SHRM Certification at 7: Preparing for 2022 and Beyond

Global practice analysis and candidate feedback will inform foundational documents and future exams

By Nancy A. Woolever, MAIS, SHRM-SCP November 18, 2021
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SHRM Certification at 7: Preparing for 2022 and Beyond

For SHRM certification, now in its seventh year of operations, the rapid-fire challenges of 2020 that needed immediate solutions due to the global pandemic have evolved in 2021 into a smoother cadence of troubleshooting less urgent issues. This respite has allowed us to look to the future, listening and learning.

We conducted a global practice analysis to update the SHRM Body of Competency and Knowledge (SHRM BoCK), the foundational document of SHRM certification. The SHRM BoCK drives the blueprint for the next generation of SHRM certification exams. We also conducted three interwoven research studies to gather feedback from certification candidates who took the exams to better understand the testing experience.

SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP credential-holders continue to state that SHRM certifications are the certification most relevant to the work they do. HR executives continue to perceive the credentials very positively: According to recently completed research, 81 percent said that having a SHRM certification increases one's chances of securing a job in the field, and 92 percent said it will be important to hold a SHRM certification in the future. 

The HR profession is changing, so SHRM must also change its exams to keep pace. SHRM will continue to offer a certification testing program that has a high degree of reliability, validity and integrity. SHRM will also continue to meet the needs of candidates for certification by:

  • Keeping SHRM certification relevant and timely.
  • Supporting HR practitioners' professional development and career paths.
  • Leveraging creative ways for HR practitioners to contribute their expertise. 

Increasing Importance of DE&I

The SHRM practice analysis, completed in June 2021, involved thousands of HR professionals across the globe who participated in virtual workshops, focus groups and surveys to help us define the practice of HR in its current state. The results of the analysis provided evidence on how the profession is changing. 

One of those changes is the emergence of diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) as a distinct and important HR discipline—something that HR professionals do every day, not just a topic they need to know. DE&I is infused into every single component of today's workplace and workforce. Past social movements have played a large part in this dramatic shift, but the field has been evolving for 20 years. 

Organizations that wish to remain competitive and attractive to applicants cannot overlook newer DE&I concepts as well, such as those described in the latest practice analysis (e.g., diversity of thought, sense of belonging). Indeed, per additional SHRM research, applicants say they do not want to work for an organization in which DE&I is considered unimportant. Various DE&I practices (e.g., thwarting intolerance, removing barriers, recognizing conscious and unconscious bias, providing equal access to opportunity) not only contribute to organizational success, but also embody competent behavior in action, according to thousands of HR professionals. 

Feedback on the Testing Experience

SHRM conducted three research studies in 2021 to gather data from certification examinees about the testing experience. Many identified some of their roadblocks to success. Based on that feedback, we will be making improvements to the exams that will go into effect in 2022. 

Among the factors that SHRM explored were the optimum number of questions to ask on the exams and the optimum amount of time allotted so that at least 90 percent of examinees can complete their tests without rushing. The studies also looked at ways to help candidates understand their eligibility requirements and choose the right exam, whether that's the SHRM-CP or the SHRM-SCP. 

The most important thing that will not change about the exams in 2022 is the option to test remotely. When the pandemic made its unfortunate world debut, just about everyone had to take the exam from home; today, 55 percent to 60 percent of candidates prefer to do so. Live remote proctoring seems to be here to stay.

We do believe in safeguards, however. SHRM is committed to the highest levels of test security. We constantly monitor testing and have not had the security breaches that some other programs have experienced. Nevertheless, the first hint of a security anomaly in our certification exams will trigger a decision by SHRM as to whether live remote proctoring will remain a permanent testing option worldwide. 

It is more important than ever to listen to candidates, allow them to provide feedback and decide how to incorporate that feedback into the future of the SHRM certification testing program—without changing the reliability, validity or integrity of the exams or the accuracy of the results. 

Fact and Figures: A SHRM Certification Snapshot

SHRM certification continues to grow as the primary choice of those who seek an HR generalist credential from among the available options. Here are some statistics that bear this out: 

  • More than 38,000 individuals will take the exams in 2021.
  • More than 1,500 HR students took the exams in 2021.
  • 75 percent of SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP credential-holders renewed their credentials through the recertification process in 2021.
  • SHRM's network of preferred providers (through which SHRM-CPs and SHRM-SCPs can earn professional development credits) increased to over 3,400 providers in 2021—a growth of 10 percent so far this year.
  • 90 percent of those who are SHRM-certified say they plan to recommend SHRM certification to their colleagues. 

Nancy A. Woolever, MAIS, SHRM-SCP, is vice president of certification operations at SHRM.

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