The Society for Human Resources Management and the HR Certification Institute have a long history of working together to promote professional development and certification in the human resources profession. The SHRM bills itself as a professional human resources membership organization, and the HRCI specializes in independent human resources certification. A certification controversy between the two groups is threatening the current human resources certification system and credentials.
The HRCI oversees a human resources certification system that bestows several levels of certification based on a knowledge-based examination system. Human resources professionals can work their way up through the credentials, which include Professional in Human Resources, Senior Professional in Human Resources and Global Professional in Human Resources. The HRCI opened in 1976, and its credentialing system has long been the standard used to assess human resource skills.
In May 2014, the SHRM announced that it will begin overseeing its own human resources certification program. This follows a period of conflict between the two human resources organizations and some troubles among the membership of the SHRM. In 2010, a group of SHRM members called for an increase in transparency in the organization's board and a closer connection between the group and the HRCI. The announcement of a new competency-based human resources certification system to be overseen directly by the SHRM is a logical follow-up to the growing distance between the organizations.
The SHRM has taken further steps to separate itself from the HRCI. It has told the HRCI that it cannot present or be represented by a booth at the annual SHRM conference in 2014. It has also begun a PR campaign that asserts that its new competency-based certification program is superior to knowledge-based programs because it measures the actual skills human resources professionals use regularly. Credentialed professionals need to be recertified periodically, so the most widely accepted program stands to make hefty profits in the future.
This certification controversy leaves the status of current credentials in doubt. The SHRM is encouraging currently certified professionals to switch over to the new program. It is making the process easy by providing a comparative credential for free for those who choose that path. The HRCI is declaring that its program has stood the test of time and will continue to be the industry standard. Meanwhile, training programs for the old credentials are losing steam as teachers and students wait in limbo to learn more about the new program.
It remains to be seen how the division between the SHRM and the HRCI will affect human resources professionals in the long term. There may be enough room in the industry for two human resources certification standards, or one may prevail as the leader in the future. Some human resources professionals choose to avoid certification. Until more details are released about the new SHRM program, patience seems the only path.
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