SHRM Staffers Help Jump-start Career Renewal

By Rena Gorlin Jan 11, 2018
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​Nicole Henry, SHRM-CP

​Nicole Henry, SHRM-CP, works to provide her colleagues the information they need to do their jobs—just as SHRM has helped her over the years with information on certification, study materials, job questions, and more.  

As a payroll generalist at MGA Employee Services in Phoenix, Henry is responsible for pay, benefits and compliance for 250 employees in Arizona, Texas and Colorado. "I want them to be confident and comfortable" as employees or managers, Henry said—"confident in knowing they have the information they need to do their jobs, and comfortable in knowing they can come to me with questions."

Henry's productive relationship with SHRM began when she resumed her career and education after raising a family as a single mom. "I waited years to focus on my professional goals," Henry said. "HR is my passion. I love to read and I love talking to people. I'm always learning and sharing what I've learned."

Henry obtained her master's degree in management from Troy University in Augusta, Ga., where one of her professors spoke highly of SHRM and the value of certification. "I thought it was a great idea to join the world's largest HR professional society and start my official pursuit of becoming certified," Henry said. "I wanted to get my hands on anything HR-related, to read as much as I could to prepare myself."

A Helping Hand From SHRM

SHRM staff member Eddice Douglas responded to Henry's inquiries about certification. "Eddice was extremely helpful. She sent me the SHRM Assessment of Learning review materials and followed up to make sure everything downloaded properly," Henry said. "Eddice really set the tone for my experience with SHRM. I still have her e-mail from June 12, 2014, because that is a bookmark to my professional beginning."

In 2015 Henry was selected to take the SHRM-CP pilot exam. "I really appreciated the opportunity," Henry said. "It was intense because I didn't know what to expect, but SHRM staffers were very supportive. They provided me with study materials and answered my questions." The pilot exam was five hours long, versus today's three-hour SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP exams, and preliminary test results were not available right away as they are now. "I found out that I passed when I was on SHRM.org and saw that the credential had been added to my name," Henry said. "Knowing that I helped set the standard for what is now the official exam is a tremendous joy." 

Since then, Henry has earned several other job-related certifications, including the FPC (Fundamental Payroll Certification) issued by the American Payroll Association. "It was always a personal goal of mine to put in the extra effort," Henry said. 

Putting Competencies into Action 

Examples of how Henry wields her SHRM-CP credential abound. The SHRM-defined competency of Consultation is most applicable to her work, she said. "It's very important to be able to advise. For instance, to address absenteeism, you need documentation, and a manager may not know exactly what to do," Henry said. "But some considerations you can't ignore, especially regarding issues that will arise later."

Another aspect of Consultation important to Henry's job is sharing information with those who need it. Henry explained that her company operates in three states, each with different statutes and regulations down to the municipal level, covering taxes, sick leave, Family and Medical Leave Act, compliance fees and fines, posters and the like. "It's imperative to stay current with changing employment laws," Henry said. 

"I find it interesting to find out about new laws and regs, to figure out how they apply to situations our people might be in, and to share that information with managers and employees so they don't have to reinvent the wheel every time they're in that situation," Henry said. She embraces the task enthusiastically. "There's a lot to learn and every day is different. It's a lot of work but also a lot of fun." 

A Reliable Resource  

SHRM has remained a potent resource for Henry. "Even if you have your certification, the laws will still change, so you have to keep up. I know that I can reach out to SHRM for the latest answers," Henry said. "SHRM staff members are amazing, always pleasant and willing to assist," Henry said. "I have never had an issue they couldn't assist me with." 

Recently she took advantage of her SHRM membership to e-mail a request for more information on a topic from SHRM's HR Knowledge Center.  "A SHRM knowledge adviser got back to me the same day," Henry said. "A real person, answering my real question!" 

"The highlights of my experiences in HR are all tied back to SHRM and what the organization represents," Henry said. "By obtaining my SHRM-CP, I am recognized as an HR professional. I always direct my colleagues to SHRM.org as the source for books and other materials I've used to gain valuable information." Henry also advises her peers who inquire about getting certified. "You can do so much with your certification and transfer your skills into any industry," she tells them. 

Recertification Demonstrates Dedication 

Having been among the first people to earn the SHRM-CP credential, Henry is now working diligently on her recertification. "The knowledge I've gained is a continuous process. It doesn't stop just because I've earned my certification. Laws change often, so reading and attending conferences and webinars are extremely important." The process of recertification reinforces the impact of earning one's credential in the first place, Henry said. "I am very proud to be SHRM-certified because it indicates that I have taken extra steps to show my dedication to the HR profession. Plus, I know that I was capable of achieving my personal goal." 

At an HR conference in November 2017, Henry spotted Eddice Douglas representing SHRM in the expo hall. "That's another great thing about being a member of a professional network, your paths will always cross at times," Henry said. "It made me feel fantastic to know someone at the conference, with people from everywhere. It was like a rock star sighting!" 

"Eddice was my first point of contact on this journey to become certified. I told her, 'Thank you, because you helped change my life.'' 

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

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