM’s senior vice president, membership, marketing and external affairs.

According to Carr and Jackson, the new SHRM certification will assess HR professionals on their knowledge and measure how they apply that knowledge when performing their jobs. Certification processes have previously focused on the body of knowledge within the profession, which is an essential building block to any certification program.

“Our goal is to bring unanimity to the HR body of knowledge,” Jackson said. “How someone applies that knowledge to their job is really what defines who is an effective professional and business leader.”

The validation studies examined the best ways to measure proficiency in the nine competencies, while executives and supervisors at the businesses participating in the studies reviewed and assessed the results.

“Adding competencies is the evolution of certification. Most if not all professional certification programs are moving in this direction,” said Jackson. “We would not be serving the HR profession if we do not continue to develop and promote something that is better.”

For the certification program, SHRM also sought the input from HR-related groups such as the HR Certification Institute (HRCI), the World Federation of People Management Associations and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.

“Businesses helped us to identify these competencies, and everyone agreed these are the behaviors successful HR professionals should demonstrate,” Jackson said. “Every group we then spoke with about this issue agreed that adding competency to the certification process is the right thing to do.”

According to Francis and Jackson, officials with HRCI were included from the onset in discussions on how to develop the competency-based certification. SHRM officials moved ahead with establishing the new program after it became apparent HRCI did not intend to be part of the program.

HRCI released a statement announcing that SHRM’s new certification would “have no impact on” the Institute’s “portfolio of certifications,” and HRCI pledged that it would continue to develop and administer its established certifications, which include the PHR, SPHR, GPHR, PHR/SPHR-CA, HRBP and HRMP designations. In the written statement, HRCI asserted that it “is not and was not involved with the development of this certification.”

When asked in the SHRM media briefing why HRCI was excluded from the process, Jackson answered that SHRM had worked hard to make sure HRCI officials were included from the beginning.

“We did meet with them and kept the HRCI board informed of the initiative’s progress. SHRM obviously would prefer to have HRCI participate in this very important initiative. But, for whatever reasons, they have chosen not to,” Jackson said. “If, in the future, they want to join SHRM in this venture, then we will welcome them with open arms.”

The new certification program is set to launch in January 2015. HR professionals with existing generalist certifications that are in good standing will be eligible for the new SHRM certification – at no cost – on January 1, 2015, by completing the following by December 31, 2015: Document that your current certification is in good standing; sign the SHRM Code of Ethics; and complete a brief online tutorial on HR competencies.

The first exams for the new competency-based certification will be held in May 2015. HR professionals who are interested in registering for the exam will able to perform an online self-assessment beginning in January 2015 to make sure that they are eligible to participate.

SHRM will offer two certification exams—one for executive-level and the other for entry-, mid- and senior-level HR competencies. To guarantee proper oversight of the new program, SHRM is also launching a new certification board. The SHRM Certification Board will manage all aspects of the new program, including development of the exam, eligibility requirements and procedures for recertification.

The name of the new certification will be announced during the SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition, June 22-25, 2014, in Orlando, Fla. In addition, several informational sessions about the program are being planned for the conference, Carr said. More details about the new certification are also available online at An FAQ can answer more questions.

Bill Leonard is a senior writer for SHRM.


Job Finder

Find an HR Job Near You
Search Jobs
Post a Job


Find the Right Vendor for Your HR Needs

SHRM’s HR Vendor Directory contains over 10,000 companies

Search & Connect