A Q&A with Members of the SHRM Certification Commission

By Rena Gorlin, J.D. Sep 8, 2016
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​Above are some of the SHRM Certification Commission members who participated in the interview. From left: Trent Burner, SHRM-SCP, Commission Chair Wayne Cascio, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, Santrupt Misra, Ph.D., Tim Young, SHRM-SCP, and Jeff Lindeman, SHRM-SCP.

​Several members of the SHRM Certification Commission, the governance and technical advisory committee that oversees the certifying activities of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), traveled from across the U.S. and as far away as England and India to attend the SHRM 2016 Annual Conference & Exposition in Washington, D.C., in June. SHRM Certification Update welcomed the opportunity to conduct an informal group interview of the commissioners, who were eager to share their thoughts directly with SHRM-certified professionals and other readers about the role of the panel and the impact of SHRM certification.

SHRM: What does the commission do to ensure the integrity of SHRM certification?

Commission Chair Wayne Cascio, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, Distinguished University Professor at the University of Colorado, and the Robert H. Reynolds Chair in Global Leadership at the University of Colorado-Denver School of Business: The commission has review and approval authority over all of SHRM's certification-related activities, including eligibility criteria, exam development, recertification requirements, statistical methodologies and more. Members serve two-year terms, and they hail from various HR environments, including academia, consulting, international business and other categories of expertise. Our charter from the SHRM board of directors requires a diversity of representation on behalf of HR professionals.

Commissioner Richard Vosburgh, Ph.D., president of RMV Solutions, Sebring, Fla., and board chair of HR People + Strategy: It was impressive the way SHRM put the commission together. I'm surrounded by people I know and respect. One of our concerns is how certification is positioned in the business world. Companies are interested in the content of the SHRM-SCP exam, to see that it aims high.

Commissioner Trent Burner, SHRM-SCP, vice president of global organizational effectiveness at Wal-Mart, Bentonville, Ark.: The commission is powerful because it crosses industries—and because each of us has our own point of view.

Commissioner Santrupt Misra, Ph.D., director of global HR at Aditya Birla Group and CEO, Carbon Black Business, Mumbai, India: There are many certifying bodies throughout the world, and I try to bring insights from them to inform SHRM certification. For example, there's a debate going on within the legal profession in India over the role of bar membership. It's one of numerous lenses through which we study HR certification in general and the SHRM program in particular.

SHRM: How does the commission interact with SHRM and influence the certification program?

Vosburgh: While our operations are separate and apart from those of the SHRM certification program, we connect frequently with SHRM staff to share feedback and make recommendations. We challenge and extend their thinking by offering fresh eyes.

Cascio: SHRM takes the commission seriously. We're seen as leaders. Our exchanges are direct, substantive and constructive, and we're pleased with how well SHRM has taken our suggestions. One suggestion led to the development of the Candidate Performance Report for the SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP exams. Because we view certification as a developmental exercise in career growth, we wanted more than a pass/fail score for candidates. So we suggested a high-quality feedback chart or visual scale to depict and explain where you stand on each competency.

Commissioner Jeff Lindeman, SHRM-SCP, founder of Strategic Insight, London, and former senior director of talent and engagement, San Diego International Airport: The post-test scorecard is performing as intended—I saw this among members of my own staff who took the SHRM certification exams. Based on the assessment reports they got with their test results, they independently wanted to focus on the areas where they didn't do as well.

Commissioner Tim Young, SHRM-SCP, director of field human resources at AutoZone, Memphis, Tenn.: Feedback played a significant role in SHRM certification even before it officially launched. It was a badge of honor for me and members of my team to sit for the original five-hour pilot exam and participate in the validation study.

Vosburgh: The commission knows what's working. We've had good input about providing more feedback and also about the wording of items. We try to experience the candidate's point of view at every stage, from sign up to study to taking the test.

Misra: All feedback is welcome and valuable, whether formal or in passing, in all directions.

SHRM: How would you assess the impact of SHRM certification so far?

Young: SHRM's different approach to certification created a dialogue in the industry. Its introduction has already helped the profession by making HR take a hard look at how it sees itself in the business world. In the corporate world, HR executives are expected to contribute to the overall success of the organization. You're constantly assessing your own team and addressing gaps to get to positive results. SHRM certification gives you some confirmation as to strengths, competence and credibility. It's another avenue for a baseline. And it has created credible relationships with C-suite leaders.

Burner: SHRM certification raises the bar for everyone in HR by resetting industry standards.

Vosburgh: SHRM made its mark on the profession with the Body of Competency and Knowledge, which created a consistent standard for the profession. It is well-researched, recognized and supported.

Burner: In terms of the HR life cycle, there are different ways to succeed, from entry-level to executive. We need to think holistically—broader and deeper. It's not how many are certified, but what difference they make. Where are the gaps in HR's knowledge and abilities? What tools does SHRM have to fill them in? Certification benefits the business as well as the individual. It's a win-win.

Cascio: Metrics will be the real payoff.

SHRM: What is the importance of recertification to the SHRM program?

Misra: Recertification is a reminder to the whole profession that HR must be dynamic and not stand still.

Vosburgh: Any profession that wants to remain current, and attend to growth, focuses on the continuing education of its members.

Lindeman: Everyone who has done great things is always learning. Tracking your professional development is like an individual performance review, an opportunity to reflect on continuous learning. Just entering your credits into the online portal helps you rethink about what you've learned and what certification is doing for you. Think of multitalented people throughout history—lifelong learning can help you aspire to greatness. There's no downside to recertification.

Cascio: Cultivate a mindset that certification is not a one-time thing, it's for your whole career. Use your individualized scorecard as a directional tool, a guideline to the developmental experience. It's a valuable indicator of where to focus your recertification efforts, what you should be doing to earn credits.

Burner: Certification should never end.

SHRM: What's ahead for SHRM certification and for current and potential SHRM certificants?

Vosburgh: There's a thirst for professionalism around the world.

Cascio: Certification is a trend in every field. HR is no different from other business functions. Employers see SHRM certification as an assurance that their employees know what they're talking about and can do what they say. It's like getting a driver's license: Do you know the rules of the road, and can you operate the vehicle? As an HR professional, can you resolve conflicts, deal with different cultures, make decisions, hire the right people for the right positions? There's so much more to do for HR. Certification is a journey, and we've just begun.

Young: Certification is a personal growth opportunity, so look introspectively. Always strive to better. Build. Move as the industry moves. Striving to improve impacts your company as well as the HR profession as a whole.

Misra: As the profession evolves, so will certification. 

Readers, please note: The following members of the SHRM certification commission were unable to be present for the interview for this article: John Boudreau, Ph.D., professor of management and organization at the University of Southern California (USC) Marshall School of Business in Los Angeles, and research director of USC's Center for Effective Organizations; Betty Lonis, SHRM-SCP, senior vice president of human resources at Indianapolis-based Stonegate Mortgage; Susan Podlogar, vice president of human resources, medical device companies, at Johnson & Johnson in New Brunswick, N.J.; and Sheldon Zedeck, Ph.D., professor emeritus of psychology and graduate school professor at the University of California-Berkeley.

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