Five Years into SHRM Certification: HR's New Trajectory

Elevating the profession to be a social force for good

By Alexander Alonso, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP March 26, 2020
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Alex Alonso

​So much has happened throughout my career at SHRM. I was recently asked to name some highlights. This month we conducted a webcast with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention providing important information about the COVID-19 outbreak to more than 40,000 listeners. I've had 300-plus public speaking engagements and fell off the stage only one time. Developing the SHRM Competency Model and the SHRM Body of Competency and Knowledge® has been a great achievement. But of all my memories, the most salient was the day we fielded the first SHRM Certification exam on May 1, 2015. 

The development and launch of SHRM Certification signify a validation of competency-based credentialing, elevating the practice of HR and marking a new trajectory for the profession as a social force. It is an accomplishment that has yet to be eclipsed. Five years into the program, I've selected several milestones that serve as clear reminders of our shared journey to success:

  • The first SHRM-SCP was earned via the pathway in November 2014.
  • The first SHRM-CP was earned via examination in May 2015.
  • The first credential-holder recertified her SHRM-SCP in January 2016.
  • The 100,000th professional to earn a SHRM credential did so in May 2017.
  • This one's personal: I recertified my SHRM-SCP for the first time in January 2018.
  • The 125,000th professional to earn a SHRM credential did so in December 2018.
  • The 135,000th professional to earn a SHRM credential did so in May 2019.
  • As of this summer, more than 150,000 individuals will have sat for SHRM certification exams.

None of these milestones, however, matters as much as one I found out about a few weeks ago.

A former colleague, a volunteer leader in South Carolina who earned her SHRM-SCP in 2015, called to share her story. Her mission for the last four years has been to improve the lives of the formerly incarcerated. She works with an organization that helps make employment a reality for them. Long-term meaningful employment, she said, is the key to changing the direction of their lives.

As she told me about what she does and the lives she has personally changed, I asked her what prepared her to accomplish such a lofty mission. "Two things," she said. "My SHRM-SCP, which taught me how to be a competent professional, and my SHRM membership, which made me ready to change the world."

At first, I laughed, figuring she was trying to curry favor with me in some way. But I was wrong. She spoke clearly about how her development as an HR professional made her a better person, and how being a member of SHRM made her part of a force for good. She spoke from the heart and truly believed that HR really was making better workplaces for a better world.

As we said goodbye, I thought about all the reasons I joined SHRM and why I have worked so hard to serve this profession. The conversation with my former colleague re-lit my fire and made me realize that the most significant milestone for SHRM Certification isn't expressed in numbers of HR professionals but in the lives changed by those professionals.

We have the opportunity, as a profession, to make a better world. We can be a force for good for 165 million American workers, and do so much more beyond that. That's a highlight we will always strive for.

Alexander Alonso, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, is chief knowledge officer of SHRM and author of The Price of Pettiness: Bad Behavior in the Workplace and How to Stomp It Out (SHRM, 2019).

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