At Its Annual Conference, SHRM Debuts New Human Resources Certification Program

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By Martin Berman-Gorvine  

June 23 --To great fanfare but a somewhat mixed reaction from an audience of HR professionals, the Society for Human Resource Management unveiled its new certification program featuring the titles of “SHRM-CP: Certified Professional” and “SHRM-SCP: Senior Certified Professional,” at the association's annual conference in Orlando, Fla.

“We wanted to make sure that it had an elevating effect, that it would be something you would be proud to achieve,” J. Robert Carr, SHRM senior vice president, said in a June 23 session devoted to the new certification program, which officially debuts Jan. 1, 2015. “We believe this will become the platinum standard,” he said.

Carr faced a number of skeptical questions, such as one from an audience member worried about convincing her company the new certification is worthwhile. He assured her that SHRM will help persuade corporate management of that. Pricing of the new tests and certifications has yet to be determined, Carr said.

Among the reasons Carr gave for SHRM creating a new certification were:

• to establish a certification that is highly relevant to employers and meets the needs of business;

• to grow certification in the HR profession, which has currently plateaued in the U.S. at around 12 percent; and

• to elevate the profession and create a universal standard for HR.

Certification Controversy

In an official statement, SHRM President and CEO Henry G. “Hank” Jackson said the new certification “will have no impact” on any of the HR Certification Institute's “portfolio of certifications,” although SHRM will no longer be supplying the HRCI's Learning System preparation material.

HR Certification Institute Executive Director Amy Schabacker Dufrane defended HRCI's certifications in a June 23 statement and accused SHRM of having “launched a competitive certification without notification and terminated HRCI's operating agreement that connected us for decades. Then they barred us from participating as an exhibitor at the SHRM Annual Conference.” She added: “With their announcing a competing certification, SHRM's leaders have clearly chosen to go their own way. It's a direction that many HR professionals say is harmful to the profession, and we agree.”

A Competency-Based System

According to Carr, the SHRM certification system focuses on knowledge and competencies around people, organizations, strategy and the workplace, gleaned from more than 32,000 survey participants and more than 100 focus groups in 34 countries. A criterion validation study is under way with leading companies and academic institutions, he said. Additionally, he said, SHRM is now setting up an independent SHRM Certification Commission made up of HR business and academic leaders to oversee all certification activities.

The certification testing will begin in May-June 2015, with separate tests for SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP, and will feature “situational judgment” questions to assess competencies with individual test items describing a scenario and providing a variety of behavioral-based approaches to resolving the issue. The test taker is asked to select the most appropriate approach. Several questions may be based on the same scenario

SHRM has run into trouble with proposed HR standards before. It announced Nov. 29, 2012, that in response to opposition in the business community, it had withdrawn the proposed Human Resource Indices for Investors standard (30 HRR 1322, 12/10/12). The standard was intended to help investors evaluate the worth of a company's human capital. Some HR professionals contended, however, that it would be burdensome to companies and irrelevant to investors (30 HRR 621, 6/11/12).


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