The Importance of a Global HR Certification

Thought leaders weigh in on the worldwide applicability and impact of SHRM credentials

By Robert Garcia, MBA, SHRM-SCP, and Rena Gorlin, J.D. Oct 3, 2016
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Robert Garcia, MBA, SHRM-SCP, vice president of global operations for SHRM

Don't be misled by the absence of the word "global" in the names of SHRM's credentials for HR professionals—they are indeed global certifications. Developed with the goal of worldwide applicability and covering universal HR practices, the SHRM Certified Professional and SHRM Senior Certified Professional designations represent more than meets the American eye. 

Global & Cultural Effectiveness is one of the eight behavioral competencies, and HR in the Global Context is one of the 15 functional areas within the technical competency of HR Expertise (HR Knowledge) on which candidates for SHRM certification are tested. This prominence in the canon reveals just how important the developers of the SHRM Competency Model and the SHRM Body of Competency and Knowledge (BoCK) regard the international HR perspective. Candidates who pass the SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP exam demonstrate their knowledge, skills, abilities and situational judgment to practice as an HR professional—anywhere in the world. 

We asked two pioneering global HR thought leaders for their opinions on the importance of a global certification for the HR profession, their assessment of the worldwide influence and impact of SHRM certification, and their suggestions for its growth. 

Lisbeth Claus
Lisbeth Claus, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP
Lisbeth Claus, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, is professor of management and global HR at Willamette University's Atkinson Graduate School of Management in Salem, Ore., and editor-in-chief of the first three volumes of the Global HR Practitioner Handbook. "While HR practice is context-specific and requires adaptation to local laws and cultural acceptability," she said, "HR processes are based on basic principles that are supported by evidence and constitute the common core of HR knowledge." These processes include recruitment, retention, performance management, compensation, benefits, employee and labor relations, organizational development, and more. 

"The SHRM competency-based certification focuses on these core principles, which all HR practitioners, wherever they practice, should use as a baseline," Claus said. Moreover, "each one of the SHRM competencies has a global dimension." 

"Creating a commonly accepted and understood standard of knowledge and experience enables an HR professional to perform in the international arena," said Cesar A. Aguirre, senior vice president of HR for the Latin America, Europe and Middle East division of Boston-based American Tower Corporation, a passive infrastructure service company for the telecommunications industry. "Having one's knowledge and authority certified by SHRM, a worldwide institution, will continue to contribute to raising the HR functions and its international practitioners," he added. 

Cesar A. Aguirre
Cesar A. Aguirre
Global HR practice consists of two elements, and an HR certification must address both if it is to have worldwide applicability. One aspect covers global mobility, or the various implications of employees who cross borders as part of their work; the other concerns the management of HR processes in organizations that operate in multiple countries. "These two streams of knowledge are vastly different in scope, both depth and breadth," Claus said. Global & Cultural Effectiveness "covers the core global HR competency at the entry, mid-, senior and executive level." 

To further enhance the international character of HR certification, Aguirre recommended "incorporating into the BoCK more HR practices from all corners of the world, especially emerging markets that are not typically considered, such as HR requirements in individual African nations." Aguirre would also like to place more of a focus on cultural issues—"the culture of countries as well as organizational culture in different parts of the world, and the impact of culture on the practice of global HR." 

HR professionals all over are already taking notice of the SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP credentials. "SHRM certification is undoubtedly having worldwide influence," Claus said. "This can be attributed to the SHRM global brand, focused marketing in various regions and the lack of baseline HR certification in many other countries." 

The emphasis of SHRM certification on HR policies and practices, rather than on laws and regulations, Claus says, is another factor in its global favor. The SHRM certification exams given outside the U.S. do not cover the statutes of any one country. Only those candidates who sit for the exams within the U.S. are tested on the U.S. Employment Law & Regulation functional area within the HR Expertise (HR Knowledge) technical competency. 

Aguirre believes that the global growth and acceptance of SHRM certification will increase as the HR profession worldwide is exposed to it, through public awareness via HR organizations as well as word of mouth via individual HR practitioners. 

For SHRM certificants, the global reach of their credentials is one more point of pride. For HR professionals still considering whether to sit for the SHRM-CP or SHRM-SCP exams, they should know that worldwide recognition is one more benefit of SHRM certification. 

Robert Garcia, MBA, SHRM-SCP, is vice president of global operations for SHRM. Rena Gorlin, J.D., is an independent writer and editor in Washington, D.C. 

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