'Knowledge Is Power, But Only If You Know What to Do with It'

Professional trainer heads SHRM’s certification relations, offers fresh take on significance of program

By Rena Gorlin February 13, 2020
Pat Byrd

​The most intriguing philosopher on HR certification and enthusiastic champion for recertification you're likely to meet isn't, strictly speaking, an HR professional. Patricia Byrd, SHRM's director of certification relations, is a trainer and organizational development specialist. She has been the executive in charge of training for a major retailer and helped manage the implementation of the certification program at the American Society for Training & Development (now the Association for Talent Development). As an HR-adjacent professional, Byrd's semi-outsider status has given her a clear eye on the present and future of the SHRM credential. She also draws on her own training in sociology and psychology and previous experience in social work, sales and editing to help steer the certification program.

The benefits of becoming SHRM-certified is a topic that Byrd readily expounds: professional credibility, capability, competence, confidence, competitiveness, commitment, community, compensation and more. While a conversation with Byrd formed the basis of an earlier article summarizing these advantages, she's an even more compelling advocate for recertification.

"Knowledge is power," Byrd said, "but only if you know what to do with it—which is what the SHRM certification exam tests. Recertification maximizes the value of certification, enabling its benefits to continue to pay off. Once you stop learning, you start dying."

"Recertification is a vehicle for lifelong learning—which should be the mantra of a professional anyway. You must move ahead or else you're falling behind; you can't stay in one place."

There's Always Something New to Learn

Byrd encourages all HR practitioners, from entry-level to executive, to recognize the importance of maintaining their SHRM credentials. "Even if you already know a lot, there's always a lot to learn," she said. "I want people to realize that recertification is good for you—something you should do, not just what you have to do."

Byrd advised not to get "all wrapped up in numbers" of professional development credits (PDCs); rather, "embrace recertification as professional development." Appreciate the true meaning of those words, she said: Developing oneself is essential to being a member of a profession.

It also helps to see the three categories of PDCs, as Byrd does, as a microcosm of the HR career path. "Advance Your Education is about acquiring more HR knowledge and building up your competencies. Advance Your Organization recognizes the many ways to apply that knowledge and use those competencies on the job. Advance Your Profession is a mechanism for 'paying it forward' by serving the greater good." In this way, Byrd said, the PDCs themselves signify the goals of the SHRM certification program as a whole.

Looking at your knowledge, skills and abilities (KSAs) with new eyes is the key to recertification, she added. "Reacquaint yourself with skills you haven't touched in a long time. Use your current skills in a different way. Add skills you don't have."

The value of recertifying is "staying relevant as the world changes and becomes more complex," she said. "What if your doctor didn't keep up with the latest information and procedures?" Hold yourself to a similar standard.

Challenge Worth Tackling

Employers support HR certification, Byrd said, because it verifies and validates "that you know what you're doing." In the same way, employers support recertification because it ensures "that you'll continue to know what you're doing." She said that many in the business world may not have considered HR "a dynamic field. But new attitudes have changed the face of HR, and there's a shift in how HR deals with things. Sexual harassment is a good example. People who have practiced the same way for years may not be ready. Many HR issues used to be black-and-white, and now there is so much gray. What is HR's role in navigating this weird space we're in now?  I have great empathy for today's HR professionals. They have to be courageous, step up to the plate, and speak truth to power. Some people may not like that."

"HR is no longer 'the police' or the party planner, as it was in the old days. As the position of HR has elevated, it must deal more with the balance between employer and employee. Today, HR is the protector of the organization. There's a strategic angle to HR—neither enforcer nor entertainer. It's about making people stronger, more productive, adding value to their lives and careers."

Training and HR: A Productive Partnership

Byrd came to SHRM four years ago to support exam development, then shifted to operations, using her formidable organizational skills to find commonalities among various departments and work to help them run smoothly. Now as director of SHRM certification relations, Byrd's mission is to grow the program, which she strives to do "through engagement, more so than marketing," she said.

While Byrd is eligible to take the SHRM-CP exam (and may do so) based on her years of experience with developing the exam, she doesn't think of herself as an HR professional, but as a trainer. Knowing what she does about the test, she believes strongly that a candidate for certification "really needs in-the-field HR experience" in addition to understanding the SHRM Body of Competency and Knowledge®.

Where HR and training coincide is an opportunity for growth, Byrd said. "The world has changed, and the same old approaches don't work. You can't just train someone online and walk away. Real-life discussions are necessary. If talking results in more questions than answers, that's good! That leads to reflection, which leads to changes in behavior."

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

For more information on SHRM Certification and to register for the exam, please visit our website.

Already SHRM-certified? Be sure to maintain your credential by recertifying. Learn more about recertification activities here.



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