Early Impressions of SHRM's New California Micro-Credential


By Rena Gorlin May 24, 2018

​At the recent California State Council (CalSHRM) California State Legislative & HR Conference, held in Sacramento, attendees learned more about the new SHRM California Employment Law Micro-Credential, which was officially introduced in February. 

And they saw credential-holders put their learning into action: CalSHRM State Director-Elect Trisha Zulic, SHRM-SCP, was among hundreds of attendees who visited lawmakers, and she also testified before the Legislature. 

Attendees who met with lawmakers acted as "a resource for legislators who may not understand the HR profession," said Zulic, senior director of business operations at WSA Distributing Inc. in San Diego. "We help them see the potential impact a bill can have on the workplace from the HR practitioner's perspective." 

There were 544 registered attendees, and 358 of them made Capitol Advocacy Visits to state lawmakers and staff, "the largest delegation of SHRM members ever to visit a state's legislative offices," according to SHRM Divisional Director–West Jon Decoteau, SHRM-SCP. 

Zulic said the conference "has grown significantly over the past five years. It demonstrates the boots-on-the-ground impact that HR can have." 

Decoteau gave a presentation on the California micro-credential at the conference and said attendees were interested in the new way to denote their expertise in California workplace law. 

"Specialized expertise in labor and employment law is critical in California, considering the number of statutes and the dramatic rate of change every year," he said. "It's what makes HR practice here so different from other states. Gov. [Jerry] Brown had 1,100 bills presented to him in 2017, and he signed 800. Some of those laws have labor implications and affect our members' workforces and businesses." 

Legislative Framework in California Is Complex 

Decoteau explained that because of the complexity of legislation in California, "many municipalities are now generating their own labor laws. For example, there are 21 provisions regulating minimum wage within the state; 14 of those are in the Bay Area alone." 

Studying for and earning the California micro-credential can help the state's HR professionals navigate this complexity, Decoteau said. "People need the nine HR competencies [that form the basis for SHRM certification] to run their businesses, plus the California micro-credential to ensure compliance. 

"But you don't have to have full SHRM certification to get the micro-credential," he noted. "That's exciting, because the micro-credential is about obtaining HR knowledge and we want it to be attainable by a larger community." 

Details on how to attain the SHRM California Employment Law Micro-Credential are available here

"We expect that most holders of the micro-credential have already been certified or will take this step on the journey toward attaining their SHRM credential," Decoteau said. "Remember, SHRM certification is about applying both HR knowledge and skills; the micro-credential is solely about obtaining knowledge." 

Interest in California Micro-Credential Is High 

Over 100 business and HR professionals have enrolled in the California micro-credential program since it launched four months ago, Decoteau said. 

"At almost every California HR seminar, 25 percent of the attendees are from outside the state, because they have operations or employees or interests in the state," he said. "After all, California is the fifth-largest economy in the world, surpassing the United Kingdom. Unemployment is at or below the national level. The state is a leader in innovation. And the role of HR is huge in unleashing creativity and in helping organizations search for, create and manage opportunities in which to thrive." 

The impact of the state's legislation on HR policies and practices cannot be underestimated, Zulic said: "As California goes, so goes the nation."

Zulic's micro-credential is getting noticed and starting conversations. The California designation in her e-mail signature (along with her SHRM-SCP badge) "has piqued the curiosity of other HR professionals, employers and executives," Zulic said. "They want to know more about it, and when I describe what's involved, they recognize its value. A colleague in Texas whose company has employees in California thought that having the micro-credential would improve day-to-day interactions in the state." 

Decoteau said he wishes he could have gotten the California micro-credential "years ago, when I came back here after leading global HR strategy for Coca-Cola, Motorola and other companies around the country. I needed a deep dive to catch up on what was happening with the state's labor and employment laws. Studying for this would have been perfect." 

Now armed with the designation, Decoteau fully appreciates its benefits. "It's about gaining California-specific knowledge and building competencies—the ability to do something with what you know. You learn how complex California law is and understand the practical implications for the policies you apply in your organization. It helps you stay out of trouble." 

"This micro-credential tells people that I have deeper understanding of California law. I can do the research, gain the knowledge and apply it," Zulic said. "It's pertinent to the stability, effectiveness and future of HR." 

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


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