The New Overtime Rule Has Been Blocked. Now What?

My advice on what to do until a final decision is made.

Overtime, Office Binder on Wooden Desk. On the table colored pencils, pen, notebook paper

A federal judge in Texas gave something employers could be thankful for just a few days before Thanksgiving. On November 22, he issued a preliminary injunction on the Department of Labor’s (DOL) overtime rule change that was to go into affect on December 1. It came about from a lawsuit brought by 21 states challenging the DOL’s authority to raise the salary threshold. This was pretty big news for us HR folks. Huge news actually.

Many small organizations, however, didn’t even know the rule was going into effect. I was at a meeting a few weeks ago with a payroll provider who told me that the majority of their clients didn’t know about the new rule when asked about it. It would be safe to say that most managers and small business owners are too busy operating their organizations and don’t keep up on these types of things.

In order to bring these organizations up to date, the rule was supposed to double the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) salary threshold for determining the exemption from overtime from $23,660 to $47,476. This is where we get the exempt and non-exempt employee classifications which I define in this post from my introduction to my series of the FLSA overtime classifications. In addition, it would also automatically adjust the threshold every three years based on the 40th percentile of the weekly earnings of full-time salaried workers in the lowest-wage Census region. The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) has publicly opposed the new rule as it will hurt nonprofits and smaller organizations and have a negative impact on workplace flexibility and employee morale.

It’s important to understand that the preliminary injunction is not permanent and that the current overtime rule will still be in effect. The court needs to review the merits of the new rule and issue a decision which could take several more months. The fact that an injunction was issued in the first place, makes me think the new rule is doomed.

For those organizations that didn’t know about the rule, they can just go on about their business and not worry about it until a final ruling is issued. For those businesses that knew about it and were making plans or already made plans to comply with the new rule, things may be a little more complicated and until we get a final ruling, here is my advice:

  • Fortunately, the injunction was issued on November 22, before the payroll period in which the December 1 deadline fell. I had advised my clients to make their changes effective Sunday, November 27, the first day of the payroll period. By following my advice (Because I’m so smart, LOL), the re-classification of their exempt employees to non-exempt can be postponed until that final decision is made.
  • If the organization already re-classified their exempt employees to non-exempt, the organization will need to evaluate how the decision was accepted by the impacted employees. Did they take it well or did they take it poorly? If they took it well, the organization would be wise to leave the re-classification in place. If they did not take it well, the organization might benefit by reversing the re-classifications but need to make it clear to the employees that it may be temporary until the final ruling is issued.
  • If the organization already increased (or announced an increase) their exempt employee’s salaries in order to maintain their exempt status, it would be wise leave those increases in place. There will be a great deal of confusion and a big hit on morale if they reverse this decision. An organization can certainly reverse their decision but it will be at the cost of employee goodwill and engagement.

It will be very interesting to see how this case will eventually turn out. As I said earlier, I think the new rule, as it is currently written, will never come to pass. I think the judge issued the injunction because he thinks the challenge by the 21 states has a very good chance of being successful.

However, for those who made plans to comply with the rule, don’t toss out all the work that was done in preparing for it as the court may still issue a decision in favor of the DOL. At the very least, I anticipate that the rule will be scaled back with more gradual and less extreme salary threshold increases.

For those who didn’t know about the rule and didn’t make plans to comply, they’ve been given a pass for the time being but need to be ready to address it if a final ruling is made in favor of the DOL or a scaled back rule is issued.

Mile High SHRM Annual Conference

Note:  I wrote this post last week but ran into some issues that kept me from finishing it up and publishing.  So I’m posting this now, several days late, and will post it’s accompanying audioblog podcast shortly – hopefully.

mhis-logoLast Friday, January 23, I attended the Mile High SHRM (MH-SHRM) Annual Conference in Denver. The theme of the conference was Mile High Adventure – Ascend the HR Summit.  Pretty clever, I think.

There were six tracks this year: Business and Strategy, Compensation and Benefits, Learning and Development, Compliance and Risk Management, Employee Relations, and Employment and Talent Management.  Multiple tracks are always tough.  There are always two or three that I want to attend scheduled at the same time.  Below I’m going to briefly discuss the five I attended.

The conference started off at 6:30AM with a couple of Early Bird sessions.  The Early Bird session I attended was Sal Sylvester’s “Ignite! The 4 Essential Rules for Emerging Leaders.”  Sal is an excellent and interesting speaker and the hour went by very quickly.  His presentation was about emerging leaders who have recently been promoted to supervisory positions.  This is a common issue in many organizations.  People do a fantastic job in their technical role and are promoted into a supervisory position but have no training or skills in dealing with and managing people.  Sal’s presentation also gave us a look into his People First Leadership model and I’m looking forward to exploring the model more deeply in the near future.

I won his book of the same title during a drawing at the end of the session which is a cool thing for a geek like me who loves reading about leadership, management, and HR!

The second session I attended was Gerry Valentine’s “How to Create a Culture of Innovation.”  Gerry is an excellent presenter who really makes you think differently about leadership and innovation.  Gerry gave advice on how HR can partner with senior leadership to drive business results through innovation.  He suggested ways for HR to become key contributors in our company’s mission, objectives, and strategic goals.  He also reviewed what makes some companies great innovators and what keeps others from doing so.

Gerry discussed several strategies to create an innovative vision of the future.  My favorite suggestion is that companies must establish diverse groups of people in order to have “creative abrasion” when it comes to decision making.  I loved the term “creative abrasion” because too many companies are run and managed by people who think and act alike.  This subjects them to “group think” rather than having somebody challenge them with different ways of approaching a situation.

The third session I attended was Amy Shoemaker’s “HR as a Strategic Partner.”  Amy was high energy and very funny.  I enjoyed her quirky sense of humor as she shared strategies to help HR act and think as a strategic business partner.  Her background as a VP of HR in a large company gives her significant credibility.  She suggested some techniques to build and leverage strategic alliances to gain support for HR initiatives and how to understand what CEO’s need from HR and how to deliver it to them.

The next session was the keynote.  This year MH-SHRM had a panel discussion titled “A Mile High Culture at Work: How to Drive Business Performance Through Culture.”  It was held before lunch as opposed to the end of the day as was done in years past.  I was unable to attend this session because of a conference call I needed to be on.  I’m disappointed I missed it since I heard a lot of folks enjoyed the keynote and were talking about it afterwards during lunch.

I attended the “Labor Law Landmines and How to Avoid Them” in the fourth session.  Three lawyers from Fairfield and Woods gave this session, and one of them, Colin Walker serves on the MH-SHRM board with me.   Each lawyer tackled a topic:  Internal Investigations, Independent Contractors, and Medical Leave.  I was a little concerned about this one since sessions on legal topics by lawyers can be pretty boring.  But I actually found this session to be very good and enjoyed the three presentations and gained some value from each, particularly Internal Investigations and Medical Leave.

The final session I attended was Kristy Smith’s “Tools and Techniques for Managing Employee Relations Issues.” Kristy also had a great sense of humor and I enjoyed her presentation.  She introduced us to the STAR/STAR-AR feedback method to assist in employee relations and foster employee engagement.  Below is a very brief summary of what each letter in the acronym stands for.

ST = Situation or Task.  What was the problem, opportunity, challenge, or task?
A = Action.  What action was taken?
R = Results.  What results did the action lead to?
AR = Action and Results again.  Revisiting Results and Action after explaining the desired results.

Those were the five sessions I attended.  I also spent a good bit of time in between sessions visiting the vendors in the exhibit hall learning about the products they were promoting.  There were several that were very interesting that I plan on exploring in more depth.

So overall, an excellent HR conference.  I gained a lot of practical knowledge that will help me in my day to day work and in my career.

I also want to recognize all the volunteers who worked many long hours to pull this together.  They did a fantastic job and should be very proud of the work they did.

Getting the SHRM-SCP Certification

shrmcertification_logoLast week, on Monday, January 5, 2015 I logged into the SHRM Certification website to take the Online Tutorial Pathway that would earn me the SHRM-SCP certification.   The first thing I had to do was create an account to the SHRM Certification Portal.  This is different than the SHRM membership so new login credentials must be established for the certification site.

As I created my account and registered, I noticed the website was very slow – probably due to the heavy traffic on the first day the Online Tutorial Pathway was available.  Shortly after registering, I received an email notifying me that my profile had been successfully set up.

It took a few hours before I received the next email granting me access to the Certification Online Tutorial explaining the tutorial process with+ the following:

Accessing the Tutorial:  The tutorial can be accessed online via the URL below. Please note that you will have 10 days to complete the tutorial, with the ability to save your progress. The tutorial requires a current version of Adobe Flash to run. If you are having issues launching the tutorial we recommend accessing the course in Chrome.

What is the tutorial?:  The SHRM Certification Online Tutorial Pathway is an educational program, and not a text/exam. Activities found in the tutorial will not be assessed or assigned a score.

Duration:  The tutorial will take approximately one hour to complete.

Completing the Tutorial:  Upon completion of the tutorial, you will receive a confirmation email with information regarding next steps.

Existing Credentials:  You do not have to give up any existing HR Generalist credentials by participating in the SHRM Certification Online Tutorial Pathway.

The next morning, before going to work, I clicked on the provided link and proceeded with the Tutorial which took approx one hour to complete.

It was exactly as SHRM said above, an educational process explaining the reasons SHRM is launching their own certification and an overview of the eight behavioral competencies of the SHRM Competency Model and the SHRM Body of Competency and Knowledge.

SHRM-CertificationAfter the explanation, they had me take a survey answering questions about my knowledge and experience in each of the eight behavioral competencies.  From this they generated my Competency Self Portrait.

The Self Portrait measures your career experience – Early, Mid, Senior, and Exec – in each of the eight behavioral competencies.  A completely filled in sphere means you selected three out of three of the activity statements for that level of experience, a half filled sphere means you selected two out of three, an empty sphere means you selected one out of three, and no sphere means you didn’t select any of the three statements.

As can be seen on my Self Portrait, my weakest category is in Global & Cultural Effectiveness.  This is not a surprise since I don’t have any global or international HR experience.

My strongest categories are in Business Acumen, Consultation and Communication.  Again, this is not a surprise since I have a great deal of experience in these three categories.

I really like the Self Portrait as it shows me the areas where I need to continue to develop.

The next stage of the Online Tutorial was taking a sample exam by answering several questions similar to what is on the actual exam.  SHRM wants to give those of us taking the Online Tutorial Pathway a taste of what their exam is like.  The questions are from “real life” situations describing a scenario with three questions for each scenario looking for the appropriate HR solution.  There are four multiple choice answers to choose from for each question with a best answer, a second best answer, and two answers that are wrong. It’s interesting that they have a second best answer but, of course, the best answer is the correct answer for the purpose of the test.  I’m assuming the regular exam is set up in this fashion.

After taking the sample exam, I finished up the Tutorial and was notified by email that I completed it and would be notified within 72 hours that my certification was granted.  It took about four hours to receive the email notifying me that SHRM had granted me my SHRM-SCP.

Initially, I was pleased but it didn’t seem as important to me as when I earned my SPHR and, more recently, my SPHR-CA.  I had to study my brains out for those and the feeling accomplishment of passing those exams was significant.  However, I did appreciate that SHRM recognizes the HRCI certifications and is offering their certifications to those who have them.

Now that a week has gone by and I’ve had some time to let it sink in, I have really come to appreciate my SHRM-SCP certification and am impressed with how SHRM developed the SHRM Competency Model and the SHRM Body of Competency and Knowledge.  I am also impressed with their Online Tutorial Pathway.  Except for the slow website which was to be expected on the first day, everything went very smooth and was very professional.

I think SHRM has done an outstanding job with their roll-out of their certifications and I’m proud to now hold the SHRM-SCP certification.

Why I Sat for the SPHR-CA Certification Exam

HRCI_Purple-Red-LogoDuring the month of November and December, I was studying very hard for the SPHR-CA certification and was unable to devote the time I wanted here at HHHR.  In fact, I was surprised when I looked back and saw that I only posted a couple blog posts and released only one podcast!  Instead, I devoted the majority of my free time in the early mornings and after work to studying for the certification exam.

So, why in the world would I, an HR pro living and working in Colorado and Wyoming, decide to take the California SPHR certification?  My company has no employees in California and I don’t see any chance that we ever will. Why “waste” my time??

I have two reasons why I sat for the SPHR-CA certification.

First, I am a strong proponent of certifications, whether it is through HRCI or SHRM.  To quote HRCI, certifications “demonstrate relevance, competence, experience, credibility and dedication to human resources to your employers, clients, staff members and professional peers”.

I want to earn all the certifications I am eligible for.  I’m elegible for the SPHR-CA, so I decided to take it.  I would take the GPHR (Global Professional in Human Resources) if I could but I have no international experience, making me not eligible, unfortunately.  I will also take the necessary steps in January to earn my SHRM-SCP.

Second, the CA certification gives me one more HR specific credential that I can leverage in the job market.  I believe each person is responsible for their careers.  You never know when you will be suddenly out of a job or a job opportunity of a lifetime presents itself.  You are responsible to be ready for these events.

In fact, what initially got me thinking about the California certification was two amazing HR executive opportunities that were presented to me through recruiters in 2013 and 2014.   Interestingly, both opportunities were based in Denver but had the majority of their employees working in California.  I explored both opportunities but, in the end, lacked the necessary California HR knowledge.

I love my current job, but as I’ve said before, I will always seriously consider and explore any great executive HR job opportunity.

So, with my decision made to take the exam, I purchased the study guide from SHRM this past summer and started studying.  I really hunkered down in November and December and sat for the test on the morning of December 15.  The test was just as difficult (maybe even more so since I have no CA HR experience) than the SPHR test.  It consisted of 125 questions and has a time limit of two hours and fifteen minutes.

The exam consists of four areas:

Compensation/Wage & Hour –  comprising 22% of the exam
Employment and Employee Relations – comprising 46% of the exam
Benefits and Leaves of Absence – comprising 20% of the exam
Health, Safety, and Workers Comp – comprising 12% of the exam

I memorized the definitions in the back of the SHRM study guide and I took and retook the quizzes at the back of each study section.  At the first of December, I put the book away and focused just on taking practice tests.  I took the practice test offered by HRCI and I found a great resource at HRCalifornia.  HRCalifornia has a great practice test and a fantastic and informative website.  I took advantage of their 15 day free trial and spent a great deal of time there learning things that were not covered by the  SHRM study guide.

Those of you who have taken an HRCI test, know that feeling of relief when the screen pops up telling you you passed at the end of the 2 1/2 hours!  What a great feeling!  As with the SPHR exam,  the California exam was so difficult, I thought I was surely flunking it as I was going along.  But its important to trust yourself and your preparation and be confident throughout.

So now I proudly hold the SPHR-CA certification.  There are only approximately 500 people in the US who do.  I don’t know if I will ever need it but but now I have it in case I do.  It gives me one more credential and expands my career opportunities should I ever need to look for another job or should a great executive HR job come my way again.

I highly recommend that you take the California certification for those who hold a PHR or an SPHR.

 

Change Champions and the HR Certification Battle

HR leaders, as Change Champions, must practice what we preach and embrace the significant change that is happening before us in the HR certification space.  As HR leaders, we are expected to be the Change Champions in our organizations.

In fact, the top HR thought leaders, Dave Ulrich and Wayne Brockbank spend a significant amount of time discussing the importance of change and HR as Change Champions in their two most recent books, HR From the Outside-In, Six Competencies for the Future of Human Resources and Global HR Competencies, Mastering Competitive Value from the Outside In.

HR as a Change Champion is one of the six competencies they discuss.  Their context is that of HR being a Change Champion in their organization but it can just as easily be applied to the HR certification space.

In their book, HR From the Outside In, Six Competencies for the Future of Human Resources, they discuss how organizations go through dramatic change.  To emphasize their point, they cite the startling statistic that only 70 organizations from the 1955 Fortune 500 list are still in existence independently today.  In other words, 430 big and powerful organizations no longer independently exist.

In the book, they emphasize HR’s role in the change process and state the following:

HR professionals should help their companies face, accept, and be open to the pressures of change rather than hide from them.

 

They also state this:

If an organization cannot change as fast as the pace of change in its environment, the organization will fall behind, decline, and disappear.  Change in an organization should at least match the pace of change in the environment.

HR professionals conceptualize and design organizational agility, flexibility, and responsiveness to external changes.

Our profession is rapidly changing and evolving.  If our certifications don’t keep up with this change, they will become obsolete.   I commend SHRM for recognizing this and introducing a significant change to the HR certification space in response.  They are shaking up the status quo and taking a huge leap forward.

Prior to SHRM’s announced entry into the HR certification space, I never saw HRCI doing anything significant in response to the changes happening in our profession.  I expect they will now.

As I stated here in a previous blog post, our profession will end up better when one certification ends up winning the battle.  The competition will ultimately be good for the profession.

Again, I am not taking sides.  I am very proud of my SPHR and will also go through the steps to earn my SHRM-SCP as soon as it’s available in 2015.  I simply want the best for the HR profession and if this battle that takes us to the next level makes us uncomfortable, so be it.

The Fight to Survive – Competition is Good in the HR Certification Space

It seems that almost every certified HR leader has an opinion about SHRM’s abandoning their support of HRCI’s certifications and rolling out their own.  The vast majority of what I’ve read or heard is critical of SHRM and supportive of HRCI.

Frankly, I think SHRM’s entry into the space is a good thing.  A very good thing.  I am a believer in free market competition and I think having two HR certification competitors battle it out will only make it better for the profession in the end.

Case in point, HRCI has already responded by increasing their marketing.  I see them advertising everywhere in all the prominent HR magazines and websites.  Maybe they advertised this heavily before, but I doubt it.  Monopolies don’t need to advertise and market.

I received a letter from HRCI on August 1 reminding me of the value of their certificates and promised that I will be hearing back from them soon about how they are “shaping the future of HR certification and providing me with new opportunities to connect with other HR professionals within our community.”  I was impressed.  The letter sends the signal that they are clearly working hard to maintain their status as the Certificate of Choice!

I even received a tweet from Rebecca Hastings, the HRCI HR Content Manager, asking me if I had read this article at the HRCI website.  She was responding to my post here where I said I was OK with two certifications.

This is all very good.  They are being very smart by getting out there when they are still the only game in town to aggressively promote and market their products.

Let’s be honest about the value of our certification.  Its really only important to those of us in HR.   The executives in our companies don’t really know anything about HRCI and their certifications.  For example, my boss was very supportive when I told him I earned my SPHR but he didn’t really know or understand what it meant.  I had to give him a print out from their website describing the SPHR certification to help explain it to him and “prove” that it was a significant accomplishment.

The other executives in my organization also don’t really know and understand what it is.  In fact, I get the impression they think it’s “cute” that HR has a certification.  But, in their minds, it doesn’t rise to the level of a CPA (Certified Public Accountant), PE (Professional Engineer), or a PG (Professional Geologist).

With the two organizations fighting for prominence, I’m hoping there is a lot of press outside of the HR media platforms.  If so, our company executives will see this and take notice and realize that there are important professional certifications in the HR profession.  Rather than think the competition is hurting our profession, I think most of our executives will understand and appreciate it.

Here are the four reasons I think it’s a good thing to have competing certifications.

  1. Improved quality.  As the two are competing for prominence, the quality of their products – the certificates – will improve out of necessity.  Maybe HRCI will finally provide a decent website!
  2. Greater visibility.  Both organizations will aggressively advertise and promote their products.  A lot more will be written about both.  This will hopefully leak out into the main stream media and be noticed by the non HR executives in our organizations.
  3. Increased transparency.  Both organizations will need to build or retain the confidence of their stakeholders.  In order to emerge as the prominent certificate provider, both organizations will need to become more transparent in how they conduct their activities to build and retain their brand presence.  SHRM will need to make an extra effort with their transparency in light of how they rolled out their announcement.
  4. Improved credibility.  When this all shakes out in the next several years, one certification will emerge as the winner.  It will have fought the battle, taken on the criticisms, and made the changes and adjustments needed to win.  It will have advanced the certification and profession along far more than it would have had their not been the battle.

I’m going to watch this all with a great deal of interest.  I am not taking sides.  I love my SPHR.  I worked hard for it and am proud to sport those letters whenever I can.  On the other hand, I also love the fact that SHRM is going to shake things up and challenge the status quo.

I will maintain my SPHR and I will go through the process of earning my SHRM–SCP early in 2015.  I will also proudly sport both sets of initials after my name.  I will fully support both because I think both are important and that the upcoming battle between the two organizations will ultimately benefit the HR profession.

I’m OK With Two Certifications – HRCI and the Newly Announced SHRM Certificaiton

As I thought about it over the weekend, I have come to the conclusion that I am fine with holding two HR certifications.  My SPHR will be more of a knowledge based certification and my “SHRM cert” will be competency based.  I see them as complementing each other and elevating  the professional status of the HR profession as a result.

I’m actually looking forward to reviewing and studying SHRM’s competency based materials and completing the requirements to receive their certification as soon as it is made available.

From SHRM’s FAQ

For Certified HR Professionals 

If I’m already certified, what do I have to do? Do I have to take another exam? 

Beginning January 1, 2015, if you are certified and in good standing, you are eligible for SHRM’s new certification — at no cost — by completing the following by December 31, 2015:
• Document that your current certification is in good standing.
• Sign the SHRM Code of Ethics.
• Complete a brief online tutorial on HR competencies.
Once you go through this process, you will receive the new SHRM credential and will begin a three-year recertification cycle.

Confusion With HRCI and the New SHRM Certification

Earlier this week, SHRM announced it was launching its own HR certification program.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has announced it will create a competency-based certification program for human resource professionals. 

The new HR certification is based on the SHRM HR Competency Model, which consists of nine primary competency domains defined with behavioral proficiency standards across four professional levels – entry, middle, senior and executive. The new certification is focused on teaching and testing practical, real-life information that HR professionals need to excel in their careers.

Apparently, Human Resource Certification Institute (HRCI) found out about SHRM’s new program the same time as everybody else.

The Society for Human Resource Management’s announcement that it is launching its own HR certification program took some in the HR community by surprise, including the president of the HR Certification Institute, the profession’s leading certification organization. 

“We’ve had a relationship with SHRM for 37 years and we would have loved for them to talk with us about this, but they chose not to,” HRCI President Amy Dufrane told Workforce. SHRM created HRCI in 1973 to administer certification exams.

I find it odd that SHRM blindsided HRCI with this announcement considering that they created the institute 37 years ago and even share the same headquarters in Alexandria, VA.  There must be something going on between the two organizations that we don’t know about.  You would think they would work together to create/modify/rework the current HRCI certifications.  Maybe SHRM tried and was rejected by HRCI.

While I proudly hold the SPHR certification, I have always thought that HRCI has too many certifications: PHR, SPHR, PHR-CA, SPHR-CA, GPHR, and the new HRMP & HRBP.  Most professions with certifications have just one. It seems SHRM is attempting to address this issue by creating a single HR professional certification which I support.

It will be interesting to see how this all plays out in the coming months…

2013 Wyoming SHRM Conference

I am attending the 2013 Wyoming SHRM Conference – Passport to HR Knowledge – this today and tomorrow and am looking forward to the presentations and meeting new people.  I will not be live blogging since that never seems to work for me but I will be live tweeting throughout the event.

I can’t find a hashtag so I will use #2013WYSHRM.