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SHRM Announces Details of New Certification

Updated May 19, 2014

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), which announced Monday it will begin offering a competency-based certification for human resource professionals, will start accepting applications Jan. 1, 2015, for the exam that will be offered May-July 2015.

Henry G. "Hank" Jackson, SHRM president and CEO, sees the new certification as the credential HR professionals will choose to have instead of—not in addition to—certifications available elsewhere.

“We view SHRM certification as the next evolution of certification for HR professionals,” Jackson told SHRM Online. “Certification started out as testing for knowledge. Now it’s evolving to how to demonstrate that you can apply that knowledge in a manner that yields positive individual performance and better business outcomes or competency.” 

HR professionals with existing generalist certifications that are in good standing will be eligible for the new SHRM certification – at no cost – on January 1, 2015, by completing the following by December 31, 2015: Document that your current certification is in good standing; sign the SHRM Code of Ethics; and complete a brief online tutorial on HR competencies.

The yet-unnamed certification will be valid for three years before you must submit your recertification credits for approval and will emphasize eight behavioral competencies and one technical competency that are outlined in the HR Competency Model, which SHRM unveiled at the 2012 SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition in Atlanta. 

“Over 30,000 HR professionals participated in the development of these competencies,” said Bob Carr, SPHR, senior vice president of membership, marketing & external affairs for SHRM. 

“Our competency model is both criterion-validated and has content validation. We know we’re asking the right questions and [promoting] the right behaviors. We know those behaviors lead to positive individual and business outcomes."

“We believe this exam will be universal,” he said, noting that the only variation would be the treatment of local law of the country in which the exam is given.

In a statement e-mailed to SHRM members Wednesday night, Jackson said that the SHRM HR Competency Model was “the culmination of over three years of research” and it will include a new global Body of Competency and Knowledge in addition to the certification exam, instructional materials and certification preparation tools.

SHRM believes competency-based certification “is the new standard for HR professionals around the globe,” he told members. SHRM had become aware “that other associations are in the process of trying to accomplish this [competency-based certification],” Jackson told SHRM Online.

SHRM will offer two certification tests—one geared to executive-level competencies and one applicable to entry-, mid- and senior-level HR competencies. The test will be focused on behaviors and leadership and will be more scenario-based, “testing how you would behave, what leadership qualities you would apply, in certain situations,” Jackson said. He did not rule out the possibility of interviews as part of certification testing down the road.

In his message to members, Jackson acknowledged that SHRM’s announcement of its new certification represented a “significant change.” In the past, SHRM sold the Learning System preparation tool to people studying for the certification programs that the HR Certification Institute (HRCI) created and delivered.

In a press release and e-mail to HR professionals, HRCI stated that SHRM’s announcement of its new certification “will have no impact” on any of HRCI’s “portfolio of certifications” and it “will continue to develop and administer the PHR, SPHR, GPHR, PHR/SPHR-CA, HRBP and HRMP.” HRCI also stated that “it is not and was not involved with the development of this certification."

Jackson stated the following, “I am puzzled and disappointed by HRCI’s comment made yesterday that they were unaware that SHRM was launching its own competency-based certification. The SHRM and HRCI Boards have been discussing this for over a year, and SHRM informed them that the program would no longer be delayed. We remain hopeful HRCI will support our competency-based certification for the benefit of the HR profession."

SHRM’s development of its own certification means it no longer will be supplying the Learning System preparation material and support for the Institute’s PHR, SPHR and GPHR certifications after the Institute’s December 2014-January 2015 test window ends.

If someone who purchased a Learning System for the Institute’s exam does not pass at the end of the December 2014-January 2015 test window, SHRM will provide that person with a free Learning System to prepare for the new SHRM certification, Jackson said.

“We’re trying to make sure no one is disadvantaged with this transition,” he said.

SHRM subject matter experts are working with a vendor to develop the new competency-based test. Additionally, SHRM will work with another vendor to develop the preparation tool and a third vendor to administer the test, Jackson said. SHRM also will apply to have the new certification accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies and/or the American National Standards Institute.

“There will be a firewall” between those who develop the test and those who develop the learning system, he said.

SHRM will add staff to its Alexandria, Va., headquarters to administer the certification application process and provide customer service. The fee for the learning system and test has not been announced yet, but it will be less expensive than the two current products, Jackson said.

Sessions are being planned for the 2014 SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition in Orlando to answer questions and educate attendees about the new certification. Annual conference sessions provide opportunities for attendees to earn recertification credit, Jackson said. That will be no different this year. Credits earned through 2014 “will still apply to HRCI certifications,” he said.

See Our Additional FAQs on SHRM’s New Certification


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