The Best Part of SHRM Certification: The People

Novel experiences? New milestones? Tell me your best stories!

By Alexander Alonso, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP May 4, 2017
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​Of the many privileges of my position—leading initiatives to change the way HR does business, guiding SHRM and SHRM Certification to help members and certificants, meeting thousands of people across the globe—serving the HR profession is the common thread, and the one I have been most fortunate to enjoy. 

At a SHRM chapter luncheon recently, a fellow attendee observed how much I love my job and how much more I love HR people. That astute member then asked me, "How did that deep-seated love grow? What keeps it going?" 

I thought for a second before responding. I could have gone with platitudes, but those answers would be disingenuous. The truth is that I love HR people because they have the best stories. 

I don't mean gossip about so-and-so sleeping with what's-their-name, or the discovery of questionable information on the boss's computer. Those stories are juicy but they aren't the best. The best stories are about when HR excels, driving the organization to success—especially when others wouldn't, couldn't or didn't. 

Take the tale of the HR business partner at one of the world's largest aviation companies. This superhero transformed a workforce that manufactured airplanes into a sleek group of technologists who are charting new systems for transportation and logistics. Few people know that an HR professional was responsible for saving an entire division of the company. I would never have heard this tale had I not attended a reception in San Antonio. And it's just one of hundreds of stories I've collected during my six years with SHRM. 

But back to the chapter luncheon attendee and the second half of the question: What keeps my love of HR people going? It's the novelty of the experiences they share in their stories. What's more, meeting them and hearing their tales makes each encounter a novel experience for me

My job with SHRM has provided me with many such "firsts." 

Whenever somebody does something for the first time or crosses a new threshold, that experience is truly special and memorable. I now recognize—and am blown away by—all the firsts relating to SHRM Certification that I have witnessed. These milestones have made the program's creation and evolution unique and important. 

  • The first examinee to take the pilot SHRM Certification exam administered outside the U.S. (October 2014). Any exam validation process begins with the administration of a pilot exam. I was among the staff members who administered SHRM's pilot test across the U.S. and the world. In the Caribbean, I had the honor of meeting the inaugural international test-taker, Janel Phillip, secretary of the Human Resource Management Association of Trinidad & Tobago, and learning and development leader for PowerGen, the local utility. Phillip, who is now a SHRM-SCP, was committed to earning her credential and even more committed to seeing what competency-based certification was all about.

  • The first SHRM Senior Certified Professional (November 2014). SHRM has always striven to make its new credentials available to all HR professionals who can demonstrate some pre-existing level of proficiency. The very first person to do so was none other than SHRM's vice president for membership, Elissa C. O'Brien. I helped ensure that she met all the eligibility criteria, proctored her online tutorial pathway session and then received a big hug when she passed—becoming SHRM-SCP No. 1. Thus began the list, which continues to grow, of those who have earned the world's fastest-growing certification for HR business leaders.

  • The first SHRM recertification completed (April 2016). Nancy Kasmar, SHRM-SCP, of Snoqualmie, Wash., is the brains behind her own compensation consulting firm and the embodiment of zeal. Everything she does for the Lake Washington Human Resource Association chapter of SHRM relates to competency-based education. One day last year she called to tell me that she had earned her recertification and was looking forward to doing more professional development over the next few years. A few days later I called Kasmar back—to congratulate her as the first-ever SHRM-SCP to be recertified! There's nothing better than continuous learning, Kasmar says, and earning recertification through professional learning so that you don't have to retake an exam is even more gratifying.

  • The 100,000th SHRM credential awarded (March 2017). One of SHRM Certification's most memorable firsts took place recently: Tina Johnson of Louisville, Ky., became the 100,000th HR professional to become SHRM-certified. I hope to meet Johnson in person soon and find out how she intends to reach new heights using her SHRM-CP. I plan to ask for her best story and to retell it every chance I get. 

SHRM Certification's goal of advancing HR is not just about my objectives or SHRM's mission. It's about all the people who share that mission: those who strive to improve the way businesses manage talent … who find ways to change lives and save organizations … who engage in continuous learning … and who work to drive results. 

So I look forward to hearing more about new thresholds being crossed and our next big first. Who will be the 200,000th SHRM certificant? Who will be the first person in a given city, state or country to be recertified? 

I also look forward to hearing more about your novel experiences. What will be your personal first as a SHRM-certified HR professional? Let me know on Twitter at @SHRMKnwldgeSVP. 

All the tales you tell us matter. That's because you and your career development—including your recertification plans—matter to SHRM, and to me. Remember, I love my job, I love HR people and that love keeps on going. Thank you for sharing your best stories! 

Alexander Alonso, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, is SHRM's senior vice president, knowledge development and certification.

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