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SHRM Report: Survey Finds a Rise of Alternative Credentials in Hiring

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Increasingly, U.S. workers are turning to alternative credentials to enhance and demonstrate skills and work-readiness, according to new research from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), made possible by a grant from Walmart to the SHRM Foundation. SHRM's new reports, The Rise of Alternative Credentials in Hiring, released today along with Making Alternative Credentials Work: A New Strategy for HR Professionals, found that nearly half of U.S. workers (45%) say they have some form of an alternative credential. Among those who don't, about half (49%) have considered earning one.

But while employees and employers alike agree that alternative credentials bring value to the workplace and are instrumental in employee development, potential barriers to employers' wider recognition of alternative credentials include a lack of systems that can easily identify an individual's skills and talents, standards to recognize nontraditional or untapped talent, as well as employer reluctance to recognize a new way to validate these skills.

"Alternative credentials are key to uncovering untapped talent, especially when it comes to those job seekers who may not have the opportunity to build skills in a traditional way but have the competencies they need to succeed," said SHRM Foundation President Wendi Safstrom. "A majority of executives, supervisors and HR professionals believe that including alternative credentials in hiring decisions can actually improve overall workplace diversity."  

Other key findings include:

  • Alternative credentials are popular with workers: Nearly three-quarters of U.S. workers (72 percent) agree they are an affordable way to gain the skills or experience necessary to enter a new job, and 77 percent agree that having a job-relevant alternative credential increases or would increase their chances of being hired for a job.
  • People who hold alternative credentials bring value to the workplace, according to executives (87 percent), supervisors (81 percent) and especially HR professionals (90 percent).
  • During a time of skills shortages, alternative credentials can uncover untapped talent. When employers recognize alternative credentials, it becomes easier for diverse candidates to obtain employment, according to 81 percent of executives, 71 percent of supervisors and 59 percent of HR professionals
  • Adjusting applicant tracking systems could help increase awareness of alternative credentials. Nearly half of HR professionals surveyed (45 percent) say their organization uses automated prescreening to review job applicant resumes, but only one-third of those (32 percent) say their automated system recognizes alternative credentials.

"Alternative credentials can enable learning for workers, whether they are gaining new skills or refining old ones, and provide a pathway to a more diverse talent pool for employers," said Sean Murphy, director, opportunity, at Walmart, "SHRM's research clearly shows a demand for credentials, but it also uncovers the need for more transparency in their development and use, as well as a need for setting the standard for quality."

The SHRM Foundation began focusing on untapped talent with its efforts to help returning veterans find employment. Additional initiatives include Getting Talent Back to Work, focused on helping job seekers with criminal histories find employment, and Employing Abilities @Work, which helps companies recognize and hire job hunters with disabilities to fill critical positions. The SHRM Foundation has previously worked with Walmart on the importance of leveraging untapped talent in the workplace and published the report, Beneath the Surface: A Unified Approach to Realizing the Value of Untapped Talent.


Executives: A sample of 500 U.S. executives was surveyed online from July 15 to July 23, 2021. Respondents were sourced from Lucid.

Supervisors: A sample of 1,200 U.S. supervisors (i.e., workers who supervise one or more employees) was surveyed from July 15 to July 22, 2021. Respondents were sourced from Lucid.

HR Professionals: A sample of 1,129 U.S. human resource professionals was surveyed from July 14 to August 8, 2021. Respondents were sourced from 60,606 SHRM members invited via e-mail to participate in a survey, yielding a response rate of approximately 1.9%.

Workers: A sample of 1,525 U.S. workers without direct reports was surveyed online from July 13 to August 24, 2021. Respondents were sourced from Lucid. Data was collected using quota sampling on gender, age, race, education and census region, and was weighted to be representative of the U.S. working population.

About SHRM

SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, creates better workplaces where employers and employees thrive together. As the voice of all things work, workers and the workplace, SHRM is the foremost expert, convener and thought leader on issues impacting today's evolving workplaces. With 300,000+ HR and business executive members in 165 countries, SHRM impacts the lives of more than 115 million workers and families globally. Learn more at and on Twitter @SHRM.

About SHRM Foundation

Founded in 1966 the SHRM Foundation is the 501c (3) philanthropic arm of the world's largest HR professional society, SHRM. SHRM represents more than 300,000 HR professionals across the globe, impacting 115 million workers and their families. The SHRM Foundation mobilizes the power of HR for positive social change in the workplace. Its robust programming and resources, meaningful partnerships, and evidenced-based research are educating and empowering HR professionals to hire diverse talent, build inclusive workplaces, prioritize workplace mental health and wellness, develop skills, equip young people to pursue a career in HR and help employees find purpose at work and beyond. Learn more at

About Walmart
Walmart Inc. (NYSE: WMT) helps people around the world save money and live better - anytime and anywhere - in retail stores, online, and through their mobile devices. Each week, approximately 230 million customers and members visit more than 10,500 stores and clubs under 46 banners in 24 countries and eCommerce websites. With fiscal year 2022 revenue of $573 billion, Walmart employs approximately 2.3 million associates worldwide. Walmart continues to be a leader in sustainability, corporate philanthropy and employment opportunity. Additional information about Walmart can be found by visiting, on Facebook at and on Twitter at


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